The Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions enter Sunday's game at Ford Field with matching 0-2 records. Both already are obvious long shots to rally and make the playoffs, but starting 0-3 would add a bunch of nails in the coffin. Not to mention an 0-3 start would put that team's new head coach, whether it's Green Bay's Mike McCarthy or Detroit's Rod Marinelli, in danger of having their players lose belief in what they've been preaching since their hirings last winter.
Green Bay's season-opening 17-3 loss at Detroit foreshadowed last year's awful record, and even when the Packers have been much better than the Lions, they have traditionally struggled in Detroit.
How can the Packers win at hostile Ford Field? Here are this week's five keys to victory.
Which teams will show up?
It will be interesting to see how the young Packers perform. This will be their first road test - Ford Field should be especially rowdy - and they are coming off a loss in which they blew a 13-0 lead and had everything going in their favor. Do they enter this game with some momentum and confidence after an improved performance, or do they come in on a down note after missing an opportunity?
Detroit spoke confidently after losing just 9-6 to defending NFC champion Seattle in the season opener, then got blasted in the first few minutes last week at Chicago. Does the home crowd help the Lions rebound? If they play as well defensively as they did against the Seahawks, the Packers will be in danger of getting shut out for the second time in three weeks.
"I would think both teams are looking at it like a must-win game because we're kind of mirror images of each other," Detroit guard Damien Woody said. "I'm sure both teams, all week, are saying we have to get this win because we don't want to be 0-3, and 0-2 in the division."
A little less Favre
Packers quarterback Brett Favre enters this game one touchdown pass shy of 400 for his career. The Packers would love to see him reach the milestone, but not by having to throw 55 passes, like he did last week against the Saints.
"We know we can't make a living week in and week out having to throw that many times," Favre said at his biweekly news conference. "We're struggling a little bit with protection up front. If you have to drop back 40 times at Detroit, there's no doubt that somebody's going to come free at some point."
Favre's play dictates how the Packers do at Ford Field. In Green Bay's two wins at the stadium, he has thrown five touchdown passes and one interception. In its two losses, he has thrown two touchdown passes and five interceptions.
Working in his favor: Detroit allows a whopping 79.3 completion percentage, and hard-hitting safety Kenoy Kennedy won't play.
Mr. Rogers Neighborhood
Detroit's best player is mammoth defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, a player who often performs his best against the Packers. Green Bay's weakness is the youth in the middle of the offensive line.
That's not a good combination.
"We're not just going to play one-on-one with Shaun Rogers, I think that's a safe bet," McCarthy said.
The 6-foot-4, 345-pound Rogers is a two-time Pro Bowler. As you'd expect for a man his size, he's a big-time run stuffer. A lot like Gilbert Brown when he was in his prime, Rogers provides a decent push up the middle, although his career sacks total wouldn't suggest it. He does, however, have two sacks in two games this season, and he had a sack in each game against Green Bay last year.
"You have to have confidence in yourself to where you can go up to the line and go, 'I'm going to kick his butt this play,"' Moll said. "That's how you have to treat every single play. At the same time, you have to respect him."
Greatest Show on Turf?
Two reasons why Detroit was expected to make giant strides this season — some national pundits thought the Lions could challenge for a playoff berth — are the additions of offensive coordinator Mike Martz and quarterback Jon Kitna.
Martz turned St. Louis' offense into an offensive juggernaut. Kitna has never been more than an average quarterback, but he's a sound decision maker and, well, he's not Joey Harrington.
Instead, through two games this season, Detroit ranks 26th in total offense, 31st in rushing offense and has scored a mere 13 points.
"It's kind of like golf," Kitna said. "We're hitting the driver good, we're getting on the green and we're three-putting. We keep taking two steps forward and one step back, and you can't do that in this league."
Working against the Lions is their receiving corps. With former first-round picks Charles Rogers released and Roy Williams in the doghouse, Detroit starts loudmouthed but talented Roy Williams and former Packer Corey Bradford, and some guy named Mike Furrey is their leading receiver. On the other end of the spectrum, the Packers rank 30th against the pass. When two weak units collide, something's got to give. Simply put, if the Packers' pass defense struggles again, they'll lose. If they play as they were expected to when training camp kicked off, they'll win.
For the third week in a row, the Packers will face a big-time kick returner. This time, it's Eddie Drummond. He's been held in check so far this young season, but he boasts career averages of 24.1 yards on kickoff returns and 9.3 yards on punt returns. Four of his six career return touchdowns came in 2004.
Also, Detroit has blocked two field-goal attempts.
Obviously, when two offensively impaired teams collide, any big plays on special teams that create field position will be critical.
Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to email@example.com.