Packers-Lions: Keys to the game

The Green Bay Packers have owned the NFC North Division and were an obvious playoff contender. The Lions were a chic pick to vault from have-not to have and contend for a playoff berth.

Those scenarios, of course, haven't quite panned out — much to ESPN's chagrin, no doubt — so, two of the worst teams in the NFL battle in prime time on Sunday.

While fans from both teams would be content to see their team lose, in hopes of improving their lot in the Reggie Bush/Matt Leinart sweepstakes, Packers coach Mike Sherman and interim Lions coach Dick Jauron are fighting for their jobs, so expect a hard-played, if not well-played, game.

Here are this week's five keys to victory.

1. Favre outplays Garcia/Harrington
This should be a no-brainer. Packers quarterback Brett Favre has been the Abominable Snowman when it comes to playing at the Frozen Tundra. With the possible exception of the New York Jets, there isn't a team in the league that is jealous of the Lions' quarterback tandem of Jeff Garcia and Joey Harrington.

Favre, however, has been downright Harrington-esque during the last six weeks, with a passer rating of 59.7 and 13 interceptions.

If Favre can't outplay the not-so-dynamic duo of Garcia and Harrington, the Packers will suffer another embarrassing defeat.

2. On guard
When these teams met in Week 1 at Ford Field, the Packers' running game was held to 46 yards on 17 rushes. And that was with a healthy Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport.

The main problem was the Packers' starting guards, Adrian Klemm and Will Whitticker, were bullied by veteran Lions defensive tackles Shaun Rogers and Dan Wilkinson.

It's been a revolving door at guard in the last few weeks. Scott Wells has replaced Klemm, and Whitticker was replaced by Grey Ruegamer last week, though Whitticker will be back in the starting lineup Sunday.

Wells and Whitticker must at least hold their own in the middle, and Sherman must rely on the running game, unlike last week against Chicago.

3. Driver vs. Bly
Dre Bly is the Lions' best defensive back. Donald Driver is the Packers' only receiving threat.

Expect Bly, who has four interceptions this season, to shadow Driver, whose 67 catches are nearly double the 34 balls caught by the Packers' second-leading receiver, Antonio Chatman, and are nearly equal to the 68 combined receptions of the Lions' much-ballyhooed trio of first-round draft picks.

If Driver wins this matchup, the Packers will be able to keep drives alive and put some points on the scoreboard. If Bly wins, the Packers are left with few options.

4. Field position
Say what you want about Favre's mistakes, but some good field position on occasion would make life much easier for the Packers' offense. After all, the chances of a mistake increase if the offense has to move 80 yards for a touchdown instead of, say, 70 yards.

The Packers rarely have had good field position this year. The punt-return unit ranks 16th in the 32-team league. That's the good news. The kickoff-return team ranks dead last, and the Packers' defense ranks 21st in takeaways.

Where's the hope against Detroit? Well, the Lions are 23rd in kickoff coverage and have yielded a touchdown.

5. Battling the cold
Favre boasts a 38-3 record in games played when the temperature at kickoff is 34 degrees of less. No problem there for Sunday night, when the mercury will be around 20 degrees and sinking fast.

Last year, on a cold December day, the Lions led at halftime 13-0. Favre was 3-for-15 for 28 yards. It was a different story in the second half, however, as Favre went 16-of-21 for 160 yards and a touchdown, rallying the Packers to a 16-13 win.

To prepare, the Lions opened the doors, windows and vents to their indoor practice facility on Friday.

"You've always got to be mentally prepared in this league," Jauron said. "The cold or the heat, whichever one it is, can really make you lose your focus."

If the Packers can jump on the Lions early, their sideline will feel a whole lot colder than the Packers'.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to Send comments to

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