Green Bay Packers (8-4) at Detroit Lions (2-10)
When: Sunday, noon.
TV: FOX (Sam Rosen, Tim Ryan).
Series history: 161st regular-season meeting. Packers lead 89-64-7. Green Bay is 9-0 against the Lions with Mike McCarthy as head coach since 2006, and the Packers have won 10 straight games against their division rival. Only five players on the Packers' 53-man roster played in their last loss to Detroit, on Sept. 11, 2005: Donald Driver, Chad Clifton, Cullen Jenkins, Nick Collins and Scott Wells. Green Bay has won the last four meetings at Ford Field by an average of 15.8 points.
Inside the numbers
Packers: Ninth offense (23rd rushing, sixth passing) and 10th defense (18th rushing, sixth passing). Lions: 15th offense (29th rushing, eighth passing) and 21st defense (25th rushing, 16th passing). Key battle: The Lions rank second in red zone offense (touchdowns 69.7 percent of the time) while the Packers rank ninth in red zone defense (touchdowns allowed 46.2 percent of the time.
Keys to the game
The Packers have won 10 straight against Detroit, a team QB Aaron Rodgers has a 105.3 passer rating against in five career meetings. Rookie RB James Starks (18 carries for 73 yards) had the best debut by a Packers rookie back since 1960 last week and will be part of the backfield mix. Detroit must get a big effort out of DLs Ndamukong Suh and Cliff Avril (15 combined sacks) to protect a fractured secondary. The Lions want QB Drew Stanton to make quick decisions with OLB Clay Matthews (11.5 sacks) having a favorable matchup. And RB Jahvid Best (toe) appears to be regaining his big-play burst.
Fast facts : WR Calvin Johnson is the first Lion with 12 touchdowns through 12 games since Barry Sanders in 1991. ... Rodgers has 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in last four meetings.
Inside the Lions
The Lions are trying to stay on point and focus on the task at hand, which is a game against the NFC North rival Packers Sunday, but there are more than a few distractions.
Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch (neck) and starting cornerback Alphonso Smith (shoulder) had surgery this week and are out for the rest of the season. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was fined $15,000 for a questionable hit on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. News came down Thursday that defensive Cliff Avril, who had a career-high three sacks Sunday, was also fined $15,000 for a hit on Cutler that drew a personal foul penalty for roughing the passer.
As you might imagine, defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham is beside himself.
"I would like to tell you what I'm thinking but then I'll get fined," he said Thursday.
Cunningham is hardly ever at a loss for words, but he truly didn't seem to know how to react to all of this.
"It's like the week before (against New England), when the interference (penalty) happened on DeAndre Levy," Cunningham said, "I asked the line judge, 'What do you want me to tell him? Explain it to me because I coach it by the rules.' Honestly, I don't know what to say."
Here's the only thing he said to Suh: "I love him. He's a football player. I hope he never changes. He's going to play hard every play and the league is going to do what it has to do. If I say more they are going to take my money and I don't have enough to give them."
What Cunningham and others within the organization can't quite get their minds around is how Suh and Avril draw penalties and fines while their defensive captain, Vanden Bosch, was taken down and sent to surgery by a chop block that was neither flagged nor fined.
"You are talking about the crack-back block," Cunningham said, dripping with sarcasm. "The reason he's getting surgery?"
Vanden Bosch was hit from behind by Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski while he was engaged with another offensive lineman.
"It's ridiculous what that guy did," Cunningham said. "We had it happen when I was in Kansas City. A tight end from San Diego and we warned him: 'Do it again and we're going to hit you from our side.' You talk about a defenseless player, now. If you look at that play on tape ... I better stop. I have some real deep feelings about that."
The difference, of course, is that Cutler is a quarterback and Vanden Bosch a defensive lineman. Even referee Ed Hochuli said after the game that "quarterbacks do receive more protection."
Coach Jim Schwartz described it like this:
"The league has defined defenseless play in a lot of different ways - quarterback in the pocket, receiver in the process of making a catch, runner on the sideline, and then a runner being held up by contact; those are all defenseless players," he said. "I'm sure it's something that they look at every year and say how can you best protect players, but that (the Vanden Bosch play) hasn't been categorized as a defenseless player.
"It's sort of fair game to do that."
This alleged trap game against a Detroit team with a 2-10 record comes right before the Packers finish the regular season with a potentially grueling trifecta against the Patriots, Giants and Bears. If the Packers are going to make the playoffs, and perhaps overtake the Bears for the NFC North title, they can't slip up Sunday. Green Bay has more often than not won going away in its four previous visits to Ford Field with Mike McCarthy as head coach, so getting out to a big lead early and erasing any optimism the Lions have for trying to spoil the Packers' postseason plans would be advantageous.
Thanks to zero interceptions for Aaron Rodgers the last five-plus games, the Packers are clicking on offense. Rodgers should be able to pass the football with ease against a patchwork defense that has issues in the secondary. The key will be for the interior linemen to neutralize Lions DT Ndamukong Suh, who has been a beast as a rookie with a team-high eight sacks. As Green Bay tries to build off the momentum from its last game with a running dimension that came to life thanks to a productive pro debut by James Starks, taking the football right up the gut at the penetrating Suh has worked for other teams to counter his speed.
Defensively, the Packers will see a different quarterback, Drew Stanton, than they did in Week 4 at Lambeau Field, when Shaun Hill's big passing day nearly carried the Lions to an upset victory. Stanton isn't as dangerous throwing the football as Hill is, especially downfield, but Green Bay will be expecting a heavy diet of passes since Detroit can't run the football. Keeping big-play receiver Calvin Johnson, productive tight end Brandon Pettigrew and shifty rookie running back Jahvid Best in check on Stanton's short to intermediate throws is the focal point.
The wild card for the Lions is the diminutive Stefan Logan, who, at 5-foot-6 has played big on kickoff and punt returns. Look for the Packers to kick the football away from Logan as much as possible.