TV: FOX, Ron Pitts, Terry Donahue
SERIES: 154th meeting. The Packers lead the series, which originated in 1930 when the Lions were based in Portsmouth, Ohio, 82-64-7. There have been two postseason encounters between the division rivals, both won by the Packers in the NFC wild-card round in 1993 and '94. Green Bay has won nine of the last 11 meetings, dating to 2000, but Detroit has prevailed at home two of the last three years. 2006 rankings: Packers: offense 15th (24th rush, 8th pass); defense 27th (11th rush, 30th pass). Lions: offense 26th (31st rush, 16th pass); defense 21st (15th rush, 24th pass)
Keys to the game
In their first road game of the season, the Packers need their young offensive line to perform better in the new zone-blocking scheme. A breakdown last Sunday led to a key fumble by RB Ahman Green, and the Lions have a talented defensive line capable of capitalizing on missed assignments on the cut-back lanes. Green has averaged just 65 yards in three games at Ford Field, but the Packers need a strong performance on the ground because QB Brett Favre historically struggles against the Cover-2 defense the Lions employ. Detroit's own offense has sputtered out of the gate, but QB Jon Kitna should have more opportunity to exploit Green Bay's porous secondary. He has protected the ball well, but hasn't created many plays downfield. RB Kevin Jones has been effective, albeit not spectacular, as a duel threat in Mike Martz's new offense.
Packers: Favre needs one TD pass to join Dan Marino (420) as the only players with 400 for a career. ... Coach Mike McCarthy seeks to avoid become franchise's third coach out of 14 to lose his first three games.
Lions: Kitna has no INTs in 67 pass attempts this season. ... Jones has averaged 102.0 rushing yards in three career games against Green Bay.
PREDICTION: Lions 24-21
INSIDE THE CAMPS
The Packers' struggles in dome games with Brett Favre at quarterback are legendary. They're 18-25 in those indoor incursions.
Yet, as Green Bay enters the controlled climes of Detroit's Ford Field on Sunday, there's a better barometer of how the matchup between 0-2 teams might pan out. If Favre is put in a position in which he has to make at least 40 passes, the Packers likely will remain winless.
"When we have to throw 40 or more times, whether it's here or in domes, you'll probably lose, at least in this offense," Favre said this week.
The unsavory results substantiate the claim. In the midst of Favre's 243-game starting streak dating to 1992, the Packers have had 60 outings in which he's had 40-plus pass attempts. They've won only 18 of those.
The correlation between excessive throws and losing has been more defined in recent years. The Packers have lost 18 of 24 such games since 2000, and they're riding a nine-game losing streak when Favre reaches the forbidden 40.
The last time the Packers managed to win a game in spite of a high pitch count by their quarterback was Nov. 21, 2004, at Houston -- Favre had 50 throws. That's one of only two instances out of 10 the Packers have won when Favre flung the football at least 50 times.
He's coming off a 55-pass performance in the 34-27 loss to New Orleans last Sunday. It was all Favre for most of the afternoon because the run game stagnated.
"We call runs, we have to execute the runs better than we did last week," right tackle Mark Tauscher said. "Obviously, with what we're trying to get done, running the football is our number one priority."
More often than not, though, the Packers wind up leaning on Favre when they play under the roof at Detroit, where they're 6-9 since 1992. Eight of the games resulted in Favre's having at least 40 passes; Green Bay won just once.
"We have to run the football well enough so that you're not dropping back and (the defenders) can pin their ears back and just come at you," Favre said. "In those cases, that's what's happened. We've either fallen behind or put ourselves in situations offensively (with) third-and-long, second-and-long, where they can rush the passer and then you're getting sacked or hit, the ball's coming out, you're throwing interceptions and you're making a bad situation worse.
"That's probably more than anything why we haven't had success. So, run the football better so you're not passing the ball every snap."
The explanations are easy to come by -- a missed assignment, an untimely fumble, a busted play -- but the fact remains that the Lions simply haven't been able to run the football effectively in the first two games of the season.
In fact, only one team -- the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- has been less productive than the Lions, who are averaging a sickly 42 yards per game.
Rod Marinelli can explain it: "You see it -- a block here, a helmet on the wrong side, things are kind of set up a little bit and we're doing just the littlest things (wrong) right now."
And Marinelli knows what the Lions have to do about it.
"We've just got to stick with it," he said. "We got behind (against Chicago) and weren't able to stay with it. We had a couple breakout runs early in the game and then we just -- in terms of attempts -- we didn't get as many attempts after we got behind 24-0, we ended up throwing the ball."
But if there is any one player feeling the anguish of a struggling running game, it is third-year running back Kevin Jones.
In two games, Jones has carried 26 times for 79 yards and has lost three fumbles. In the second half of his rookie season, 79 yards wasn't even a good day's work for Jones and, as for the fumbles, he had lost only one -- total -- in his first two NFL seasons.
Part of the problem could be that the Lions haven't had their first team offensive line together in the first two games. Right tackle Rex Tucker missed the first game recovering from a training camp injury and left guard Ross Verba is expected to play for the first time Sunday against Green Bay.
That might be part of the reason Jones has not run with confidence. He has been tentative at times and, on occasion, he has hit the line going sideways or backwards.
Jones said he was "trying to get skinny" in hitting the hole when he didn't square up to the line of scrimmage but Marinelli suggested: "A couple of times I felt he could have turned it up and got his shoulders north and south."
As for the fumbles, Jones said he wasn't going to become obsessed with the problem. "I'll be concentrating on it," he said. "I'm not going to harp on it because I know that I'm not going to just give the ball up every game. I've just got to hold on to it."