LIONS INSIDER

GAME PREVIEW: It's a battle for the North in Lions vs. Packers

Posted Nov 28, 2013

Whichever team comes out on top today will walk away with an outright lead in the NFC North

There are still four games remaining on the Detroit Lions schedule after today's Thanksgiving Day matchup with Green Bay, which suggests the Lions aren't exactly in must-win territory yet.

It's close, though.

A win would improve the Lions to 7-5 and keep them atop the NFC North. A loss, and they drop to 6-6 to third place behind Green Bay and Chicago.

The race to the playoffs is on and the Lions can't afford any stumbles out of the gate.

THE HISTORY

This marks the 21st meeting between the Lions and Packers on Thanksgiving and the sixth time since 2001. Detroit has played Green Bay more than any other opponent on Thanksgiving and holds an 11-8-1 advantage in those games.

A LOOK AT THE STATS

 LionsPackers
Record 6-5 5-5-1
Points per game 26.0 (7) 25.8 (8)
Total yards per game 412.1 (6) 424.4 (2)
Rushing yards 103.7 (22) 139.9 (6)
Passing yards 308.4 (3) 284.5 (5)
Points allowed 25.2 (22) 24.1 (18t)
Total yards allowed 364.8 (22) 359.6 (20)
Rushing yards allowed 88.0 (4) 115.5 (18)
Passing yards allowed 276.8 (27) 244.2 (19)
Turnover ratio -7 (26t) -5 (24)

BY THE NUMBERS

0-3-1: The Packers record without Aaron Rodgers playing quarterback this season.

18.0: Points scored by the Green Bay offense in their last four games, eighth-fewest in the NFL over that span.

14: Sacks allowed by the Lions offensive line this year. The Packers are tied for the NFL lead with 37 sacks on defense.

7: Games in a row the Lions defense hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown.

5 KEYS

NO GIFTS

The Lions have turned the ball over 13 times in their last four games and have only gotten one back on defense. That's a minus-12 turnover ratio, which makes their 2-2 record over that span quite remarkable, really.

They gave away last week's game against Tampa Bay (3-8) with five turnovers and a blocked punt. The Lions biggest enemy the last couple weeks has been themselves.

They simply hang onto the football this week, and maybe generate a turnover or two, and they're in good shape.

PROTECT STAFFORD

The Lions have done a good job all year keeping a nice pocket for quarterback Matthew Stafford. The first time they played the Packers in Week 5 is the one exception, however. The Packers sacked Stafford five times and dominated the line of scrimmage.

That can't happen this time around if the Lions hope to even the season series with Green Bay.

GET AFTER FLYNN

Green Bay is likely to start backup quarterback Matt Flynn, while choosing to rest MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers and that fractured left collarbone another 10 days.

The best-case scenario for the Lions is to collapse the pocket on Flynn and make things uncomfortable for him. He knows the Packers offense and can deliver the football to Green Bay's weapons, but he's not as good at improvising as Rodgers is. He's not nearly as mobile, either, and doesn't throw particularly well on the run.

Get after Flynn and it's advantage Lions.

Calvin JohnsonThe Lions were without both Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson when the two teams met in October. (Photo: G. Smith/Detroit Lions)

GET JOHNSON GOING EARLY

Receiver Calvin Johnson didn't play in the first matchup and neither did receiver Nate Burleson. As a result, the Packers loaded up the box on Reggie Bush and he had a tough time getting anything going (44 yards). The Packers front seven was on full assault back in October.

Having Johnson and Burleson this time around should force the Packers to play straight up.

THE MOMENTUM CHANGER

It's been awhile since the Lions had a momentum-shifting play that's gone their way that wasn't provided by the offense. Today could be one of those kinds of games where a defensive touchdown or long kickoff return can make all the difference.

The last time the Lions got a huge play like that was at home vs. Chicago when Ndamukong Suh got himself a strip sack and Nick Fairley picked it up for a touchdown. It was a huge play in that Lions victory.

The Lions could use another one today.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: LIONS

Reggie Bush, RB:

Bush has 546 scrimmage yards (136.5) per game and two touchdowns in four division games. He ranks sixth in the NFL with an average of 112.0 scrimmage yards per game.

DeAndre Levy, LB:

Levy has been the one few consistent playmakers on the Lions defense. He's tied for the NFL lead with five interceptions and ranks second on the team with 90 tackles. He also shares the team lead (Rashean Mathis) with 11 passes defended.

Ziggy Ansah, DE:

Ansah returned last week after missing two games with an ankle injury and had two sacks vs. Tampa Bay. Ansah is tied for first among NFL rookies with five sacks.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: PACKERS

Eddie Lacy, RB:

The rookie leads the NFL with 755 rush yards since Oct. 1. He rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown last week vs. Minnesota. Lacy had 99 rushing yards in Week 5 against Detroit, the most the Lions have given up all year.

Clay Matthews, LB:

Matthews has six sacks in six career meetings with Detroit. He has sack or an interception in all six games. He's coming off a two-sack performance last week.

Nick Perry, LB:

Perry was a force in the first matchup with two sacks and a forced fumble.