The teams: The Green Bay Packers (5-5-1) vs. the Detroit Lions (6-5).
The time: 11:30 a.m. Thursday.
The place: Ford Field, Detroit.
The TV coverage: FOX – WITI (Ch. 6 in Milwaukee), WMSN (Ch. 47 in Madison) and WLUK (Ch. 11 in Green Bay).
The announcers: Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in the booth and Erin Andrews and Pam Oliver reporting from the sideline.
The coaches: Green Bay's Mike McCarthy is 85-47-1 (including 6-4 in the postseason) in his eighth season as the Packers' coach and as an NFL head coach. Detroit’s Jim Schwartz is 28-48 (including 0-1 in the postseason) in his fifth full season as coach of the Lions and as an NFL head coach.
The series: The Packers lead the all-time regular-season series, 94-65-7, but the Lions hold a 41-39-3 edge in games played in Detroit. The Packers have won five straight games in the series and beat the Lions, 24-20, in the teams’ meeting in Detroit last year. On Oct. 6, the Packers won, 22-9.
The rankings: The Packers’ second-ranked offense is No. 6 in rushing and No. 5 in passing. Their 20th-ranked defense is No. 19 against the run and No. 20 against the pass. The Lions’ sixth-ranked offense is No. 2 in rushing and No. 3 in passing. Their 22nd-ranked defense is No. 4 against the run and No. 28 against the pass.
The line: The Lions are favored by 6 1/2 points.
The injury report: Packers – Out: QB Aaron Rodgers (collarbone), RB Johnathan Franklin (concussion/neck), ILB Jamari Lattimore (quadriceps), DE C.J. Wilson (ankle).
Questionable: TE Brandon Bostick (concussion). Probable: LG Josh Sitton (back), DE Johnny Jolly (groin), OLB Mike Neal (abdomen), RT Marshall Newhouse (shoulder), CB Sam Shields (hamstring), RT Don Barclay (knee), OLB Nick Perry (foot).
Lions – Doubtful: CB Chris Houston (foot). Probable: S Louis Delmas (knee), S Glover Quin (ankle), DE Israel Idonije (knee), WR Calvin Johnson (knee).
THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
No-huddle up: The admission came after the fact, after it had jump-started – along with the insertion of Matt Flynn into the ballgame – an offense that seemed to be going nowhere. Remember how the no-huddle offense was so effective last week in erasing the Minnesota Vikings’ 23-7 lead? Yeah, well, Flynn’s preparation wasn’t exactly extensive.
“I thought the no-huddle was a great change,” McCarthy said earlier this week. “But Matt Flynn wasn’t really prepared to run the no-huddle. It’s a credit to him to do that because we didn’t prepare going into the game for no-huddle.”
That’s right, Flynn, who said he only had four snaps with the No. 1 offense, ran the no-huddle offense without having practiced it since he left as an unrestricted free agent in March 2012. And while he wasn’t perfect, it didn’t look vastly different than the last time he ran it, against the Lions in the 2011 regular-season finale, when he threw for a then-record 480 yards and six touchdowns (both marks having since been matched by Rodgers) using primarily the no-huddle.
“Hey, he has a lot of history here. We were drawing off things he has done in the past,” McCarthy explained. “I’ve never called a game the way the game was called (against the Vikings), and we aren’t going to call it like that anymore. It’s a credit to the coaching staff, the quarterbacks, all those guys involved, trying to make things work. We needed a spark we needed to get going. And Matt gave us that. He did a heck of a job.”
Added guard T.J. Lang: “We haven't been able to get into our no-huddle a lot the last three weeks. When coach called for it, I think it was an urgency thing, we were down by a couple scores, it's starting to get late in the game and we knew we didn't have a whole lot of time to waste.”
The smart money is on the Packers utilizing the no-huddle again Thursday, not only because Flynn ran it effectively – and presumably got to work on it during the team’s two light practices on Tuesday and Wednesday – but because of what it does for the offense in general.
“We like it. It’s definitely a good change up,” center Evan Dietrich-Smith said. “Teams are sitting there (when) we’re rolling in personnel (in and out), they get a chance to sub. You get the no-huddle out there, you kind of press their conditioning a little bit. So if you can get them out there in a play, then (run) seven, eight plays, stuff like that, it really starts stressing out their guys that are on the field for that time because maybe they’re not as used to it.”
It also seems to be when the Packers’ offense is most in sync. Certainly Rodgers’ presence in the past has been a major factor in that, but there just seems to be a greater comfort for the offensive players to be in the same personnel grouping and running plays in relatively rapid succession.
“I think it just puts us at an advantage. I think any team that runs no-huddle, you get the defense on their heels, you kind of get them tired, gets us in a rhythm,” wide receiver Jordy Nelson said. “Either way, I think the key thing is getting that first first down. I think if you look throughout the years, even this year, once we get that first first down, our possession usually turns out to be a positive, even if it’s just flipping the field position.”
McCarthy wouldn’t say if he intended to use the no-huddle, but it seems like a no-brainer to use it at least some of the time – even without Rodgers running it.
“Face it, man, you play different football with Aaron Rodgers than you do with the other quarterbacks,” McCarthy said. “They haven’t been here.”