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NFL Preview - Green Bay (5-5-1) at Detroit (6-5)
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - Aaron Rodgers isn't coming through that door to save the Green Bay Packers, at least not yet.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy told reporters early in the week that the All-Pro might try, but it would be a "huge stretch" to think he would be recovered enough from a broken collarbone to play on Thanksgiving Day against the Detroit Lions.
"He would like to go," McCarthy said. "I would say he's slim to none (in regards to playing status). That's what I'm thinking."
So, the Pack will take another shot at earning their first win since their franchise player went down with the injury on Nov. 4 against Chicago.
Veteran Matt Flynn will be the third different quarterback to start in the four games since A-Rod exited after rallying Green Bay from a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit during an eventual 26-26 tie with Minnesota last week.
Trailing 23-7 early in the final frame, the Packers scored 16 unanswered with Flynn under center to send the game into overtime.
Mason Crosby and Blair Walsh each made field goals for their respective teams in the extra session, but neither team got much going on offense after that.
It was the first tie in the NFL since Nov. 11, 2012, when the 49ers and Rams played to a 24-24 deadlock. For the Vikings, it was their first tie since 1978 against the Packers. Green Bay kissed its sister for the first time since 1987 versus the Broncos.
Flynn, in his second stint with Green Bay, replaced Scott Tolzien early in the third quarter and completed 21-of-36 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown for the Packers, who had lost three in a row. Tolzien completed 7-of-17 passes for 98 yards and added a 6-yard rushing touchdown before being benched.
"We were looking for a spark," McCarthy said of his decision to replace Tolzien with Flynn. "We had a history with Matt. He went out there and played football."
Eddie Lacy carried the ball 25 times for 110 yards and a touchdown for Green Bay. He also caught six passes for 48 yards.
McCarthy said he'd prepare both Flynn and Tolzien for Detroit but indicated Flynn "deserves to start."
The Lions, meanwhile, have dropped two straight games and have been unable to take advantage of Rodgers' absence. They are currently tied with Chicago atop the NFC North and one-half game ahead of Green Bay.
The Tampa Bay defense had four interceptions and recovered a fumble last Sunday as the Buccaneers stole a 24-21 victory over Detroit at Ford Field.
The Bucs' Leonard Johnson returned one interception for a touchdown, and Johnthan Banks sealed the victory with a pick while the Lions were in field goal range late in the game. Tampa Bay also blocked a punt in the game, while Tiquan Underwood had two touchdown catches in the Bucs' third straight win after losing heir first eight games of the season.
Matthew Stafford had three touchdown passes, but was picked off four times and finished 26-of-46 for 297 yards for the Lions.
"I had a couple of bad decisions and unlucky bounces today," said Stafford. "That minus portion of the turnover ratio, we have to get that fixed."
Calvin Johnson recorded seven receptions for 115 yards while Nate Burleson returned to play for first time since Week 3 after breaking his arm in a car accident to also catch seven balls for 77 yards and a score. Reggie Bush finished the game with 83 yards on 15 carries, while adding four catches for 17 yards
"There's still a lot on the line and it's now a five-game season," said Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz. "As bitter and disappointing as this loss is, we have a short turnaround time here and we're not out of this, at all."
This will mark the 74th-Annual Thanksgiving Day game for Detroit. Since its inception in 1934, the Lions have played 24 different teams on Turkey Day and carry a 33-38-2 record in the annual holiday classic.
Detroit has played Green Bay more than any other opponent during the Thanksgiving Day series and holds an 11-8-1 over 20 matchups. The Lions and Packers played every year on Thanksgiving from 1951-1963 and Detroit dominated that 13-game stretch, winning nine of them.
Overall, however, the Packers hold a significant a 94-65-7 mark over Detroit in the regular season and a 2-0 edge in the playoffs.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Packers are getting to see how the other half lives. Since Brett Favre burst on the scene in 1992 Green Bay has used either Favre or Aaron Rodgers for every game except two over the ensuing two decades. Since Rodgers went down with his injury the Pack have gone through Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and now Flynn.
Flynn, who returned to Titletown after flaming out in Seattle, Oakland and Buffalo, made the two starts during the Favre-Rodgers run in place of A-Rod. In his second start on Jan. 1, 2012 against the Lions, Flynn threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns in the 45-41 victory, both all-time franchise records since matched by Rodgers.
Don't expect that kind of performance again but Flynn is a much better option than either Wallace or Tolzien and Green Bay should have brought him in the minute he reached the street.
Flynn was released by Buffalo on Nov. 4, the very day Rodgers got hurt. The Packers waited until Nov. 12 to get him back and had already lost to Philadelphia. They attempted to keep going against the New York Giants and Minnesota with Tolzien, a big mistake by the front office and McCarthy.
"They're going to run their offense regardless of who the quarterback is," Schwartz said. "Flynn's a veteran quarterback. He knows where to go with the ball and he'll give us a challenge the same way that Rodgers would."
That's a bit of a stretch. Rodgers' absence has only magnified just how important he is to the Packers and having him at the controls for so long has masked many a deficiency for Green Bay.
For instance the defense, which had been allowing 79 yards rushing a game with Rodgers rolling up leads or controlling the clock has collapsed and given up an average of 171.3 over the last three contests.
"That's why they're season stats," McCarthy said while jumping on his sword for his struggling D. "We're in a valley right now. We need to get out of it in some aspects of our team."
The Lions may be an undisciplined bunch prone to turnovers and penalties but the offense is also far more explosive than anything the Packers have seen recently.
Stafford, who threw for a team record 520 yards and matched a franchise mark with five touchdown passes in that loss to Flynn back in 2012, has thrown three-or-more scoring passes in four of his past six games.
Johnson remains the best receiver in the game and his 861 receiving yards over his past five games is the most in any five-game stretch in NFL history. His mere presence opens up space for Bush, a dual-threat back who can run and catch the football and is a monster in the open field. Burleson's return also gives Stafford a proven second option outside the numbers.
"These teams know each other pretty well, even though there has been some different personnel in there over the last few games," Schwartz said. "I think each team has a pretty good idea of how to play each other."
As important as this game is in the NFC North, expecting Rodgers to push the issue and return is just not an option.
It looks like the Lions are never going to be consistent enough to run away from either the Packers or Chicago and if Green Bay can find a way to steal this one with Flynn, it will be in excellent position to capture another NFC North crown when Rodgers does return.
All that said Detroit should be able to put up enough up enough points against a porous Packers D to really enjoy its turkey later in the day.
"They were two bitter defeats and they were two missed opportunities that we had," Schwartz said when talking about his team's recent hiccup. "I think we all need to remind ourselves, like we did yesterday, the fact is that there is five games remaining and we are in first place. We need to conduct ourselves accordingly."
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Lions 27, Packers 23
11/26 15:50:31 ET