Detroit Lions’ Dan Campbell can’t wait to face Packers; game moved to 8:20pm Sunday night

Dan Campbell walked up the podium to the lectern for his weekly day-after-the-game news conference Monday, contorted the microphone to his liking and fidgeted with the rolled up left sleeve on his team-issued long-sleeve shirt.

Six days before the biggest game of his coaching career, Campbell could hardly contain his excitement to get on the field.

“I just want to play,” Campbell said near the end of his 13-minute media session. “It’s coming and it’ll be down the wire and they’ll be there, we’ll be there and it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be an exciting game.”

The Detroit Lions visit the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Lambeau Field in a game with stakes that seemed too far-fetched to mention two months ago.

The Lions were 1-6 in early November, when they hosted a 3-5 Packers team that was four games into a five-game losing streak. Neither looked remotely like a playoff contender then, or even after the Lions beat the Packers, 15-9, in a turnover-filled game.

But on Sunday, the Lions and Packers, both winners of five of their past seven games — six of eight for the Lions, actually — will meet with a potential playoff berth on the line.

The Lions (8-8) need a win over the Packers and a loss by the Seattle Seahawks against the Los Angeles Rams to qualify for their first postseason berth in six years. The Packers (8-8) can earn their fourth straight playoff appearance with a win.

Because the Lions-Packers game was flexed to 8:20 p.m. Sunday night, the Lions will know whether they remain in playoff contention before kickoff. The Seahawks and Rams play at 4:25 p.m.

Campbell said he “can’t worry about” his game’s start time and promised to treat it as “a win-win either way.”

“Either we’re playing to get in or we’re playing to be spoiler, and that’s it,” he said. “So either way, we win.”

Lions linebacker Derrick Barnes (55) sacks Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers during the first half of a 15-9 Detroit win at Ford Field, Nov. 6, 2022.
Asked if he felt his team earned the right to play in primetime for the first time this season, Campbell rubbed his right arm and said, “I do.”

“But that’s not up for me to decide,” he said. “But I know we’ll put up a hell of a fight, one way or another.”

The Packers have done a similar U-turn with their season. They upset the Dallas Cowboys, 31-28, a week after losing to the Lions, and are allowing 17 points per game during their current four-game win streak. On Sunday, Green Bay got defensive and special teams touchdowns in a 41-17 rout of the Minnesota Vikings to keep its playoff hopes alive.

Campbell said both the Lions and Packers are far different, much better teams than the ones that squared off two months ago. And he’s embracing the stakes of the week with his young team.

Just 14 players on the Lions’ 53-man roster have ever played in a playoff game.

“We tell them the magnitude,” Campbell said. “This is big. That’s what we do. This is big. It’s going to be fun and let’s go. I mean, the intensity is up now. This is a playoff game. And they’re going to know that, and so that’s how we’re going into it.”

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