O'HARA'S FINAL THOUGHTS: Ramifications cannot be discounted in early-season NFC North showdown

The "next game" narrow focus might hold true for the Lions, but the ramifications cannot be discounted in what amounts to an early-season NFC North showdown with the Packers.

This is not a final-game showdown like in 2014 and '16, when the Packers won both times to win the North. But it's still a big game for the Lions for what it means going forward.

The Lions are in an early tipping point in their season because of their 1-3 won-loss record that has them in last place in the NFC North.

A win would give them a 2-3 record and keep them in touch with the division-leading Bears, who are resting at the top on their bye week with a 3-1 record.

A loss would make the Lions 1-4 and sink them into a deeper hole. The prospects of climbing out of it would be made all the more difficult because of a loss to a Packers team that is a division rival – and a team they face on the road in the final game of the season.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford hadn't thought about must-win scenarios, or anything other than getting a win that has been the Lions' nemesis throughout his career. An exception to that was a sweep of the series last year, when Aaron Rodgers missed both games with a broken collarbone.

"I think it's a big game because it obviously the next one, and that's true," Stafford said this week. "I think it's a big game because it's a division game against a really good football team. Whatever happens this week, we're going to think about it for two weeks.

"I would love to have a win in our back pocket and thinking about it for two weeks and finding ways to build off that.

"It's a big game in a lot of ways. I think, number one, being that it's the next one."

Quintessential Quin Quotes: Glover Quin fills notebooks (some people still use them) and voice recorders in weekly sessions in front of his locker, but he can sum up an issue in a few words. In that regard, I think he fills his listeners with insight.

Quin's take on what the Lions face in defending Aaron Rodgers, even if he's at less than full strength, and the urgency for today's game with the bye week coming up are two examples.

"Aaron Rodgers is Aaron Rodgers," Quin he said when asked about the Packers' star quarterback. "He's good. He's fun to play against, though. He's definitely a challenge."

And about having the bye after today's game: "You empty the tank. Let it all out. You've got a week to recover."

Lions stop Lions: The Lions' run game has been generally effective, with an average of 98 yards per game and 4.6 yards per carry.

The rub has been their inability to use it in the fourth quarter of their three losses to the Jets, 49ers and Cowboys.

Against the Jets it was 48-17, the final margin. One run play was called in the fourth quarter, plus a kneeldown on the final play.

Against the 49ers, it was 30-13, and the Lions did not call any fourth-quarter runs.

And last week against the Cowboys, it was 20-10 going into the fourth quarter. The Lions ran only eight plays in the fourth quarter, three of them runs, in a 26-24 loss on a last-play field goal.

There's enough skill and firepower on the Lions' offense to avoid the huge deficits that have stopped their own running game down the stretch. It is a promising part of the offense, but late in those losses it's like getting a shiny new toy for a present – and not having the tools to put it together.

Random thoughts:

On pressing the run game: Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter has done that in the last three games. He called four runs on the first six plays against the 49ers, five of the first nine against the Patriots and three of the first four against the Cowboys.

One man's opinion: Press on.

On two items from bobmcginnfootball.com:

1. Scout's quote on Jamal Agnew: "Do not kick the ball to Agnew," is the warning to the Packers by an unnamed scout.

Today would be a good day for the Lions to have a long return by Agnew stand up. He had a punt return for a touchdown against the 49ers called back when two members of the return team were flagged for illegal blocks in the back.

2. Rodgers' stat tests Lions: Rodgers is closer to his old self as he recovers from the knee injury he sustained in the opener, based on two stats:

Rodgers took only six snaps from under center in the first three games because his mobility was comprised by the injury. Last week against Buffalo, Rodgers took 27 snaps from under center – more than four times from the first three games combined.

Rodgers scrambled four times for 34 yards against the Bills. One other statistical rush netted a three-yard loss when he stumbled and fell. In the first three games he scrambled six times for 36 yards.

On today being a must win game: It might not qualify if the strict sense, but if it isn't a must win game, it's a better not lose game because of what the outcome means. It's a division game, and that usually means it counts two in the standings. For the Lions, it might count 11.

Sticking with my pick: I didn't think the Packers were anything special going into this season, even having Aaron Rodgers at full strength. I haven't changed my mind. The Lions aren't special, either. But they're playing at home in what is rated as a close game. They might be due for a break – not having an interception called back against the 49ers, or a fumble bouncing back to the quarterback against the Cowboys. There is one reason for the Lions to play like a desperate team. Because they are.

Prediction: Lions 31, Packers 27.

Related Content

Advertising