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Green Bay Packers (6-4) at Detroit Lions (2-8)
Kickoff: 11:30 a.m. Thursday.
TV: Fox (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver.
Series: 159th regular-season meeting. Packers lead 87-64-7. Green Bay is aiming to sweep the season series against its NFC North rival for the fourth straight year, a feat attained by the Packers against the Lions only one other time, from 1941 to 1944. Green Bay shut out Detroit 26-0 on Oct. 18 at Lambeau Field. The Packers' eight-game winning series streak, which started with a 16-13 overtime win at Green Bay in 2005, is the longest in the series by either team since the Lions won 11 in a row from 1949 to 1954.
Packers: WR Birel Ealy, CB Josh Bell, RB Ahman Green, S Matt Giordano, T Breno Giacomini, T Allen Barbre, LB Aaron Kampman, DE Jarius Wynn.
Lions: QB Drew Stanton (third quarterback), WR Derrick Williams, S Kalvin Pearson, FB Terrelle Smith, LB Ernie Sims, C Melvin Fowler, T Ephraim Salaam, DE Dewayne White.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was listed as doubtful with a sprained AC joint in his nonthrowing shoulder, will start at quarterback, and Calvin Johnson (knee, questionable) will start as well.
Packers: Out – CB Al Harris (knee); LB Aaron Kampman (knee). Doubtful: T Allen Barbre (ankle); RB Ahman Green (groin). Probable – LB Brandon Chillar (hand); T Chad Clifton (knee); RB Ryan Grant (neck); DE Cullen Jenkins (ankle); DE Johnny Jolly (back); FB John Kuhn (hand); G Josh Sitton (back); C Scott Wells (knee); CB Charles Woodson (hip).
Wells didn’t practice on Monday or Tuesday but was a full participant on Wednesday, sparing the Packers from having to start undrafted rookie Evan Dietrich-Smith.
Harris officially on IR
The Packers placed Al Harris on injured reserve on Wednesday because of a season-ending knee injury sustained last week against the 49ers. By signing cornerback Josh Bell on Tuesday and promoting cornerback Trevor Ford from the practice squad on Wednesday, the Packers have a full complement of 53 players on the roster. They'll be able to add another once Aaron Kampman is put on injured reserve.
“You never want to lose guys like that,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said of Harris and Kampman, nothing that Kampman was having one of his “better games” against San Francisco. “Both of those guys have been integral parts of our defense. With their experience, they bring a lot to the table.”
Lions: Out – S Kalvin Pearson (hamstring); S Ko Simpson (knee); LB Ernie Sims (hamstring). Doubtful: QB Matthew Stafford (knee and left shoulder); DE Dewayne White (toe). Questionable – S Louis Delmas (ankle); WR Calvin Johnson (hand and knee); T Daniel Loper (back). Probable – DT Joe Cohen (ankle); LB Jordon Dizon (neck); LB Zack Follett (neck); DT Grady Jackson (knee); RB Kevin Smith (hip).
The Packers catch one break with Sims unable to play, and could catch two others with Stafford and Johnson iffy.
On the heels of "Fake-Gate," as Browns coach Eric Mangini accused the Lions of feigning injuries in the teams' contest Sunday, a game of cat-and-mouse ensued in the days leading up to Thursday's matchup between the Packers and the Lions. The vibes emanating from Detroit are that the injured duo of QB Matthew Stafford and star WR Calvin Johnson won't play, but the Packers are thinking otherwise. Meanwhile, Green Bay is leaving the Lions guessing on what it has up its sleeve for replacing the Pro Bowl tandem of CB Al Harris and LB Aaron Kampman, who suffered season-ending knee injuries Sunday.
There is a drop-off in the secondary without Harris on the field -- either untested rookie Brandon Underwood or mistake-prone Jarrett Bush will be cast in the important nickel role with Tramon Williams elevated to starter -- but the Packers feel they won't have to tone down an aggressive, blitzing attack that has paid dividends in the last two games.
Whether it's rookie Stafford with a bad non-throwing shoulder or the aging Daunte Culpepper at quarterback for Detroit, figure the Packers defense to turn up the heat inside Ford Field. Green Bay had five sacks and limited the Lions to all of 149 total yards in a 26-0 win Oct. 18.
Aaron Rodgers had his way in the same game against Detroit's porous pass defense, throwing for 358 yards and two touchdowns on 29-of-37 accuracy. Head coach/play-caller Mike McCarthy would like to build on the 158-yard rushing day in Sunday's win over the 49ers, but making liberal use of the pass via quick, short strikes on a fast track against a short-handed secondary will be appealing.
Inside the Lions
The Lions will play their 70th Thanksgiving Day game Thursday against Green Bay. It has been a Detroit tradition since 1934, and since he was hired in January, coach Jim Schwartz has been on a mission to protect it.
"This isn't just another game," Schwartz said. "This isn't just one of 16 for us. This is a special tradition and something we need to embrace and uphold."
As the Lions have struggled in recent history, they have also struggled in their showcase event. They have lost their last five Thanksgiving games -- all by large margins, each embarrassing in its own way.
In 2004, Peyton Manning threw six touchdown passes in three quarters, then watched the rest of the Colts' 41-9 victory. In 2005, a 27-7 loss to the Falcons led to the firing of coach Steve Mariucci. In 2006, quarterback Joey Harrington threw three touchdowns against his former team in a 27-10 Dolphins victory. In 2007, the Lions lost to the Packers 37-26 as Detroit fizzled after a 6-2 start.
Last year, Schwartz was the Titans' defensive coordinator as they obliterated the Lions 47-10, contributing to the NFL's first 0-16 season. Even before the game, there was talk in the media that the NFL should take away the game from the Lions. It only intensified afterward.
When Schwartz interviewed for the Lions' head coaching job in January, the subject came up, and after Schwartz was hired, he told season-ticket holders in a town-hall meeting he wanted to put "barbed wire" around the game and not give anyone reason to talk about taking it away.
Finally, when the Lions held an open practice at Ford Field in August, Schwartz took the microphone and addressed the fans. More than 15,000 had come despite gloomy weather. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was visiting.
"I just said, 'Hey, look, anytime I hear somebody around the country talk about taking that game away from Detroit, I'm going to remind the commissioner about 15,000 people standing in the rain for two hours to see a practice,'" Schwartz said. "I think that says something about our fans. I think that says something about our tradition here. That needs to be remembered, and it needs to be rewarded."
Asked then about the possibility the Lions could lose the Thanksgiving Day game, Goodell said: "I don't see that in the near future."
"I don't know about ever," Goodell said, laughing. "Give me a chance here."
Now Schwartz has to back up the talk. He kicked off the short week of preparation by giving his players a history lesson and emphasizing the game's importance. He said he had more in store, but he declined to give details.
"It goes way back to before I even got the job, talking about this," Schwartz said. "Saying it doesn't make it. But we want the players to understand the significance of this game."
If anything, the players should be motivated by their only chance to play on national television all season.
"It's not just everybody watching," Schwartz said. "It's everybody with relatives, everybody meeting up with families. They're all sitting around the living room waiting for the turkey and the pumpkin pie, and they're going to turn the game on. ... You're on national television. And there's also a pride thing. You want to perform well in front of a national audience."