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Friday, November 16, 2012
Final Word: NFC North

By Kevin Seifert

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Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 11:

History rules: The Green Bay Packers have won 12 of their past 13 games against the Detroit Lions and 14 of their past 16, dating to the start of the 2004 season. Their most recent loss came in 2010, a game quarterback Aaron Rodgers didn't finish because he suffered a concussion. Most every bit of conventional wisdom suggests the Packers, coming off their bye, are in the driver's seat heading into this game. All 14 ESPN experts have picked them to win, and Green Bay is a 3.5-point favorite on the road. The Packers are also riding an eight-game winning streak in NFC North games, the second-longest active streak in division games in the NFL. Of course, we all know what can happen when we rely on history and conventional wisdom.

Mike McCarthy
The Packers have a record of 17-7 in domes since Mike McCarthy became coach.
Indoor dominance: While we're on the subject of conventional wisdom, it's worth updating the Packers' elevated performance when they play indoors under coach Mike McCarthy, as they will Sunday at Ford Field. Overall, they are 17-7 in domes since McCarthy's tenure began in 2006 and have averaged 30.7 points in those games. Rodgers owns an NFL-record 117.0 passer rating in his career indoors. In his past eight indoor games, including the playoffs, he has put up these incredible numbers: 71 percent completion percentage, an average of 327.9 yards per game, 25 touchdowns and one interception. No wonder he prefers playing indoors so much.

Lions' opportunity: Could the Lions make this game a shootout? They certainty have the personnel in place. Receiver Calvin Johnson has been affected by injuries but still managed to put up a 200-yard game as recently as last week against the Minnesota Vikings. The Packers will be playing without their two most important defensive players, cornerback Charles Woodson and linebacker Clay Matthews, and will have five rookies playing prominent roles Sunday. To make this a high-scoring affair, the Lions will have to overcome a near-season-long problem of slow starts. Did you know that all 11 of quarterback Matthew Stafford's touchdown passes this season have come when the Lions were trailing? I didn't until ESPN Stats & Information pointed it out. When the score differential is fewer than 10 points, Stafford has completed 59.6 percent of his passes and thrown seven interceptions. Facing a deficit of 10 points or more, he has completed 70 percent of his passes and thrown only one interception.

Tough trip: The Chicago Bears haven't won in San Francisco since their Super Bowl year of 1985, having lost the ensuing seven games at Candlestick Park by a combined score of 239-42. Although there was no shame in a close loss at home to the Houston Texans, the Bears haven't spurred much confidence among national experts. ESPN's 14-person/machine crew almost unanimously picked the 49ers; the lone holdout was former Bears coach Mike Ditka.

Campbell profile: The Bears announced Friday that Jason Campbell will make the start at quarterback because of Jay Cutler's concussion. For what it's worth, Campbell's recent history suggests he has the type of approach that could help the Bears win this game. He has the NFL's lowest average distance on throws since the start of the 2008 season (6.6 air yards per attempt), but that relatively careful approach has helped him compile a pretty impressive career touchdown-interception ratio of 74 to 50. A careful approach, with few mistakes, might not be a bad formula for this game. Campbell is 10-5 in his last 15 starts dating to 2010.