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Pregame warmup: Packers defense getting reinforcements

Posted by Mike Spofford on November 28, 2013 – 10:29 am

With kickoff about an hour away, here’s the latest from Ford Field for today’s Packers-Lions Thanksgiving showdown:

Defense getting reinforcements

The Packers played last week without DE Johnny Jolly, and they’ve played multiple games now without CB Sam Shields and LB Nick Perry, but all three are active and slated to play today.

Jolly and Perry might be able to help shore up what has been a leaky run defense in recent weeks, while Shields is sure to see plenty of Lions WR Calvin Johnson throughout the day.

The Packers offensive line is back to full strength as well, with RT Don Barclay returning from a knee injury. He had been replaced by Marshall Newhouse the past couple of games.

What’s at stake

The Lions are currently tied with the Bears atop the NFC North at 6-5, with the Packers one-half game behind at 5-5-1.

If the Packers win, they would put themselves in position to control their own destiny in terms of trying to win the division. Should the Packers win, they would still be technically behind the Bears pending Sunday’s Chicago-Minnesota game. But if the Packers were to win the rest of their games, including the regular-season finale at Chicago, they would win the NFC North.

If the Packers lose, they would have to win their remaining four games and have the Lions and Bears each lose twice in order to claim a third straight division title.

Holiday streaks

The Lions have lost nine straight games on Thanksgiving, including three to the Packers over that span in 2007, ’09 and ’11. Detroit’s last win on Thanksgiving came against Green Bay in 2003.

As for this season, Detroit comes into today’s game in a two-game losing streak, while Green Bay hasn’t won in its last four contests (0-3-1).

Familiar opponent

Packers QB Matt Flynn made his NFL regular-season debut at Ford Field back in 2010, coming off the bench in place of Aaron Rodgers when Rodgers sustained a concussion. The Packers lost that game, 7-3.

A little more than a year later, Flynn started in Week 17 at Lambeau Field against Detroit and threw for franchise records of 480 yards and six TDs in a 45-41 victory.

Players to watch

All eyes will obviously be on players like Flynn, Detroit QB Matthew Stafford and Johnson, and the battle in the trenches between the likes of Packers G Josh Sitton and Detroit’s defensive linemen, who were the subject of some disparaging comments by Sitton earlier this week.

But here’s another player to watch: Detroit return man Jeremy Ross.

Ross began the season with the Packers as their primary return man, but a fumble on a kickoff in Cincinnati cost him his job. He was signed to the Lions practice squad and later elevated to the active roster. He has now assumed full-time return duties for Detroit, and he had a 42-yard punt return in the Lions loss to the Buccaneers last Sunday.

There are a lot of chips on shoulders, you might say, in today’s game, and Ross is wearing one of them.

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