Sunday's season finale might mean more to the Lions than it does to the Packers. The Lions have a chance to avoid a losing season for the first time since 2000. The Packers know they will finish second in the NFC no matter what happens.
But here's the problem, from a Detroit perspective. The Lions haven't won in Wisconsin since 1991, and the Packers, who lost Sunday and will have a bye, at least will want to go into the playoffs sharp.
The Lions will have to do what they did last year: go on the road and win a game no one expects them to win to build for the future. Last year they won at Dallas, 39-31, even though they were finishing 3-13 and the Cowboys were playing for playoff positioning.
"Obviously we're not in the position we wanted to be in," linebacker Paris Lenon said Sunday after the Lions' 25-20 victory over Kansas City. "Our goal was to go to the playoffs, and that didn't happen. But coming into today, we still had two games on the schedule. We're going out there to compete, compete and get a win."
The Lions needed to beat the Chiefs to snap a six-game losing streak and guarantee they would win at least seven games, a humble total, but their highest since Matt Millen became team president in 2001.
Coach Rod Marinelli tried to keep the players motivated by pounding home his message during the week -- literally. Defensive tackle Cory Redding said Marinelli broke not one, but two overhead projectors during meetings.
"I'm dead serious," Redding said. "He broke two machines last week. That's payroll deduct. ... Both of them. Lights out. He broke them. He lit that fire, man.
"He was just fired-up. He knows how much potential we have. He knows how good we can be. And we started out great. We fell off towards the end. And that's what we've got to work on."
After the Lions beat the Chiefs, the feeling was more relief than celebration. The Lions entered the season with quarterback Jon Kitna talking about winning 10 games, and the Lions started 6-2.
Offensive lineman Jeff Backus was Millen's first draft pick. He has started every game of Millen's tenure and has known nothing else in the NFL. But he wasn't throwing a party at his locker.
"I think guys are still disappointed with how positive the first half of the season was, to go into that six-game slide, because we know we let a great opportunity out of our hands," he said.
Asked if reaching seven meant anything to him, Backus said: "Not really. I'm not going to play forever. I want to get into the playoffs. I want to experience that and experience a playoff run. So the only thing that means anything to me ..."
He paused for a split second.
"I mean, it was great to win the game and finish out our home schedule and give our fans something to cheer about," he continued. "But more than anything, it was just good to see these guys fight back after the way we played last week and the way the last six weeks have gone."
Individual Player Notes