Early Preview: Packers-Lions

It's only Tuesday, but it's never too soon to examine the keys to the game and big individual matchup for Sunday's game between the playoff-bound Packers and Lions.

Detroit at Green Bay

Kickoff: Sunday, noon, at Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis.

TV: FOX; DirecTV: 712. Announcers: Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick, Laura Okmin

Keys to the game: Most remember the Thanksgiving game between these teams for the infamous stomp by Lions DT Ndamukong Suh, but the handful of pressures and two sacks will stand out for coach Mike McCarthy when deciding how much Matt Flynn plays. Aaron Rodgers had five touchdown passes behind a virtual "B" team offensive line last week, but with homefield advantage locked up, there's no reason to risk the health of Green Bay's starters — and definitely not MVP candidate Rodgers. The Lions have refocused the past two games. QB Matthew Stafford was intercepted three times by the Packers last month but has carried an offense with no threat at running back most of the season. WR Calvin Johnson received double- and triple-team coverage from the Packers, but since then, Stafford hasn't hesitated to find WRs Nate Burleson and Titus Young and his big tight ends, Tony Scheffler and Brandon Pettigrew.

Matchup to watch: Packers LT Chad Clifton vs. Lions DE Kyle Vanden Bosch: As Packers offensive line coach Joe Philbin put it, Clifton has 10,000 snaps under his belt — but the next 25 matter. Clifton hasn't played since October and the 35-year-old hasn't been tested since hamstring and back injuries. With two series before a two-week break, the Packers could feel good about their line entering the postseason.

Player spotlight: Lions DE Cliff Avril might be playing his way right out of Detroit's price range. The impending free agent had a sack and a pick-six last week to become the first player in team history with 10-plus sacks, a fumble return for a score and an interception return for a score in the same season. His pick-six gave the team seven defensive touchdowns this season, tying the club mark set in 1934.

Fast facts: The Lions haven't won at Lambeau Field since 1991. ... Packers QB Aaron Rodgers set an NFL record last week: it was his 13th game this season with a passer rating over 100. Steve Young, with 12 games over 100 in 1994, held the record.

Lions lineup watch: The Lions were just about at full strength Saturday, with one notable and troubling exception. Free safety Louis Delmas (knee) remains out. He suffered a grade 2 MCL tear on Thanksgiving and had arthroscopic surgery two weeks ago. He's still not moving very well. The Lions are confident he will be back in time for the playoff game, but the injury has lingered beyond expectations. Cornerback Chris Houston suffered the same injury and at the same time. He was back at full strength Saturday and played one of his best games.

Packers trending: Green Bay's 31st-rated defense had another ugly showing Sunday despite the lopsided victory. The Bears' injury-depleted offense, featuring journeyman Josh McCown at quarterback and the inexperienced Kahlil Bell at running back, produced 441 yards. Bell broke loose for 121 yards as the Bears piled up 199 on the ground. The Packers have allowed at least 100 rushing yards in seven straight games and been gashed for 400-plus total yards in five of their last six outings. Green Bay is giving up a staggering average of 400.7 yards per game, which is a shade worse than the team's single-season record of 400.2 in 1983. "Defensively, we still have some problems," cornerback Charles Woodson said. "We just give up way too many things on a consistent basis. So, we have a long way to go."

Who will win and why: With homefield advantage locked up and no perfect season to chase anymore, look for the Packers to give their starters a handful of series and then begin to work in the second unit.

TSX pick: Lions 29-23.


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