Lions at Packers: Sunday's preview

Our experts have everything you need to know heading into today's season finale at Lambeau Field between the Detroit Lions (0-15) and Green Bay Packers (5-10).

When: noon (Central).

Where: Lambeau Field (grass).

TV: Fox (Chris Rose, John Lynch).

Series: 157th regular-season meeting. Packers lead 85-64-7. Lions have lost six straight. Lions have lost 16 straight regular-season games at Green Bay, the NFL's second-longest active losing streak for one team in one place, trailing only the Lions' 18-game streak at Washington.

Keys to the game: The best thing the Lions have going from them is the fear of making history as the NFL's first 0-16 team. They can't afford to fall behind, and must make immediate headway against the Packers' run defense allowing 133.9 yards per game. Rookie RB Kevin Smith continues to play well, but is only effective as long as Detroit is within shouting distance. ... If the Packers match their score from the first meeting, Detroit would set an NFL record with 534 points allowed. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers threw for 328 yards in Detroit, and the Lions just don't have the secondary depth to hold Green Bay's receiving corps in check. They struggled with Rodgers' ability to run the spread offense and use his mobility to keep plays alive until receivers came open.

Need to know: WR Calvin Johnson needs one reception to join Herman Moore (1995) as the only Lions with at least 70 catches, 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns in a season. ... The Packers are an NFL-best 13-1 in their past 14 regular-season finales.

Inside the Lions

The big number for today's game at Green Bay is 16. If the Lions lose, they will become the first NFL team to go 0-16.

But another big number is 116. If Smith rushes for 116 yards, he will set a career high and reach 1,000 yards for the season -- and the Lions will have a good chance to avoid 0-16.

"I think I am going to be key this game," Smith said. "I never say that, but I think I'm going to be key. At least if I'm not, I'll act like I am, act like I'm the big factor in the game. Hopefully that will have me playing good."

Smith has been playing relatively well lately. In his first eight games, he never reached 63 yards rushing. In his last seven games, he has failed to surpass 63 yards rushing only once. He has surpassed 100 yards twice, rushing for 112 on Nov. 2 at Carolina and 111 on Sunday against New Orleans.

"That's been going well for us," coach Rod Marinelli said. "The only time it hasn't is when we get behind fast and we're not able to run it 35 times or something that you'd hope to. So hopefully we can play a little better defense and give our offense a chance to run the ball some."

The Lions need time of possession and points against the Packers to keep their defense off the field and keep pace on the scoreboard. The Packers have a strong pass defense but rank only 26th against the run, so Smith is expected to get the ball often.

The more Smith gets the ball, the better he seems to run.

"This guy, it never looks like he's tired," Marinelli said. "It never looks like he's beat-up. "His endurance seems extremely good. I think the one thing he's got going for him, he really loves to play football. You can see game day. He just loves it. He'll keep fighting, and he's got energy. He brings a lot of energy to the team."

Game plan

For an otherwise meaningless regular-season finale between the bottom feeders of the NFC North, the game will be closely watched because a Packers victory would give the Detroit Lions the dubious distinction as only NFL team to go 0-16 in a season. While Green Bay will have incentive to make sure it's not the opponent that was the Lions' only victim, motivation for its players in late December at frigid Lambeau Field with a five-game losing streak isn't necessarily percolating.

The only surefire remedy for the Packers to bounce back heading into the offseason, it would seem, is for them to jump on the Lions with a big lead early. If Detroit stays within striking distance in the fourth quarter, Green Bay's 0-7 track record in games decided by no more than four points could come into play.

Provided the winds are calm Sunday, the tendency for the Packers' play calling would be to have Aaron Rodgers throw the football against a vulnerable Lions secondary. Rodgers had a breakout performance in the Week 2 win over Detroit with career highs of 328 yards and three touchdowns on 24-of-38 accuracy with no interceptions.

Brandon Jackson's 61 yards accounted for half of the Packers' rushing output of 123 yards in that first meeting, when starter Ryan Grant gained only 20 yards in 15 carries. With Jackson possibly out because of a sprained wrist, the Packers could be challenged to run the football effectively with a sputtering Grant, never mind Detroit's having the most generous run defense in the league.

On defense, Green Bay will be out to shut down deep threat Calvin Johnson in the passing game after he had a huge day against the Packers' spotty secondary 3 1/2 months ago. Different for the rematch is the Lions parted ways with their other standout receiver, Roy Williams, shortly after that game and they have hit-and-miss Dan Orlovsky, not Jon Kitna, at quarterback.

Detroit's hottest contributor in recent weeks has been Smith. He had only 10 carries for 40 yards in his first encounter with Green Bay, thanks greatly to the Lions' falling behind by a big margin in the first half, but Detroit probably will be force feeding him the football to try to get him the 116 yards he needs for 1,000 this season.


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