December 02, 2015

DETROIT (AP) The Detroit Lions started the season so poorly - losing their first five games - there was talk about whether they could become the second team in franchise and NFL history to go 0-16.

Just before falling to 1-7, the Lions fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and promoted Jim Bob Cooter to replace him.

Team owner Martha Firestone Ford, unlike her late husband, didn't wait to make major changes. She shook up the franchise by firing team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew during the bye week.

And suddenly, Detroit has played like the team that won 11 games last season and made it to the playoffs. The Lions (4-7) have won three straight since the front office was overhauled and are being mentioned as a team in the playoff picture.

Cornerback Darius Slay said he saw a graphic, showing the Lions as a team in the hunt for a spot in the postseason.

''It shows we're a great team, just something happened,'' Slay said. ''Right now, it's kind of flipped at the right time.''

After starting 6-0, the Green Bay Packers (7-4) have stumbled into second place behind Minnesota (8-3) in the NFC North.

''Losing four out of our last five leaves a bad taste in your mouth,'' Packers guard T.J. Lang said.

Here are some things to watch when the Lions and Packers meet Thursday night at Ford Field:

LEANING ON LACY: Aaron Rodgers completed less than half his passes in his past two games against Minnesota and Chicago. He averaged 207 yards passing with a total of three touchdowns and one interception. Eddie Lacy, meanwhile, has gotten into a groove. Lacy has 205 yards rushing on 39 carries after running for just 308 yards on 83 carries over his first eight games of the season. ''You're probably going to see him get the ball a number of times, trying to control that line of scrimmage,'' Lions coach Jim Caldwell said, adding Lacy runs behind a good line. ''He creates problems for you. He's tough to handle. He wears your defense down.'' A groin injury kept him out of the lineup last month against Detroit, which held James Starks to 42 yards on 15 carries.

STINGY DEFENSES: Going back to Detroit's 18-16 win at Green Bay, both the Lions and Packers have been playing well on defense. Detroit has given up an average of 14.3 points over the past three games while Green Bay has allowed 16 points per game during the same stretch. The Packers should have banged-up defensive backs Damarious Randall (knee) and Micah Hyde (hip) healthy enough to help them cover receivers Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. The Lions hope they'll have safety Glover Quin (ankle) in the lineup after he left last week's game with an ankle injury.

RIDING RIDDICK: Johnson gets a lot of attention. It is time, though, to shift some of the spotlight on Theo Riddick. He leads all running backs with 55 receptions, 10 of which he has made in the past two games for 134 yards and a touchdown. The Lions drafted him two years ago in the sixth round, hoping the Notre Dame receiver could become a pass-catching running back. The next year, Detroit hired Jim Caldwell and he watched every snap on special teams from the previous season. ''I didn't even look at the roster to see who it was, and at that time No. 41 kept showing up,'' Caldwell said. ''He and Tahir (Whitehead) kept showing up as guys making tackles all over the place. Then I realized 41, it's probably a defensive back, but I look and it's Theo Riddick. I said, `Wow.'''

FLIPPING THE SCRIPT: The Packers have dominated Detroit in their series, going 95-68-7. The Lions, though, have had success lately against Green Bay. They've won three of four. Detroit beat the Packers on the road last month for the first time since 1991, giving it a shot to sweep the season series for the first time since that same year.

INJURY REPORT: Green Bay could have a difficult time throwing or running the ball if banged-up players on its offensive line aren't healthy enough to play at Detroit. The Packers have three starting offensive linemen, including Lang, along with their backup center listed as questionable. The Lions will be without No. 3 receiver Lance Moore, who scored one of his four TDs in the previous game against the Packers.

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Follow Larry Lage at http://www.twitter.com/larrylage

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