Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez preview the Detroit Lions’ home game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Ford Field.
Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez, Detroit Free Press

The Green Bay Packers are coming to town. Normally, that means a sure loss for the Detroit Lions.

This year, it’s different. This year, the Packers game is very winnable for the Lions. In fact, I would call it a must-win game (and that really means it’s a must-not-lose game).

If the Lions win, they improve to 2-3 and head into the bye with renewed resolve, a team confident in itself and its victories over the New England Patriots and the Packers, two of the NFL’s perennial winners. They also start their slog through the NFC North 1-0.

If the Lions lose, they drop to 1-4 and head into the bye confirming everyone’s suspicions that the Patriots win was a mirage. They would be virtually eliminated from playoff contention and return for their break with a tough slate in their next four games, with road games against the Miami Dolphins, the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears.

More: Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers: Scouting report and prediction

The Lions also would enter the bye sitting on a loss and having to eat their feelings for a fortnight.

“I think it’s a big game because it’s a division game against a really good football team,” Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “Whatever happens this week, we’re going to have think about it for two weeks. So I sure would love to have a win in our back pocket, and thinking about it for two weeks and finding ways to build off of that. It’s a big game in a lot of ways — I think number one being that it’s the next one.”

Here’s what this game really boils down to: The Packers are not a great team this year. In fact, they’re far from it. They’re eminently beatable and maybe just a little better than average.

The Packers are 2-1-1 but if Bears quarterback Kyle Fuller hadn’t rubbed Crisco on his hands in the season opener, then rubbed some leftover Crisco on the foot of now-ex-Vikings kicker Daniel Carlson, the Packers would be — and should be — 1-3.

And that one win — 22-0 over the Buffalo Bills last week — almost led to Aaron Rodgers setting Lambeau Field on fire when he  rightfully called the offense “terrible.” The Bills and Arizona Cardinals are by far the NFL’s worst teams. There’s no excuse for a Rodgers-led offense playing at home against the Bills to fail to reach the end zone after early in the second quarter.

Rodgers’ post-game comments set off a firestorm of speculation about his relationship with coach Mike McCarthy, who already entered the season on a lukewarm seat.

Glover Quin once said of the Packers that “sometimes you’ve got to knock out the bully.” Guess what. This is the Lions’ chance. Right here. Sunday. The Packers are in a transition year under a new general manager, a new defensive coordinator and sort-of-new offensive coordinator.


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Things are in flux. Rodgers knows this. He also knows he turns 35 in two months and he’s getting hurt with more regularity. All that awesome mobility is catching up to him. He doesn’t have time to wait for McCarthy to rearrange the furniture and figure things out.

If the Lions want to knock out the bully, and do it for a good while, this would be the time. The Lions are a joke in Green Bay. They’re a joke as soon as you cross the Mackinac Bridge into the Upper Peninsula. If the Packers lose to the laughable Lions, they would fall to 2-2-1 and could at best hope to be 3-4-1 with two of their next three games on the road against New England and the Los Angeles Rams.

Heck, if the Lions rout the Packers, and the Packers lose at home the next week against the San Francisco 49ers, they would head into the bye 2-3-1. And they might come back from the bye with a new head coach.

That’s knocking the bully out.

Beating the Packers won’t solve everything for the Lions, who’ve had areas of concern since the preseason that are only going to be exacerbated by injuries as the season wears on.

Luckily for the Lions, it’s a topsy-turvy season in the NFL. They beat the Patriots. The Bills beat the Vikings. The Packers lost to Washington. The Pittsburgh Steelers are a bad soap opera. And the Cleveland Browns actually won a game.

Luckily for the Lions, they do crazy as well as anyone. Just ask fans who’ve been losing their minds watching this team for the past 60 years.

Contact Carlos Monarrez at or follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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