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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Lions no longer thrown to Packers

This season there's been a role reversal

Posted: 10/6/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- There's an early-season role reversal in the NFC North.

The Detroit Lions are tied at the top at 3-1. The two-time defending champion Packers are third at 1-2.

Doesn't seem right, especially after Detroit finished 4-12 last season. But here come the Lions with a chance to create more divisional separation when the old Midwest rivals meet today at Lambeau Field.

Fueled by an offence that added multidimensional running back Reggie Bush and a defensive line spearheaded by tackle Ndamukong Suh, the Lions are off to a fast start, They are just one win from matching their victory total for 2012.

Now that talk about winning a division title doesn't seem too far-fetched.

"Last year, we did not win a division game. This year, we're 2-0 in the division. This would give us a chance to go 3-0," coach Jim Schwartz said. "This gives us an opportunity to get another win, get a division win, and also put a loss on one of our division opponents."

Not if Green Bay has anything to say about it. The Packers are back from a bye and a week to stew about a wild 34-30 loss at Cincinnati.

There's no sense of panic.

"You don't want to put yourself in this position because it's a tough battle and we've got 13 straight games here, which gives it an extra dimension as well to the toughness," Aaron Rodgers said. "But we're going to rely on our veterans to stay healthy, play well and lead, and our young guys to come along and grow up fast."

Three things to watch ahead of the 168th meeting between the teams:

WISCONSIN BLUES: The Lions haven't beaten Green Bay in Wisconsin since 1991. That's 22 straight victories for the Packers at home, including one playoff win. The 21 straight regular-season home wins for Green Bay against Detroit are an NFL record.

It's an eye-catching statistic for writers, players on both teams said this week. But they're not paying attention to the streak. Honest.

"We've got to go out there and spend all of our time preparing to play the 2013 Green Bay Packers and not the ones from '94, '95. That has nothing to do with what we're trying to do this weekend," said quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was 3 years old when the Lions last beat Green Bay on the road.

RODGERS SHOW: Then again, the Lions also haven't faced one of the NFL's best quarterbacks yet in Rodgers, and the dangerous Packers receiving corps. Rodgers is looking to rebound from a rare two-interception game. He'll also have tight end Jermichael Finley back from a concussion.

THE BUSH EFFECT: It's no longer just the Calvin Johnson show in Detroit. Bush adds speed out of the backfield and another option for Stafford, who is playing well.

"You can't focus all your attention on Calvin. At the same time you can't put all your attention on Bush," Packers safety M.D. Jennings said.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 6, 2013 B12

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