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O'HARA'S WEEK 5 CHECKLIST: Lions vs. Packers

Quote to note: "We've got to play good football for four quarters. There's no room for knucklehead mistakes." -- Lions wide receiver Golden Tate.

It's one game on the schedule, but it counts two in the standings.

That's the bottom line on what is at stake in Sunday's game between the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers at Ford Field.

Even this early in the season, a matchup between NFC North rivals has added importance because of the outcome's effect on the division standings.

Nobody on either team is downplaying the impact of a two-game swing – winning vs. losing – in the division.

It's especially important for the Lions because of their 1-3 won-loss record. They already face an uphill climb in the division. There's a substantial difference between moving up a game with a win over a division rival opposed to dropping back a game with a loss.

"Division games, they count two," said Lions safety Glover Quin.

"Obviously, we're not in the spot we want to be in right now. Getting a big division win against Green Bay, it's huge. You get a win in your column. You give them a loss in their column. It's huge."

It's Matt Patricia's first game against a North rival as head coach of the Lions, but he is acutely aware of the additional challenges preparing for division opponents from his 14 seasons as an assistant with the Patriots. Familiarity breeds challenges for both teams.

"That's one of the hardest parts about playing in the division," he said. "You're so familiar with the teams and the players. It makes a much more difficult chess match."

Series history: The Packers have a 98-70 lead with seven ties in the regular season. However, the Lions are 5-4 in the last nine games, dating to a 40-10 win on Thanksgiving Day of 2013. The Lions swept both games last year, with Aaron Rodgers out because of a broken collarbone.

Lions' O, run game challenge: Packers head coach Mike McCarthy sees a new problem for the Packers' defense from the Lions' improved running game. The Lions rank 20th with 98 yards per game and seventh with an average of 4.6 yards per attempt – 1.2 yards more than last year for the full season.

The Packers' defense has strength up front, with Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark on the defensive line.

"Both sides of the ball – it starts up front," McCarthy said this week. "It really dictates what you can do behind that. Their ability to run the football has improved from our prior contests. This is an outstanding offense, and Matthew (Stafford) I think is one of the best in the league."

Packers' D, no complaints: While Rodgers was fuming about the offense in last week's 22-0 victory over the Bills, there were nothing but satisfied smiles from the defense.

It was their first shutout since a 9-0 win over the New York Jets in Week 8 of 2010 – the season the Packers won their last Super Bowl.

"It's an awesome accomplishment," Packers linebacker Clay Matthews told reporters after the game. "It doesn't happen often. It just shows we're capable of it."

The fact that it came against the lowly Bills and erratic rookie quarterback Josh Allen did not diminish the Packers' satisfaction on how their defense is trending under new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.

The defense began to come together in the second half of the previous week's 31-17 road loss to Washington.

"You've got to gel and come together," Matthews said, looking ahead to the Lions. "The most important thing going forward is putting it together. We've shown flashes."

Lions' D, new look for Rodgers: Rodgers sees a lot of familiar faces on the Lions' defense, but the scheme is almost completely different from what he's faced the previous 10 seasons as the Packers' starting QB.

He was asked this week if it's almost like preparing for a new team.

"It's a different defense, and a little extra study ... " he said. "Playing a division opponent year after year, you feel pretty good about what you're going to see on film going into the week. And this week was obviously just a little bit different than usual."

Prediction: The Packers team the Lions swept by scores of 30-17 and 35-11 with Brett Hundley playing quarterback isn't the same as the one they'll face Sunday with Rodgers back – even at less than full strength. Regardless of who plays, it's time for the Lions to step up.

Prediction: Lions 31, Packers 27.

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