Lions-Packers Preview

It didn’t take long, but the Green Bay Packers have returned to

the top of the NFC North.

This time, the Packers look to stay there on Sunday night when

they host the free-falling Detroit Lions, who haven’t won at

Lambeau Field since Barry Sanders was starring in their

backfield.

The Lions have lost 20 consecutive games in Green Bay, last

winning there in 1991.

“It probably (means) more to the people who have been here 20

years than us,” Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “We just

want to go in there and put a good game together and try to come

out on top.”

After falling back into second place with a loss to the New York

Giants on Nov. 25, the Packers (8-4) drew back into a first-place

tie with Chicago on Sunday with a 23-14 win over Minnesota.

“Everything’s right in front of us,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers

said. “We’ve got to go win our home games and get a couple wins on

the road.”

After finishing 27 of 35 for 286 yards with one touchdown and

one interception against the Vikings, Rodgers will try to improve

on his 7-1 mark all-time versus Detroit.

The loss came at Ford Field in 2010 when he was knocked out in

the first half with a concussion.

Rodgers has thrown for at least two touchdowns in every other

game, including the last meeting on Nov. 18 when he threw a 22-yard

score to Randall Cobb with 1:55 left in a 24-20 win at Detroit.

It appears, however, that Rodgers will lead a banged-up offense

again on Sunday.

Already without right tackle Bryan Bulaga (hip), the offensive

line took another hit on Sunday when backup T.J. Lang went down

with an ankle injury in the second quarter.

Rodgers has already been sacked a league-high 39 times, three

more than all of last season. Detroit sacked Rodgers three times in

their last meeting.

Making matters worse, Green Bay will be without second-leading

receiver Jordy Nelson after he left Sunday’s game in the first

quarter with a strained hamstring.

The Packers, though, are hopeful that the signing of Ryan Grant

can bolster the backfield, where Cedric Benson (foot) will miss the

rest of the season and James Starks (knee) is expected to miss

multiple weeks. Grant had 1,000-yard seasons for Green Bay in

2008-09.

The team has struggled to find consistency in the running game,

ranking 11th in the NFC with 105.0 yards per game while scoring a

league-low three touchdowns on the ground.

“Ryan has great history with us, can kind of step right in,”

coach Mike McCarthy said. ”I don’t see him having any issues

getting ready.”

Green Bay isn’t likely to have any issues moving the ball

against a Detroit defense that has allowed 69 points and 960 yards

in its last two games.

The Lions (4-8) have lost four straight, dropping the last three

at home despite leading in the fourth quarter in each contest.

Andrew Luck was the latest to break their hearts on Sunday when

he threw a touchdown pass on the final play to give Indianapolis a

35-33 comeback win.

“This is a tough league for tough people, and we’ll find out now

who is tough,” Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said.

Although he won’t be making a second consecutive trip to the

playoffs, Matthew Stafford continues to put up big numbers. He

leads the NFL with 3,742 passing yards after piling up 754 with

four touchdowns in the last two games.

Stafford had a huge day in his last trip to Lambeau, throwing

for a career-high 520 yards and five touchdowns in a 45-41 loss

Jan. 1. Rodgers sat out with the Packers closing the regular season

having wrapped up the NFC’s No. 1 seed, but former backup Matt

Flynn threw for 480 yards and six scores.

Calvin Johnson, who had a career-high 244 yards receiving in

that game, had another personal best Sunday with 13 receptions to

go along with 171 yards and a TD.

Johnson will try to set an NFL record on Sunday night with his

sixth straight game with at least 125 yards receiving.

The Lions, however, will be without receivers Ryan Broyles and

Titus Young, who were both placed on injured reserve this week.

Young has been inactive for the last two games after what

Schwartz called “unacceptable” behavior. Broyles tore his right

ACL against the Colts.

Still, Detroit leads the NFC in total yards per game (416.1)

after totaling 976 the past two games and faces a hobbled Green Bay

defense.

Safety Charles Woodson has been ruled out for a sixth

consecutive game due to a broken collarbone, and linebacker Clay

Matthews will miss his fifth straight with a hamstring injury.