Lions at Packers: Gameday notes

Packer Report publisher Bill Huber empties his tape recorder and notebook before the season finale. What are the Packers saying about facing the winless Lions? Who will start at quarterback for Detroit? Get those answers and more.

Super Bowl.

Those words were uttered in the Green Bay Packers' locker room this week, with only Sunday's finale against the Detroit Lions separating these teams from the end of seasons that have gone horribly wrong.

"I'm sure they're not big fans of us," Packers guard Daryn Colledge said. "They're going to come in here. This is it for us. This is our Super Bowl. We both need to get a win and we both want it real bad."

Even though the Packers and Lions enter the game with a combined five wins, both teams feel there's plenty on the line. For Detroit, it's obvious: Win and avoid the ignominy of being the only 0-16 team in NFL history. For Green Bay, it's also simple: Win to avoid going into the offseason with the sour taste of a six-game losing streak. Oh, and there's that not-so-small matter of not wanting to be the one team to stub its toe against the lousy Lions.

"We've both had seasons that aren't exactly to where we hoped they'd be or expected them to be," said Colledge, noting he's preparing for this game the same way he would had the Lions been 15-0. "We've got pressure as a team that needs to get six wins. We need to have some momentum going into the offseason. These fans deserve a win at home to end the season."

From an outside perspective, there would seem to be an enormous amount of pressure on the Packers this week. A bad season is one thing. Being the one and only team the woeful Lions beat would be quite another. The players, however, aren't looking at it that way.

"Those guys, they're going to play," receiver Donald Driver said. "We have to play. There's no pressure on us. There's no pressure on them. The best team's going to win that game."

"It's not even on my mind," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "You know what their record is, but when you get between those lines, that stuff, nobody thinks about that or cares about that."

And while coach Mike McCarthy knows that reporters and fans will be focusing on the embarrassment that would be heaped upon the Lions for going 0-16 or the Packers for losing to the team that was 0-15, he's not spending much time thinking about those storylines. In fact, he said he only made mention of it to his team in their media-preparation period.

"I'm fully aware of everything that's going to surround this game, and the position Detroit is in," McCarthy said. "But that's not going to affect the way we go about preparing for the game, and I don't see it affecting the way we're going to play the game. We look at them as a division opponent. Division games we treat with a different emphasis, regardless of the time of year, regardless of the records and so forth. We expect them to come in here and be a hell of a battle."

So, not a word about the possibility of losing to an 0-15 team?

"I don't ever talk about losing," McCarthy said.

Orlovsky, not Culpepper

Dan Orlovsky, a fifth-round pick in 2005, will be the Lions' quarterback on Sunday, not Daunte Culpepper.

Orlovsky, who will be making his seventh start of the season, has thrown for 1,391 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions with a passer rating of 74.3.

Based on history, the Packers will be catching a break by not facing Culpepper. In his last six starts against Green Bay, he has thrown 18 touchdown passes and no interceptions with a gaudy rating of 121.4.

Orlovsky and Culpepper followed Jon Kitna as the Lions' starting quarterback this season. Throw in Drew Stanton and Drew Henson, and the Lions have had five quarterbacks throw passes.

"Any time you have to work with that many different quarterbacks in a season, it makes it a little bit tougher for you in terms of the consistency you would like," Lions coach Rod Marinelli said. "Then each quarterback, some guys can handle more, some guys can handle less."

Familiar story

Not every Lions game has resulted in a blowout loss like last week's 42-7 debacle against the Saints. In the fourth quarter of the Lions' first two games of the month, they led the Vikings and were tied against the Colts.

By Marinelli's estimation, the Lions have had "eight or nine" games in which they failed to make a critical play that could have changed the outcome.

"We're just not getting it done; coaches and players," Marinelli said, sounding a lot like McCarthy.

Johnson's a big target

Detroit has one bona fide star in second-year receiver Calvin Johnson. The 6-foot-5 Johnson has 69 catches for 1,229 yards and 10 touchdowns, including six receptions for 129 yards and two touchdowns in the Week 2 matchup between these teams. He is tied for third in the league in touchdowns and ranks fifth in yards.

"In my opinion, he's one of the top five players in this league," Marinelli said. "Athletically, he's a beast. The only thing I feel bad for is that it didn't get on many national television games, where everybody got a chance to watch this guy. When we lost Roy (Williams to Dallas), it's been all him. He's gone out and made some unbelievable catches. He's such a great competitor. And above all that, he's an even better person."

Class of 2006

The Packers owned the fifth pick of the 2006 draft and happily snatched up Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk. Four picks later, the Lions nabbed Florida State linebacker Ernie Sims.

Neither of the weak-side linebackers have made a Pro Bowl, but through three seasons, it appears the Lions have the better player. According to the stats on NFL.com – which aren't necessarily the same as the stats the teams keep – Sims has 364 tackles (244 solo), 2.5 sacks, four passes defensed and one interception. Hawk has 305 tackles (223 solo), 7.5 sacks, 11 passes defensed and three interceptions.

This year, the disparity is more apparent because of Hawk's apparent regression. Hawk has 81 tackles (63 solo), three sacks, one pass defensed and no interceptions. Sims has 106 tackles (66 solo), one sack, one pass defensed and no interceptions.

While neither player has lived up to the hype at this early stage in their careers – amazingly, neither has so much as forced a fumble -- Marinelli likes what he's seen from Hawk and Sims.

"They're both really excellent linebackers," he said. "We liked A.J. coming out, too. He's a great competitor. Very tough, very physical football player, just like Ernie. Those are two top-flight linebackers in the same division."

Stats of the week

-- With 270 yards, Rodgers will join Lynn Dickey, Don Majkowski and Brett Favre as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to finish with 4,000 passing yards and 25 touchdowns.

-- Donald Driver needs 99 receiving yards to reach 1,000 for the fifth consecutive season.

Stat of this week

The Lions have lost in their last 17 trips to Wisconsin. The streak began with Green Bay winning 38-10 on a snowy December day at Milwaukee County Stadium in 1992. Only Washington's 18-game home winning streak over Detroit is longer among current trends.

Meaningless stats of the week

-- The Packers are tied for sixth in the NFL with a turnover ratio of plus-6. Turnovers usually are the determining factor between winning and losing, but that hasn't helped Green Bay. The top five in turnovers are on track for the playoffs: Tennessee, Miami, Baltimore, Indianapolis and the Giants.

-- Opposing teams are 0-for-7 when challenging a referee's call.

He said it

Marinelli, downplaying any extra importance placed on this game by his team as it tries to avoid a history-making 0-16 season: "Every game is so powerful all the way through the year, there is no doubt. All you do is prepare exactly the same way every week. We've got to out and execute. That's what this game is about. After the first three or four hits, all you're worried about is the next snap."

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com.


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