Stopping the shift would behoove Packers

Lions trying to make a little history again at Lambeau Field


GREEN BAY – Ignoring the issue of draft position, which the Packers have since being eliminated from postseason competition two weeks ago, the reasons to end 2018 with a victory on Sunday are plentiful.

Interim head coach Joe Philbin has repeatedly discussed the culture winning establishes and maintains. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and other veterans in the locker room have mentioned professionalism and their nature as competitors. Notching a two-game winning streak for the first time before an otherwise forgettable year ends can be added to the list, too.

But here's another one.

Don't let the balance of power in this longstanding NFC North rivalry with the Lions continue to shift too far toward Detroit.

The Lions have started making inroads in a series the Packers have dominated over the past quarter century, and the sooner their recovery is stalled, the better.

To review what's played out recently …

Back in 2015, Detroit won a game on Wisconsin soil for the first time in 24 years, and it took a Hail Mary in the rematch 2 ½ weeks later for Green Bay to avoid a season sweep.

Then last year, the Lions did get that sweep, for the first time since the same 1991 season that served as the reference point for the Packers' home winning streak in the series, which was the year before Brett Favre took over at quarterback in Green Bay. Granted, both of those 2017 games were without Rodgers, but then that brings us to this year.

Detroit beat the Rodgers-led Packers back in Week 5, putting the Lions in position for back-to-back season sweeps, and a four-game winning streak in the series, for the first time in … wait for it … 35 years.

Yeah, you have to go all the way back to the 1982-83 seasons, when the teams were coached by Bart Starr and Monte Clark, to find Detroit's last two-season sweep of the Green Bay. Before that? The next previous one was pre-Vince Lombardi, back in 1953-54, which actually ended a run of five straight Lions sweeps and an 11-game streak overall.

So, only once in the past 64 years have the Packers gone two consecutive seasons losing all four games to the Lions. (For the record, Detroit did win four straight early in the post-Lombardi era, from the second meeting in '69 through the first meeting in '71, but it did not constitute a two-season sweep.)

To put the current shift in a slightly different context, in the first 25 years of the Favre-Rodgers era (1992-2016), the Packers went 39-13 against the Lions, a tidy and impressive .750 winning percentage, which included Favre's first two postseason victories in the '92 and '93 wild-card rounds.

To suddenly see that longstanding trend turn into four straight defeats wouldn't sit well as a second consecutive sub-.500 season concludes. It would sort of just add insult to injury.

Another historical nugget here involves new Detroit head coach Matt Patricia, who in early October snapped Green Bay's eight-game winning streak against rookie head coaches, which had dated back to 2013. Now the Packers have lost two straight against rookie head coaches following Arizona's victory under Steve Wilks four weeks ago.

Patricia has a chance to be the first Lions head coach to win his first two games against the Packers since Wayne Fontes back in 1988. Interestingly, Fontes was the interim coach then, taking over for Darryl Rogers after 11 games, and two of his first three games happened to be against Green Bay.

Fontes won them both – his only wins over the final five games that season as interim – but it was enough to get him his first head job, which he held for the next eight seasons.

In a disappointing inaugural season for Patricia, who is 5-10, a sweep of the Packers and Rodgers would no doubt be a feather in his cap (to go with the pencil behind his ear) given everything the Lions have been through this year, and in years past in this series.

You never want a division rival to get any measure of satisfaction at your expense. That's as good a reason as any to end this year with a win.

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