The teams: The Green Bay Packers (1-2) vs. the Detroit Lions (3-1).
The time: Noon CDT Sunday.
The place: Lambeau Field, Green Bay.
The TV coverage: FOX – WITI (Ch. 6 in Milwaukee), WMSN (Ch. 47in Madison) and WLUK (Ch. 11 in Green Bay).
The announcers: Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston in the booth and Tony Siragusa on the sideline.
The coaches: Green Bay's Mike McCarthy is 81-44 (including 6-4 in the postseason) in his eighth season as the Packers' coach and as an NFL head coach. The Lions’ Jim Schwartz is 25-44 (including 0-1 in the postseason) as coach of the Lions and as an NFL head coach.
The series: The Packers lead the all-time regular-season series, 93-26-7, including 30-10-3 at Lambeau Field. The Packers have won an astonishing 22 straight games (including one playoff game) over the Lions in the state of Wisconsin.
The rankings: The Packers’ third-ranked offense is No. 9 in rushing and No. 3 in passing. Their 28th-ranked defense is No. 8 against the run and No. 28 against the pass. The Lions’ sixth-ranked offense is No. 21 in rushing and No. 5 in passing. Their 18th-ranked defense is No. 20 against the run and No. 21 against the pass.
The line: The Packers are favored by 7 points.
The injury report:
Packers – Out: CB Casey Hayward (hamstring); RB James Starks (knee); C/G Greg Van Roten (foot). Probable: OLB Clay Matthews (hamstring); S Morgan Burnett (hamstring); CB Jarrett Bush (hamstring); TE Jermichael Finley (concussion); RB Johnathan Franklin (foot); FB John Kuhn (hamstring); RB Eddie Lacy (concussion).
Lions – Out: WR Nate Burleson (forearm). Questionable: CB Chris Houston (hamstring); WR Calvin Johnson (knee); S Glover Quin (ankle). Probable: S Louis Delmas (knee); G Rob Sims (shoulder); DE Ezekiel Ansah (abdomen); DE Israel Idonije (hamstring); LB Ashlee Palmer (ankle); WR Patrick Edwards (ankle); T Jason Fox (groin); CB Rashean Mathis (head).
THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
Return to uncertainty: In what should come as a surprise to no one familiar with the Packers’ special-teams mentality, leading receiver Randall Cobb and rookies Johnathan Franklin and Micah Hyde will all see action in the return game.
McCarthy said Friday after practice that the threesome would be used in a “situational” approach. Expect Franklin to handle kickoffs and Hyde to handle punts whenever Cobb isn’t called upon to do them. The Packers took the week to examine their options after releasing returner Jeremy Ross on Sept. 23, one day after he fumbled a kickoff that led to a touchdown in the Packers’ pre-bye loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
“It’s a game plan decision based on when and where,” McCarthy said.
The Packers’ average starting position after kickoffs is an anemic 19.1-yard line, the second-worst in the 32-team league ahead of only the Lions (18.7). Franklin figures to get the call there, but if they’re in dire need of a spark, the Packers won’t hesitate to use Cobb. Historically, McCarthy and special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum have eschewed the theory that any key offensive or defensive player is too valuable to use on returns.
“I can understand that view, but I would think you’d understand my view on it, and philosophically you have to make a decision what direction you want to go,” Slocum said. “Going back to when we first got here as a staff, Charles Woodson was our punt returner. The punt return play, I think, has a little less risk for the big hit for a returner than the kickoff return play. It’s something that we weigh in terms of how our whole game plan going into a ball game is and how we’re going to apply it, and we make those decisions based on that detail.”
That’s why Cobb is more likely to see time on punt returns, although Hyde, a rookie cornerback from Iowa who served as the Hawkeyes’ punt returner for two seasons, will see action too.
“Anywhere they put me. I have no idea what’s going on upstairs,” Hyde said. “If I get thrown back there, I’ll do my best. I don’t know what they’re thinking.”
Recognizable Reggie: Packers linebacker Clay Matthews hasn’t seen this Reggie Bush since he was on the USC scout-team defense trying to stop the Trojans’ star. Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt just wishes the Lions running back hadn’t decided to have his renaissance coincide with his arrival in the NFC North.
“Let me tell you, this is the Reggie Bush that everybody has been talking about when he got drafted,” Whitt said of Bush, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, when the Packers took linebacker A.J. Hawk fifth. “This guy here is running the ball unbelievable. His screen game, catching the ball out of the backfield has always been good. In-between the tackles, he’s hitting it, he’s running and making people miss and breaking tackles. He’s running with an edge and balance. I’ve never seen him play like this. I hate that he’s in our division playing like this now, but credit to him he’s really a difference-maker right now.”
Bush enters the game having carried 48 times for 254 yards (5.3-yard average) while also catching 11 passes for 179 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown. While he missed the Lions’ victory over Washington two weeks ago with a knee injury, he’s back to being the electrifying player he was in college.
“That was when we were winning championships there, and I was the low man on the totem pole and had to play scout team,” Matthews recalled. “He's a great player and obviously he gave me a fair share of ‘Welcome to college’ (moments). Maybe now it would be the other way around. … He's been playing fantastic, especially coming off last week, just looking really good, so he's definitely someone we'll have to keep our eyes on.”