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Packers must avoid rare division sweep

Lions have a chance to do what no NFC North team has done since 2009


GREEN BAY – It hasn't happened for a half-dozen years, and the Packers' prospects for 2015 would look much brighter if it doesn't happen on Thursday night.

An NFC North opponent hasn't swept a season series from the Packers since 2009, but that's what the Lions have a chance to do in prime time at Ford Field.

For all of Head Coach Mike McCarthy's prowess in the division since entering it in 2006 – a .750 winning percentage at the start of his 10th season – it's hard to believe the Packers need a win at Detroit just to split this gauntlet of a four-game division stretch.

Three games ago it appeared a nearly month-long run of division games would be just the tonic needed to cure what was ailing the Packers, but it hasn't worked out that way, at least not yet.

The Lions knocked the Packers out of first place in the North for the first time this season in Week 10, and now they're gunning to become the first division foe to sweep Green Bay since Brett Favre and Minnesota pulled it off six years ago.

The only other time McCarthy's Packers have been swept by an NFC North opponent was in 2007, by the Bears. That's just two sweeps in nine-plus years.

The Lions themselves haven't swept the Packers since 1991, of course, because that was the last time before Nov. 15 Detroit won a game in the state of Wisconsin.

These are strange times, but they mustn't get any stranger.

Detroit's 18-16 win over Green Bay three weeks ago was not only rare for its location but also for the score. It marked only the seventh time under McCarthy the Packers lost a game when the opposing team scored fewer than 20 points, and the first time ever under McCarthy at home.

Then it happened again on Thanksgiving with the 17-13 setback to the Bears. Six times in nine years, but never at home, and then twice in a row at Lambeau. Strange times, indeed.

Two of the previous times were in Detroit, by the way, in 2010 (7-3) and last year (19-7).

In heading back to Detroit on Thursday, the Packers are looking to avoid a third straight loss at Ford Field, after falling on Thanksgiving in 2013 sans QB Aaron Rodgers and then again last year in Week 3. Under McCarthy, the Packers have lost three consecutive times in an opposing stadium only once.

You probably guessed it was Seattle – the 2012 Fail Mary game, the 2014 opener and then last January's NFC title game. For the record, the Packers currently have two-game losing streaks in three other venues – Buffalo ('06, '14), New Orleans ('08, '14) and New York ('12, '13).

What does all this mean? Nothing in terms of what the Packers need to do to beat the Lions, which is to execute their offense, limit Detroit's big gains and make the plays at crunch time.

But it all illustrates the successful trends that are getting away from the Packers in 2015. The Packers can't afford to let these trends slip further from their grasp.

"You don't own success, it's rented," McCarthy said this week.

Sounds like it's time to pay the rent.

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