When you are just two years removed from the stench of setting the longest losing streak in NFL history, you don't give games away.
"I can't believe you are asking that question," coach Jim Schwartz said Wednesday when he was asked about possibly resting players for the season-ender in Green Bay Sunday. "We have a lot at stake. Not just winning and getting to 11 wins, but the fifth seed is at stake, as is momentum.
"Look, it took us a long time to win a game around here. We are not going to take playing games for granted."
The Packers have already assured themselves of playing at home through the NFC Championship Game. They have the luxury of being able to rest key players and banged up players on Sunday.
Not the Lions.
A win over the Packers would give them the No. 5 seed and a first-round matchup against the NFC East champion - either Dallas (8-7) or the New York Giants (8-7), who play Sunday. If they lose and Atlanta beats Tampa on Sunday, they would be the No. 6 seed and play either New Orleans (12-3) or San Francisco (12-3).
You don't have to be a math major to figure out the comparative advantages, especially since the Lions have already beaten Dallas and lost to both the Saints and 49ers this season.
"We're not trying to avoid anything," Schwartz said. "We are trying to accomplish something. Qualifying for the playoffs wasn't anybody's objective. We still have a lot of work to do and things we want to accomplish in the regular season."
The players are right with him on that.
"This is very important," said defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. "We have to go up to Lambeau and win at some point in time. If we take care of business, we'll have to go back there (in the playoffs).
"The biggest thing is you always want the highest seed possible going into the playoffs. I am not saying it's necessarily the easiest route. The easiest would be getting the No. 1 seed with a bye. But we want to get the highest seed we can get, and right now that's the fifth."
The Lions don't expect the Packers to lay down for them, either.
"I don't care who they start, they're still going to bang," said wide receiver Nate Burleson. "I don't care if Brett Favre comes back and suits up, we're going to go out there and play to win.
"We've created a habit of winning around here, and one loss can change that."
There is also the tiny matter of a 20-game losing streak at Lambeau Field - 19 straight in the regular season and one playoff game.
"It's extremely important," Burleson said. "Even after we beat San Diego, people were like, now go beat the Packers. Twenty years (since the last win at Lambeau)? You telling me, just because we made the playoffs, we shouldn't try to address that?"
SERIES HISTORY: 163rd regular-season meeting. Packers lead series, 90-65-7 and have lost the only two playoff meetings. They haven't won in Green Bay since 1991 (20 straight losses including one playoff game). The Packers beat the Lions on Thanksgiving Day, 27-15, which gave them a 10-1 record against the Lions in the Mike McCarthy era. The temperature was in single digits back in 1991 when Barry Sanders led the Lions to their last win at Lambeau. Temps are supposed to be in the mid-30s on Sunday.
--WR Calvin Johnson was the lone Lions player selected to the NFC Pro Bowl team, leaving QB Matthew Stafford, DT Ndamukong Suh and DE Cliff Avril to wonder why. "It's a popularity contest," Avril said. "I guess I am not that popular." Stafford had the best line. Asked about finishing behind Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Eli Manning, he said, "It would be real nice for us as a team to let all three of those guys go play in the Pro Bowl while we go do something else (Super Bowl)."
--The Lions and Packers have apparently moved past the Suh stomping incident on Thanksgiving Day. "It's done for the Green Bay Packers," coach Mike McCarthy said. "It was done when we walked off Ford Field." Suh, who was suspended two games for stomping Packers' offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith on Thanksgiving Day, has since spoken to him on the phone and patched up the relationship.
"There's no hard feelings," Suh said. "The incident is over and done with." Suh probably will be matched with guard Josh Sitton on Sunday. Dietrich-Smith will be on the left side facing Corey Williams. "My main focus is on the guy who is in front of me," said Suh when asked if he planned to speak to Dietrich-Smith before the game. "If he's in front of me, then maybe I will chat with him, go against him, beat him and try to get some sacks."
--Suh, on not making the Pro Bowl despite being the second-leading vote-getter in the fan balloting, said, "It just wasn't my year." He was asked if he felt he's had a down year. "That's up for debate," he said. "The biggest thing is I helped my team get to a great position. We weren't in the playoffs last year and we're in this year. I was one of the reasons for that, though by no means did I do it by myself."
--PK Jason Hanson has never won a game at Lambeau Field. He has been a member of the Lions for every one of the 20 straight losses dating back to 1992. But you can't put much of the blame on him. In 37 career games against the Packers he has made 62 of 68 field goals and scored 249 points. He has never missed an extra point and just two of the six field-goal misses were at Lambeau.
