NFC North: audibles 15
The Lions have lost 20 of their past 21 games dating back to last season. Indianapolis is one of the NFL's hottest teams after winning six consecutive games. Not a good combination, huh?
We're moving into some historic airspace with these Lions. A defeat in Indianapolis would make Detroit only the third team to lose its first 14 games in a season since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. (In case you're wondering, no one has started a season 0-15.)
Do the Lions have any chance of escaping infamy this Sunday? It wouldn't appear so, but give Detroit credit for refusing to submit. Rather than take a flyer on young quarterback Drew Stanton, the Lions have dusted off longtime backup Dan Orlovsky -- who is still recovering from a fractured hand -- because he might give them a marginally better chance to compete.
But unless Orlovsky can play safety and intercept a few Peyton Manning passes, his return is not likely to do the trick.
The Packers have lost eight of 11 games after a 2-0 start, but it's not as though they're getting blown out week after week. Half of their losses, in fact, are by three points or fewer.
If nothing else, that small disparity should give the Packers hope for finishing out their season strong -- that, and a schedule that includes a road game this weekend against a team that has lost five of six at home. The Jaguars' only home victory came Sept. 28 against Houston.
More important, the Packers' beleaguered defense will hardly have to contend with a top-flight offense. Jaguars tailback Fred Taylor went on injured reserve last week, and quarterback David Garrard has been out of sorts all season. Even considering their recent lot, the Packers should feel confident as they walk into Jacksonville Municipal Stadium.
The Vikings spent about $45 million in guarantees last winter to improve their pass defense for games just like this one. Defensive end Jared Allen ($31 million) and safety Madieu Williams ($13 million) have brought measurable improvement, but will it be enough to stop MVP candidate Kurt Warner?
Warner has brutalized the Vikings in three career starts against them, completing 67 of 86 passes for 881 yards and five touchdowns with one interception for a 123.9 passer rating. His quick release figures to negate much of Minnesota's improved pass rush, and the receiving duo of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin guarantees there will be at least one mismatch on the field at all times.
With quarterback Gus Frerotte (back) yielding to Tarvaris Jackson, the Vikings have no choice but to slow down the game and hope their running attack can eat up huge chunks of clock. They'll need to do it just to maintain their one-game lead over hard-charging Chicago in the NFC North.
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