Gameweek: Lions Ready For Immediate Test

ALLEN PARK - It's only appropriate that the Lions open the season Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.

It was in Green Bay, as the quarterbacks coach under Mike Holmgren from 1992-1995, that Lions coach Steve Mariucci got his first taste of the NFL and the traditional black-and-blue division.

It is the Packers who - despite warnings of pending doom - have won the NFC North the past three seasons.

It is the Lions, after winning just 16 games in the past four years, who have set their sights on a division title and/or a playoff berth, and if they're going to get there, they will have to get past the Packers.

So what better time to test themselves than the opening game? They even have the benefit of playing the Packers at home in Ford Field.

There is no underestimating the significance of the season opener against Green Bay, as quarterback Joey Harrington acknowledged.

"I don't know if it is because of the success that Green Bay has had," Harrington said, "but because of what we want to do as a team, the kind of talent we think we have and us wanting to get off on the right foot in this division, with two division games right off the bat, that is what makes it one of the biggest openers we have had."

Neither team was overly impressive in the preseason. The Lions lost their first three games before knocking off Buffalo in the fourth; the Packers were 2-2 in the preseason, including losses to New England and Buffalo. Both Mariucci and Packers coach Mike Sherman obviously held much of their offense and defense back for the regular season, but the Lions cannot afford to let that - or anything else - get in their way.

"We need to be hitting on all cylinders quick," tackle Jeff Backus said.

"We've got two big games right away. We need to go out there and perform well, we need to perform at a high level. There's no excuses if we don't; we've just got to go out there and get it done."

Tight end Marcus Pollard, a newcomer to the Lions after playing 10 years at Indianapolis, says he sees indications the Lions can get off to the kind of start they crave.

"Guys come to work every day," he said. "Guys are willing to listen, eager to learn, eager to get better. And when you've got those kind of things with good character and great coaches, the sky's the limit."

SERIES HISTORY: 144th meeting. The Packers hold a substantial lead in the series with 76 wins, 61 losses and six ties. Their lead is 79-63-7 including games dating back an additional four seasons when the Lions were still the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans. The Packers have won the last two games and are 2-1 against the Lions in Ford Field

Lions Report Top Stories