--QB Matthew Stafford doesn't want to hear anything about resting up for the playoffs. "I plan on playing (Sunday)," he said. "I am hoping to play the whole game; I plan on playing the whole game." Stafford has silenced a lot of critics by playing in all 15 games thus far. After missing 19 his first two years, one of his goals was to play in all 16. "As a team we've played great," he said. "We have 10 wins and we're hoping to go into Lambeau and get 11 this week. We have a chance to play in the playoffs. It's been a great year and it's been fun to be a part of it - and I am happy I've been able to play in all of them."
BY THE NUMBERS: 3 - Number of times the Lions have come back from 17-point deficits; an NFL record.
4 - Number of times the Lions have come back from 13-point deficits; an NFL record.
50 - Career field goals of 50-yards or more by Jason Hanson; an NFL record.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're playing games, we're not trying to win contests or polls or power ratings, or Miss Congeniality. Anything somebody's voting on or judging really isn't real high on our radar. When there's a tie-breaker based on how many number of Pro-Bowlers you have, then we'll worry about that." -- Coach Jim Schwartz on his 10-5 team having just one player selected to the Pro Bowl
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Lions have had their eyes on RB Joique Bell for three years.
"We had him at the Senior Bowl (2009) and we've been following him since," coach Jim Schwartz said. "We finally got an opportunity to act on that."
They signed him off of New Orleans' practice squad on Tuesday, releasing RB Aaron Brown to make room.
"He's a good, strong runner," Schwartz said. "Very instinctive."
The Lions gave him a two-year contract, which means they want to take a good long look at him in the offseason. With Jahvid Best's concussion history and rookie Mikel Leshoure coming off Achilles tendon surgery, the running back position is still wide open.
-WR Calvin Johnson did not practice on Wednesday. "I had some things bothering me at the end of the game (Saturday)," Johnson said. "I am just trying to be as fresh as possible." The team listed the injury as an Achilles tendon issue. Johnson, though, didn't think it was anything serious. "I have to say I don't feel too bad," he said. "I can't complain too much."
--FS Louis Delmas, who has already missed four games with a grade 2 MCL tear, won't play Sunday in Green Bay. He also said he wasn't sure whether he'd be ready in time for the first playoff game. "Who knows?" was all he would say about it.
--CB Aaron Berry, who has missed the last two games with a shoulder injury, was back at practice Wednesday, though he was limited.
--DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, who typically takes Wednesday off, practiced on Wednesday. Since the team played Saturday, he already had three days off.
--RB Kevin Smith (ankle) was a full participant at practice Wednesday, an indication that he will start on Sunday.
--DE Cliff Avril was limited Wednesday with back soreness. He didn't miss any snaps on Saturday but spent a lot of time getting stretched on the sidelines.
--CB Chris Houston showed up at practice Wednesday with a cast on his left hand. He had just gotten back into the flow after missing two and a half games with a MCL tear with an interception and four pass breakups against the Chargers Saturday. Now what? Turns out, he dislocated his ring finger after his interception. "I kind of fell on it," he said. "It's good, though. Everything is moving." He could wiggle all of his fingers. He said he will be getting the cast off in a day or two and he will play on Sunday.
--DT Corey Williams (hip) continues his weekly routine of not practicing much during the week. He has been battling the injury for three weeks and has not missed any playing time.
--DT Nick Fairley (foot) has not practiced on consecutive days in more than a month. He practiced Wednesday, so he will be off on Thursday.
--DE Willie Young (ankle) has been practicing about once or twice a week. He did not go Wednesday.
GAME PLAN: The Packers have the luxury of resting players and getting ready for the playoffs. The Lions expect to see a lot of backup QB Matt Flynn. The Lions, however, need to win the game. A victory means they get the No. 5 seed and would play the NFC East champion in the first round - either Dallas or the Giants. That is far more preferable than losing, getting the No. 6 seed and having to deal with the Saints or 49ers.
Not only that, but the Lions would love to get that 0-20 skid at Lambeau Field off the books.
So the Lions are in it to win it and as coach Jim Schwartz said, it won't matter who the players are - the Packers offensive and defensive systems will be the same. It won't require any additional preparation.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:: Lions DRE Kyle Vanden Bosch vs. Packers LT Chad Clifton. Clifton is supposed to return after missing the last nine games with a hamstring injury. The Packers want him to test the leg before the playoffs. Vanden Bosch has tapered off a bit after posting five sacks in eight games. He and backup Lawrence Jackson should provide a stiff test for Clifton.
Lions RT Gosder Cherilus vs. Packers OLB Clay Matthews: Matthews moves around a bit so LT Jeff Backus may get some time on him, as well, but the Lions may have to give Cherilus some help. It's not a favorable matchup. The Lions have been utilizing TE Will Heller as an H-back more the last couple of weeks to beef up the protection.