LIONS INSIDER

Lions need to deliver an upset at home vs. Packers

Posted Nov 18, 2012

The Lions have a chance to get back into the NFC playoff race if they can win at least two of their next three vs. Green Bay, Houston and Indianapolis.

Following a tough loss on the road to the Bears earlier this season, the Lions came back home a beat a good Seahawks team and started a two-game rally to get themselves back to .500.

Lions head coach Jim Schwartz is hoping history repeats itself Sunday at Ford Field.

The Lions are coming off a rough loss at Minnesota last week that's dropped them to 4-5 and makes a playoff run seem like a long shot at this point.

The next three games are at home for the Lions, beginning today vs. Green Bay.

"I think we're a professional team all weeks. We've always done a good job of handling a loss," Schwartz said this week. "We had a very disappointing loss at Chicago. Came back for a home game, played a good game, got a win against a really good team. It wasn't because we changed things or guys did anything different.

"I think that it's been a lot of that same kind of feeling this week. Very disciplined, loss on the road, an NFC North opponent and guys are very determined to come back to Ford Field and get a win."

The Lions have a chance to get back into the NFC playoff race if they can win at least two of their next three vs. Green Bay, Houston and Indianapolis.

"It's a very important stretch obviously and it starts this week with Green Bay," Schwartz said. "After having six of the first nine on the road it is good to get back to Ford Field against quality opponents. It's going to be a very, very important stretch for us."

HISTORY

One of the oldest rivalries in all of football, this series dates back to Nov. 2, 1930 when the two teams met for the first time and Green Bay won 37-13. They've met 162 times since with the Packers holding a 91-65-7 advantage. The Packers won their last meeting in a shootout, 45-41, in the 2011 season finale at Lambeau Field.

2012 REGULAR SEASON RANKINGS (Rank)

LionsPackers
Record 4-5 6-3
Points per game 24.0 (13) 26.6 (10)
Total yards per game 406.1 (2) 349.0 (19)
Rushing yards 98.8 (24) 99.7 (23)
Passing yards 307.3 (1) 249.3 (12)
Points allowed 24.7 (23) 20.8 (9)
Total yards allowed 329.7 (10) 341.9 (14)
Rushing yards allowed 116.2 (19) 98.3 (11)
Passing yards allowed 213.4 (7) 243.6 (21)
Turnover ratio -4 (23t) +4 (9)

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Lions

Cliff Avril, DE:

Avril is tied for the team lead with 4.5 sacks, but he has yet to force a fumble with a strip sack. He forced six of them last season, and had an interception and fumble return for touchdown.

The Packers will be without starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga, and have converted left guard T.J. Lang to tackle for today's game. Franchise players make big plays in key games, especially against backup players.

Drayton Florence, CB:

Florence could start at right cornerback today, his first game back since going on short-term injured reserve after a Week 2 loss at San Francisco.

Florence is an experienced veteran who's seen just about everything over a 10-year career. Practice speed is different than game speed, though. Lions can't afford there to be any rust against Aaron Rodgers and Co.

Nick Fairley, DT:

The Lions have already ruled out starter Corey Williams, so Fairley will get his fourth-career start. Fairley is coming off arguably the best performance of his two-year career last week when he had three tackles for loss and a sack. Can Fairley put back-to-back good performances together?

Packers

Randall Cobb, KR/WR:

Cobb has stepped up in the absence of Greg Jennings (groin) and has become a significant weapon as a utility player in the Packers offense.

Cobb is the only player in the NFL with 500-plus kickoff return yards (556), 500-plus receiving (500), 200-plus punt return (211) and 50-plus rushing (96). He's built a good rapport with quarterback Aaron Rodgers with 45 receptions and five receiving touchdowns in his last three games.

Dezman Moses, OLB:

In 2010, the Packers lost back-to-back games to Washington and Miami after losing linebacker Clay Matthews to a hamstring injury.

Moses, a 6-foot-2, 249-pound undrafted rookie out of Tulane, is expected to get his first-career start in place of Matthews today. Moses is a converted 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 linebacker. How bad will the Packers miss Matthews' nine sacks?

Jordy Nelson, WR:

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy told Detroit reporters in a conference call this week that Nelson looks "like his old self" after finally getting over an ankle injury that's hampered him over the last few weeks.

In the last meeting between these two teams, Nelson had career-high 162 yards and tied career-highs with nine catches and three touchdowns.

FIVE KEYS FOR LIONS

Impact play upfront

This game comes down to the Lions defensive line and how much they can force their will on a beat up Packers offensive line. The Packers are starting a backup right tackle who is a converted guard and are also starting a backup at guard.

The Lions defensive line needs to take advantage and dominate. The Lions have just 20 sacks and 10 takeaways on the season. They need to be better than that up front.

If Aaron Rodgers has time to sit back there and throw, it's likely to be a long day for the Lions defense. Rodgers is just too good.

Take advantage of injuries

If there was ever a time the Packers were ripe for an upset, it has to be today at Ford Field. The Packers are without their two best defensive players in linebacker Clay Matthews and safety Charles Woodson and are also without their starting right tackle (Bryan Bulaga) and their No. 1 receiver (Greg Jennings).

Playing Packers backups didn't work out so well for the Lions in Week 17 last year when they lost, 45-41, to the Packers' B Team. Matt Flynn still appreciates the contract the Lions got for him.

They need to be better against a depleted Packers team at home.

Stay special

Through Week 10, Packers return man Randall Cobb ranks No. 7 in the NFL in punt return average (11.1) and No. 9 in kickoff return average (27.8).

The Lions have been very good with their coverage teams since their Week 3 and Week 4 meltdowns. Over their last five games the Lions are allowing an average of 5.5 yards per punt return and 19.7 yards on kickoffs.

Be better on the money down

When the Lions were winning two straight games over Seattle and Jacksonville earlier this year they were a combined 20-for-28 on third down. Last week at Minnesota, they were 1-for-9 and lost. The problem last week is that they got into too many third-and-long situations.

"The first thing is the longer you have the more time it takes to get routes down the field and the more time your pass rush has to get there or your pass protection has to hold up," Schwartz said of being better on third down than they were last week.

"So that's the first part of it. Second of all, defenses know when it's third down and 12, third down and 11, third down and 15, and they're not going to defend the four or five yard routes in those situations. It makes it a lot easier for a defense No. 1 to eliminate some of the things they have to defend but also buys some time for their pass rushers to get there."

Come out strong

The slow starts and playing from behind has gotten to be an old bit. The offense needs to play smart and not kill drives early in games with penalties are bad plays. The Lions are in a fight to save their season and getting an early score or two today could go a long way to helping all three phases of the game.

The Lions have been outscored 53-28 in the first quarter and 107-75 in the first half.  How about the Lions play with the lead for a change? Get the crowd into the game early and keep them in the game for 60 minutes.

That could be fun.