Game Scout: Packers at Lions

Jeff Reynolds, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Green Bay Packers (5-5-1) at Detroit Lions (6-5)
Thursday, 12:30 p.m. ET, at Ford Field, Detroit - TV: FOX
*TV announcers: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver, Erin Andrews
*Keys to the game: The Packers are still without QB Aaron Rodgers (collarbone) returning, meaning Green Bay is again uncertain at the position with Matt Flynn making his first start with the team since the end of the 2011 season. Flynn got the call Wednesday ahead of Scott Tolzien. Flynn's quick release and ability to avoid mistakes is essential for the Packers to balance an offense putting an extra load on RB Eddie Lacy. The rookie had 23 carries for 99 yards against Detroit in the Oct. 6 win and has seven games with 22-plus carries. Packers OLB Clay Matthews got back into the mix last week with two sacks. Lions QB Matt Stafford was sacked five times at Lambeau Field last month and could be without WR Calvin Johnson (sore knee) for the rematch, as he was in October. Stafford is averaging 42.3 pass attempts per game, but the Packers were steamrolled by Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart in Sunday's tie with the Vikings. To contend with a strong edge rush, Detroit can employ more power sets if Johnson sits. With more patience behind blockers, Reggie Bush and his 4.6-yard rushing average could feast on the run defense of the Packers, which has allowed an average of 171 yards per game in Green Bay's past four games.
*Matchup to watch - Packers OG Josh Sitton vs. Lions DT Nick Fairley: Don't poke the bear, Mr. Sitton. The looks from Detroit will be wildly different than the constant six-man box the Lions showed with Rodgers running the show. Green Bay left Sitton one-on-one with Fairley in the last meeting, with repeat double-teams used to wall off Ndamukong Suh, and rushed for 180 yards and 5.5 yards per carry in that 22-9 win. Comments Wednesday from Sitton calling the Detroit d-linemen dirtbags no doubt will be on the mind of the Lions defense.
*Player spotlight - Lions WR Nate Burleson: In the lineup for his fourth game of the 2013 season, Burleson caught seven passes and a touchdown last week. He has at least six catches in every game he has played this season and the injury-bitten Packers are thin in the secondary.
*Fast facts - This is the 21st Thanksgiving meeting in the series. ... Flynn's last start for the Packers was against Detroit on Jan 1, 2012. He had a team-record 480 yards passing and six TDs.
Without Aaron Rodgers, the Packers are less of a threat in the shotgun spread and more predictable, but the major worry is their defense, which has been gouged by lesser teams over the past month. If the Lions have Calvin Johnson on the field, the Packers don't have a gear to match Detroit.
*Our pick: Lions 28-23

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