34 - 12 Final
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Packers-Lions Preview

Nov 25, 2009 - 2:05 AM By MATT BECKER STATS Senior Writer

In the thick of the NFC playoff race, the Green Bay Packers are preparing to play the rest of the season without two stalwarts on their formidable defense.

While the Detroit Lions don't have the same postseason aspirations, they might have to play this Thanksgiving Day game without the reigning NFC player of the week.

The banged-up Packers will rely on a makeshift defense Thursday when they try to continue their dominance over a Lions team that will likely be without Matthew Stafford, who was injured while leading his team to exciting comeback win last week.

Green Bay (6-4) ranks first in the NFL in total defense, allowing an average of 295.8 yards, but that unit took two major hits when cornerback Al Harris and linebacker Aaron Kampman were hurt on separate plays in the second half of Sunday's 30-24 win over San Francisco.

Without those two veterans in the lineup, the Packers struggled to shut down the 49ers, allowing 21 second-half points.

Green Bay is going to have to get accustomed to playing without Harris and Kampman, as coach Mike McCarthy said Monday that both will have season-ending knee surgery.

"Not seeing '74' and '31' in the huddle, it's going to be different," McCarthy said. "It's a challenge to our players, they're going to have to step up and get ready in a short week for Detroit."

McCarthy said Harris, a standout player known for his physical coverage, will be replaced by No. 3 cornerback Tramon Williams while seventh-round rookie Brad Jones will likely take Williams' place.

Green Bay's makeshift defense will likely not have to face Stafford, who dislocated his left shoulder in Sunday's 38-37 win over Cleveland, which snapped the Lions' six-game losing streak.

"It's unlikely that he's going to play, but we'll see," Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. "It's a deal if it gets better in a couple of days and it's not as painful, he'll be able to get out there."

It would be a big blow for the Lions (2-8) if Stafford couldn't play, considering the No. 1 pick of this year's draft is coming off the best performance of his young career. Stafford set an NFL rookie passing record with 422 yards Sunday and became the youngest player to throw five touchdowns in a game.

The fifth TD was a game-tying 1-yard pass to Brandon Pettigrew with no time left on the clock. Jason Hanson's extra point gave Detroit the win.

The Lions got that untimed play because Cleveland safety Hank Poteat was called for pass interference in the end zone when Stafford heaved a desperation attempt. Stafford was crushed beneath a defender after throwing that ball and came to the sideline with the shoulder injury, but he was able to return because the Browns stopped the game with a timeout. Daunte Culpepper briefly took the field in Stafford's place but never had to take a snap.

Culpepper would likely make his third start of the season if Stafford can't go. The 11-year veteran made two starts when Stafford was out earlier this year with a right knee injury, including a 26-0 loss at Green Bay on Oct. 18, Detroit's eighth straight loss in the series. Culpepper was 6 of 14 for 48 yards with one interception in that game.

Dynamic wide receiver Calvin Johnson also missed the first meeting with the Packers because of hand and knee injuries and could miss this contest for the same reasons.

Johnson, who had a career-best 161 yards receiving and a 75-yard TD Sunday, has missed two games this year because of these nagging injuries.

Without Stafford and Johnson, the Lions could have a hard time ending their recent Thanksgiving Day woes.

Detroit has been outscored by an average of 23.4 points in losing its last five Thanksgiving Day games since defeating the Packers 22-14 on Nov. 27, 2003. The Lions lost to Tennessee 47-10 last Thanksgiving.

While Detroit's offense might be missing some key components, Green Bay's offense is rolling after racking up a season-best 484 yards Sunday.

Led by Aaron Rodgers, who completed 32 of 45 passes for 344 yards with two touchdowns against the 49ers, the Packers are fourth in the NFL in total offense, averaging 403.4 yards, and eighth in scoring offense, averaging 26.2 points.

Green Bay shouldn't have much trouble moving the ball against a Detroit team that ranks last in scoring defense (30.1) and 31st in total defense (401.9).

Rodgers threw for 358 yards with two touchdowns and one pick against the Lions last month while Ryan Grant rushed for 90 yards

In three career games against Detroit, Rodgers has passed for 994 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception.

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