JIM PRISCHING / AP Enlarge
GREEN BAY, Wis. - By their own admission, the Green Bay Packers are a team with Super Bowl expectations that has yet to turn in a title-worthy performance.
With the winless Detroit Lions coming to town Sunday, it might be tempting to think this is the perfect time for the Packers (2-1) to finally play up to their potential for a full game. Green Bay players are guarding against such thoughts, knowing that the Lions (0-3) might be a better team than their current record and recent history would indicate.
"I don't think there's any of that going on, to be honest with you," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "They're 0-3, but their scheme's better, their people are better. Just going through the scouting report today, there's a lot of new faces - and those new faces are talented players."
These aren't the same Lions that the Packers beat in the final game of the 2008 season, dooming them to the misery of an 0-16 season. This isn't even the same Lions team that the Packers smacked around twice last year.
Rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh says the culture is changing.
"I know it's cliche to say, but it's a new era and there's different players here and there's different mindsets here," Suh said. "And I feel the whole team understands that and really has embraced that and continues to work even though everything hasn't gone our way."
The culture might be changing, but the results aren't yet.
The Lions lost quarterback Matthew Stafford to a shoulder injury in their season opener, then lost the game at Chicago on a controversial decision to disallow a late touchdown from backup Shaun Hill to Calvin Johnson. They've been competitive in losses to Philadelphia and Minnesota with Hill at quarterback, but haven't pulled out a win yet.
"Going in the right direction isn't our objective," coach Jim Schwartz said.
"Our objective every week is to go out and win the game, and that's the only thing we focus on. We don't chart it any other way."
Stafford is still out, meaning Hill is expected to start again this week.
The Lions also may be missing running back Jahvid Best, their other first-round draft pick along with Suh, because of a toe injury. Wide receiver Nate Burleson has an ankle injury.
All this as the Lions play three of their first four games on the road, visiting all three of their division opponents - not exactly a path for a young team to gain confidence.
Schwartz said he's not spending any time lamenting bad luck. Not when they're preparing to face a Packers team that still hasn't lived up to its preseason hype.
Green Bay played well in the first half of its season opener at Philadelphia, then nearly blew a lead when they had trouble stopping Michael Vick's scrambling. The Packers struggled in the first half against Buffalo, eventually turning it around to dominate in the second half.
Then they committed a team-record 18 penalties in a loss at Chicago on Monday night - not the stuff of a Super Bowl contender.
"We haven't played that way yet," wide receiver Donald Driver said. "We know that we're a good team, we've just got to be able to do our job and that's play solid for four quarters. If we do that, we'll be fine."
The Packers will be facing a good Lions defensive line Sunday.
Still, tight end Jermichael Finley expects the Packers to start earning their reputation very soon.
"I think the best is yet to come with us," Finley said. "It's going to be nice to see."44.51279 -88.01016