GREEN BAY—This is early-season drama. At 1-2, the Packers will be facing a degree of desperation on Sunday when they host the 3-1 Detroit Lions in the home team's NFC North opener.
Consider the consequences of both victory and defeat. With a win, the 2-2 Packers could find themselves effectively tied with the Lions and Bears (they host the undefeated Saints) for the division lead at the end of the day. With a loss, the Packers would take a 1-3 record to Baltimore next weekend, and the schedule begins to stiffen.
None of that is lost on the Packers or their fans. They know what's at stake and they know the Packers hold a 22-game home winning streak against the Lions. It's high drama. Maybe it's what Mike McCarthy had in mind when, in the winter of 2011, just a month after winning Super Bowl XLV, he pronounced the Lions as a team to watch in the future.
The future is now for the Lions and Coach Jim Schwartz. Potential needs to become production to reward the patience with which the team was rebuilt following its 0-16 embarrassment in 2008. It's taken five years to get here. Have the Lions, in fact, arrived? That's a question they can answer affirmatively with a win on Sunday.
Does the road to the NFC North title still go through Green Bay? That's the question the Packers would answer affirmatively by beating the Lions. Beat the Lions and nothing will have changed in the NFC North.
Here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the Lions.
1. Be strong in the middle—Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley created havoc in last year's two games between the teams.
2. Come to life on defense—The Packers are 28th in yards allowed and 27th in points allowed and that's not a winning combination.
3. Run the ball—Eventually, it'll force that eighth defender up into the box, and then look out.
4. Get it done at crunch time—Both losses are a result of not getting it done at crunch time.
5. Return something—The Packers must improve in their return game. It sure would be nice seeing Randall Cobb streaking down the sideline again.
6. Make it a battle of quarterbacks—Matt Stafford struggled against the Packers last season. He threw a pick-six interception in Detroit and his fumble in Green Bay was returned for a touchdown and was the turning point in a game the Lions led, 14-3.
7. Avoid third-and-one—The Lions are No. 1 in the league in third-down defense.
8. Cover, not rush—The Lions are No. 1 in the league in sacks allowed (only three), and Clay Matthews' status is still unknown.
9. Make the weather your friend—The forecast is for 50s and rain. The Lions are a dome team.
10. Play with desperation—It's that kind of a game. Additional coverage - Oct. 3