The Packers, picked by many to represent the NFC in this year's Super Bowl, are coming off their first loss of the season on Monday following back-to-back victories over Philadelphia and Buffalo. They suffered their first hiccup of 2010 with a penchant for penalties on national television, with a few yellow flags negating touchdowns and interceptions. Tackle Mark Tauscher's holding call wiped out a Jermichael Finley score, while rookie linebacker Frank Zombo was whistled for roughing Bears quarterback Jay Cutler to erase an interception from linebacker Nick Barnett.
"We had penalties when we were a young team, but we're over that and past that," Barnett said after the 20-17 loss. "I don't know what happened [Monday]. Unfortunately, we happened to create those penalties at un-ideal times."
The Windy City loss put the Packers, who had won nine of 11 their past regular-season contests, one game behind the 3-0 Bears in the NFC North standings. It also gave special teams coaches Shawn Slocum and Chad Morton something to work on for this week against an improving Lions squad.
Green Bay's special teams had a rough go at it Monday night, as the Bears' Devin Hester returned a punt 62 yards for a score and Chicago averaged 43.5 yards on punts in addition to completely turning the Packers into a one- dimensional team after stopping their ground attack.
John Kuhn led the way for Green Bay with just 31 yards on six carries, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was second on the team with 20 yards and starting back Brandon Jackson struggled for 12 yards on seven touches.
Finley continued to shine through it all, however, and finished with 115 yards on nine catches. He became only the second tight end in franchise history to post back-to-back 100-yard receiving games and ranks first on the team, while leading all NFL tight ends, with 265 yards on 17 receptions through three games.
Another loss would give the Lions their third 0-4 start since the 2006 campaign, and the odds are stacked high against them.
After nearly beating the Bears on the road in Week 1, Detroit couldn't pull off a come-from-behind win over Philadelphia the following Sunday and became Minnesota's first victory of the season with this past weekend's 24-10 loss in the Twin Cities. Much like the penalty-prone Packers, the Lions succumbed to silly mistakes and were also victims to a porous run defense that allowed Vikings All-Pro Adrian Peterson rush for almost 200 yards (160 yards, 23 carries).
Linebacker Julian Peterson is already fed up with the mistakes by Week 4.
"This is three times that we've had missed opportunities," said Peterson. "We can't keep on affording that. We're going down a slippery slope. We have to find a way to get out of this hole and look at the film, see what we can do right and correct it."
Peterson and the rest of the Detroit defense must study the game tapes in order to shock the NFL world with an improbable win at Green Bay. Brett Favre didn't have to do much through the air last week because Peterson shouldered the load against Detroit, which must get to Rodgers before allowing him to get comfortable in the pocket. Rodgers hasn't been sacked in two games, and that is a problem for Detroit's defense.
Since the Lions are already underdogs against the Packers, they may have a chance for a win next Sunday at home versus rookie quarterback Sam Bradford and the St. Louis Rams. But business must be done at Lambeau Field first.
The series between the Lions and Packers dates back to the 1930 season, with Green Bay holding an 88-64-7 regular season edge. The Pack has won nine straight and 11 of the last 12 in the series, including last year's home-and- home sweep. Green Bay was a 26-0 winner when the teams met at Lambeau Field in Week 6 of 2009, and completed the sweep with a 34-12 rout at Ford Field on Thanksgiving Day.
Detroit's last victory over Green Bay came by a 17-3 count in Week 1 of the 2005 campaign in the Motor City. The Lions are an astounding 0-15 in regular season games held at Lambeau Field since last winning there in 1991, and have lost 18 straight regular season road games against the Packers, when three meetings in Milwaukee (1992-94) are factored in.
In addition to the regular season series, the clubs have met twice in the postseason, with Green Bay winning NFC First-Round Playoff matchups in the 1993 and 1994 seasons. Including playoffs, the Lions have lost 16 straight road games at Lambeau, and 19 away games against Green Bay overall. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is 8-0 in his career against the Lions, while Detroit's Jim Schwartz is 0-1 against both McCarthy and Green Bay as a head coach.
WHEN THE LIONS HAVE THE BALL
Rookie running back Jahvid Best was shut down against a tough Vikings defense after breaking out in the first two weeks. Best (124 rushing yards, 4 TD) has scored five times already and is an early Rookie of the Year candidate. He leads the team with 38 rushes and 16 receptions, but needs the necessary blocking to even have a chance against an intimidating Green Bay stop unit. Best suffered a toe injury against Minnesota and ran for only 26 yards on seven carries. Injured running back Kevin Smith has not played this season after spending much of his summer recovering from a torn knee ligament, and is eyeing a return to the field this Sunday. After almost pulling the Lions from the depths of defeat against the Eagles in Week 2, Hill (660 passing yards, 3 TD, 5 INT) was picked off twice on Sunday and threw for 237 yards with a touchdown strike to tight end Tony Scheffler. Hill is averaging 286 passing yards per game this year as a starter. He took over for Stafford in a Week 1 setback to the rival Bears. Hill has been spreading the ball around to at least four different receivers in Best, tight end Brandon Pettigrew, star wideout Calvin Johnson and Scheffler. Pettigrew, Johnson and Scheffler each have 14 catches.
Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers must feel like a celebrity in the Land of Cheese with how his 3-4 scheme has been digested by his players. Capers' squad currently ranks tied for No. 2 in the league, permitting an average of just 260.7 yards per game through the first three contests. The Packers lead the NFL with 13 sacks and second-year linebacker Clay Matthews currently owns a team-high six. Matthews and the defense are solid in pass protection, but must tighten up on run defense. Green Bay is allowing 116.7 rushing yards per game -- good enough for 18th in the league. On a more promising note, the Packers haven't allowed a running back to rush for 100 yards for 16 straight games, the longest current streak in the NFL. A solid trio of linebackers in Matthews (15 tackles, 6 sacks), A.J. Hawk (15 tackles) and Nick Barnett (14 tackles) is the reason why. Barnett can move into sole possession of the No. 2 spot in career tackles in club history and is tied with Johnnie Gray, who had 1,001 stops from the mid 1970's to early '80s. Barnett needs 20 tackles to become the franchise's all-time leader in that category. All-Pro cornerback Charles Woodson is still searching for his first interceptions after snagging nine a year ago. He is listed as probable with a toe injury.
WHEN THE PACKERS HAVE THE BALL
McCarthy had to be disappointed with Green Bay's performance Monday at Chicago. After the Bears realized the Packers couldn't successfully run the football, Rodgers failed to lead his team to victory with his right arm. Rodgers (759 passing yards, 5 TD, 3 INT), who hasn't been sacked in consecutive games since going down three times in Week 1 at Philadelphia, had plenty of time to find on open receiver and hit Finley nine times for 115 yards against the Bears. Rodgers has eclipsed 300 yards passing in each of his four career starts against Detroit and is 4-0 all-time in this series. Greg Jennings (10 receptions, 2 TD) wasn't a factor on Monday night besides scoring a touchdown, ending with 18 yards on only two catches. Veteran Donald Driver (18 receptions, 2 TD) hauled in nine balls last week and has caught at least one pass in 130 consecutive games (136 including playoffs), a franchise record. He leads the Packers with 18 receptions and is tied for the team lead with two touchdown catches. Expect Finley to take some looks away again from Jennings and Driver. James Jones has 10 catches on the year, but was stripped off the football by Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher on Monday. That turnover led to the game-winning field goal.
The Lions may have stopped licking their wounds from a lethal dose of Peterson on Sunday, but they know it will be a dogfight against a depleted Green Bay ground attack. With Ryan Grant out for the year with an ankle problem, Detroit's focus will be on a few ball carries from Kuhn and Jackson. The Lions had trouble stopping Chicago's Matt Forte, Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy and failed miserably in trying to contain Minnesota's All-Pro running back last weekend. The front line must play better this week in order to turn the season around. Defensive end Cliff Avril (4 tackles) returned last week after missing the Eagles game and posted three tackles. He's a part of a talented line spearheaded by veteran end Kyle Vanden Bosch (18 tackles, 2 sacks) and rookie tackle Ndamukong Suh (12 tackles, 2 sacks), who's having a strong start to his professional career. The No. 2 overall pick in last April's draft recorded eight stops against Philly and three in Minnesota. Suh also has two sacks on the season at a position not prone to getting to the quarterback on a regular basis. With the Packers struggling to run the football, it's safe to say safety and leading tackler Louis Delmas (19 tackles, 1 sack) will be busy. Safety C.C. Brown (18 tackles) will lend a hand in coverage as well.
With the Packers a heavy favorite Sunday, there are a plethora of options fantasy owners can choose from. Rodgers, Jennings and Finley will contribute early and often, but Driver is an emergency pick. Even though Jackson had a rough outing on Monday, he's still considered a fantasy starter with Grant out for the year. Green Bay's defense is a solid choice for this weekend.
Best and Johnson are fantasy starters in most leagues, and this week's matchup is no different. Hill should pass for about 300 yards and a few touchdowns and deserves a look regardless of his surroundings.
The Packers can't wait to redeem themselves after a penalty-ridden performance in Chicago landed them in the loss column for the first time this season. A big reason for Green Bay's sluggish showing was its poor run game behind Jackson and Kuhn. Before the Packers establish themselves offensively through the air this Sunday, the defense should set the tone early by taking Best and Johnson out of their game. Detroit will be predictable in trying to get Best going against a defense which is impossible to break on the ground. A few nice passes from Hill will make the score somewhat respectable at Lambeau Field, but the end result will be another Lions' road loss.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Packers 34, Lions 17