Prime TNF: Lions seek to take early control of NFC North by beating Packers for 4th straight time

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Buffalo Bills defensive tackle DaQuan Jones (92) reaches in on Detroit Lions running back Jamaal Williams (30) during the second half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — When the Detroit Lions previously visited Lambeau Field, they knocked Green Bay out of playoff contention in what turned out to be Aaron Rodgers’ final game in a Packers uniform.

Nearly nine months later, the Lions return with a chance to solidify themselves as NFC North favorites by beating the division’s traditional heavyweight for a fourth consecutive time.

“We know we can win out there,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “We’ve done it before. But you’ve got to go earn it. It’s not going to be given. It’ll be loud, it’ll be a tough environment. They’re playing good. So here we go.”

The Lions (2-1) and Packers (2-1) head into this Thursday night showdown tied for first place in the NFC North. The division’s only other two teams are the winless Chicago Bears (0-3) and Minnesota Vikings (0-3).

Thursday’s winner gets the early edge.

“It’s definitely going to be a huge game and one that we’ve got to win,” Packers quarterback Jordan Love said.

Although Green Bay has an 105-75-7 edge in its series with Detroit, the Lions have won the past three matchups. In the final week of the 2022 season, the Lions won 20-16 at Green Bay to prevent the Packers from reaching the playoffs.

The Packers have downplayed the revenge motive.

“Honestly, all that stuff is last year,” Packers defensive tackle Kenny Clark said. “It’s a new year.”

This Green Bay team is quite a bit different from the one the Lions faced most recently, particularly on offense.

Rodgers is now with the New York Jets and recovering from a torn Achilles tendon while Love leads a Packers offense featuring plenty of rookies and second-year pros at wide receiver.

These new Packers will attempt to build on the momentum they established Sunday when they produced one of the biggest comebacks in franchise history, scoring 18 unanswered points in the final 11 minutes of an 18-17 victory over the New Orleans Saints.

Detroit is coming off a 20-6 triumph over the Atlanta Falcons, who had beaten the Packers 25-24 a week earlier.

“We know we can win a game like this, because we did it last year with so much on the line,” Lions linebacker Alex Anzalone said.

“This is going to be fun. A prime-time game on national TV at Lambeau? It doesn’t get any better.”

ROLLING ROOKIES

Both teams are getting big early contributions from their rookie classes.

For the Lions, tight end Sam LaPorta and defensive back Brian Branch are off to fantastic starts.

LaPorta has 18 catches, the most receptions by a tight end in his first three games. LaPorta surpassed the mark set by Keith Jackson in Philadelphia 35 years ago.

In the Lions’ victory over the Falcons, Brian Branch became the first defensive back since at least 1994 to have 10 overall tackles, three tackles for loss and two passes defended in a game.

Running back Jahmyr Gibbs, linebacker Jack Campbell and offensive tackle Colby Sorsdal — a seventh-round selection — each contributed to last week’s win over Atlanta.

Packers rookies Jayden Reed and Dontayvion Wicks have combined for three touchdown catches. Rookie kicker Anders Carlson hasn’t missed a field goal or extra-point attempt.

The Lions have an NFL-leading 386 scrimmage yards (247 receiving, 139 rushing) from rookies this season. The Packers rank second with 371 (363 receiving, 8 rushing).

PLAYING HURT

Both teams are hoping to get key players back from injuries.

Detroit is expecting to have running back David Montgomery (thigh) and offensive tackle Taylor Decker (ankle) available after both were inactive against the Falcons.

The Packers are cautiously optimistic they will have running back Aaron Jones and wide receiver Christian Watson back from hamstring issues. Jones has missed two straight games. Watson has sat out each of the Packers’ first three games.

MICHIGAN MEN

Former Michigan teammates Aidan Hutchinson and Rashan Gary have emerged as top defensive playmakers for their respective teams.

Gary, the No. 12 pick in the 2019 draft, has 3½ sacks for the Packers as he returns from a torn anterior cruciate ligament that ended his 2022 season early. Hutchinson, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 draft, had 9½ sacks for the Lions as a rookie and has two so far this season.

CHASE FOR 20

The Lions have scored at least 20 points in 12 consecutive games and can match the franchise record by reaching that mark again Thursday. The Lions had 13 straight games with at least 20 points in 1995.

Green Bay has held seven of its past eight opponents to 20 points or fewer.

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AP Sports Writer Larry Lage contributed to this report.

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