Packers look up at Lions entering North showdown

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- As the Green Bay Packers get back to playing football after a bye in Week 3, they face a critical point in the season.
Their unmatched 22-game home winning streak against Detroit could be in jeopardy when the Lions come into Lambeau Field on Sunday in rare position to pull away from Green Bay in the NFC North standings.
"I think it's a little too early in the season to (do) standings-watching -- who's in first place, who's in last place," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "But it's an important game to us because it's the NFC North. Any win we get there counts twice."
The Packers ruled the roost in the division the last two years, but the pecking order is changing. As Green Bay rested on a sluggish 1-2 record during the bye week, Detroit jumped up to a share of the lead in the North with Chicago at 3-1 by socking the previously unbeaten Bears last Sunday.
For the first time in Mike McCarthy's decorated tenure as the Packers' head coach, which began in 2006, the Lions are ahead of Green Bay in the standings at the time the teams played.
The last such occurrence was Dec. 11, 2005, when a 4-8 Detroit team lost 16-13 in overtime to a 2-10 Packers squad at Lambeau. Three weeks later, after the Packers finished 4-12, Mike Sherman was out as coach, leading to the hiring of McCarthy.
"I think they're playing really well," quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the only Packers player left from 2005, said of the resurgent Lions. "I think they've got a good recipe (for success). They've got a young stud quarterback (Matthew Stafford) who's throwing the ball really well. They've got one of the top guys at receiver (Calvin Johnson). Their defense is playing really well. ... It's a team that's playing good."
The Lions, after ending a 21-game road losing streak against the Washington Redskins two weeks ago, are emboldened to win a game over the Packers in Wisconsin for the first time since 1991.
Green Bay has its own urgency for Sunday. The Packers' last 1-3 start was McCarthy's first year at the helm, which resulted in an 8-8 finish and no trip to the postseason.
Tight end Jermichael Finley wouldn't say the Packers' first matchup with a division opponent this season is a must-win game. Yet, he acknowledged "it's a much-needed game" to keep Green Bay from sliding any further off the early pace set by the Lions and the Bears.
Hit hard by injuries in the early going, the Packers are expected to have Finley and rookie halfback Eddie Lacy back on the field Sunday after the duo had the extra week to recover from concussions.
Green Bay also hopes to have safety Morgan Burnett make his season debut after he was sidelined due to a nagging hamstring, the same type of injury that linebacker Clay Matthews is trying to move past this week after being held out of the second half of the Week 3 loss at Cincinnati.
"The fact that it's a division game is pretty important, adds a little more significance to the game," Packers defensive lineman B.J. Raji said. "We're aware that a good team is coming in here. But, if I believe if we play, we'll have a good chance."
For those keeping track: This is the 166th regular-season meeting between the teams, and the Packers lead series 93-65-7. Green Bay is seeking a fifth consecutive victory over Detroit after sweeping the season series in 2011 and '12.
The Packers' 22-game home winning streak against the Lions is NFL's all-time longest string of dominance by one team at home against one opponent. The streak includes a 16-12 Packers win in a wild-card playoff meeting following the 1994 season. Green Bay's 93 wins over the Lions in regular-season play are a team high -- six more than the Packers' victory total against Chicago -- and the Packers are 2-0 against Detroit in the postseason.

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