Lions-Packers Preview


Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy has given few indications on how he'll handle his starters in the season finale. That matters little to Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz.

Schwartz and the Lions are trying to secure the NFC's No. 5 seed and can accomplish that feat with their first win in Green Bay since 1991 on Sunday.

With home-field advantage already wrapped up, McCarthy is expected to rest his starters for at least part of Sunday's game. The coach, though, hasn't tipped his hand on how much of a break his players will get.

"It's really what's best for your team and what's best for the individuals," McCarthy said on his weekly television show Monday. "The health of the football team will be the priority. It has to be going into the playoffs. We'll factor all those things into our decision."

Schwartz, though, said he isn't too concerned with what kind of a team the Lions will face.

"We can't control who they play or what objectives they have in the game," he said. "It doesn't change our objectives or anything else. Obviously, if we're preparing for a different quarterback, you need to be ready for that, but their offense isn't going to change."

Detroit (10-5) has clinched its first playoff berth since 1999 but would have a chance at seemingly a better matchup in the postseason should it earn the No. 5 seed. With a win or an Atlanta loss, the Lions would face either Dallas or New York - both of whom are 8-7 - instead of traveling to New Orleans or San Francisco, who are each 12-3.

"We're certainly not thinking about anything but winning the game. Five is better than six," Schwartz told the Packers' official website.

Schwartz said his team will have three tough games, regardless of competition, in order to get to the Super Bowl. One of those could be a return to Lambeau Field, where the Lions have lost 20 in a row, including a playoff game in 1994.

Detroit's 19-game drought in the regular season is the longest active one in the NFL ahead of its 18-game skid in Washington that dates to 1939.

The Lions head into Lambeau having won three in a row since a 2-5 stretch that included a 27-15 home loss to Green Bay (14-1) on Thanksgiving Day. Aaron Rodgers threw for 307 yards and a pair of touchdowns in that win, but his performance was overshadowed by the actions of Detroit defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh.

Last season's defensive rookie of the year was suspended two games for stomping on the arm of Packers offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith. Suh has mostly been quiet since his return, recording four tackles in two games.

Detroit's Matthew Stafford, however, hasn't been lately as he's averaged nearly 350 yards over the last four contests and thrown 10 TDs to one interception. He had 373 yards and three touchdowns in last week's 38-10 win over San Diego.

Stafford, who was named a Pro Bowl alternate along with Suh and safety Louis Delmas, has seven interceptions and two TDs in his two games against Green Bay.

Pro Bowl starter Rodgers, meanwhile, has topped 300 yards in five of his seven matchups with the Lions and has 16 TDs to four interceptions.

The MVP candidate needs 358 yards to become at least the third quarterback to top 5,000 in a season. He's also a second straight five-touchdown performance away from matching the 50 set by New England's Tom Brady in 2007.

Rodgers, however, is unlikely to accomplish those feats as memories remain of the concussion he suffered during a 7-3 loss to Detroit last December, which gave Matt Flynn his only NFL start the following week.

McCarthy, though, is hoping to get offensive lineman Chad Clifton and defensive lineman Ryan Pickett back on the field. Clifton hasn't played since Week 5 because of an ailing hamstring and back.

Pickett has been out the past two games after suffering his second concussion this season in a 46-16 victory over Oakland on Dec. 11. He returned to practice Wednesday.

Having Pickett back on the field might help a Green Bay defense that gave up 199 rushing yards in a 35-21 win over Chicago on Christmas Day.

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