ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Dan Campbell drew a lot of chuckles after he was hired to coach the Detroit Lions nearly two years ago and got fired up talking about his players being so tough and resilient that they would bite off kneecaps.
Campbell was the butt of some jokes when Detroit won just three games last year and started 1-6 this season.
No one is laughing at him, or the Lions, anymore.
The 46-year-old former NFL tight end has led the Lions to seven wins in nine games to surge into contention for the playoffs with one game left in the regular season.
Detroit will play at Green Bay on Sunday night in a matchp of 8-8 teams with much at stake for at least one of the NFC North teams.
To earn a spot in the postseason for the first time since 2016, the Lions must win at Lambeau Field and have the good fortune of the Baker Mayfield-led Los Angeles Rams beating or tying Seattle on the road earlier in the day.
When Campbell addresses players this week, he's not going to tell them this is just another game or to ignore the ramifications.
“We tell them the magnitude," he said Monday. “This is big, and 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."
If the Packers win, they are in the playoffs for the fourth straight year and 12th time in 15 years since Aaron Rodgers became their starting quarterback. Green Bay is favored by 4 1/2 points, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
The Lions will be playing just for pride — and potential momentum for next season — if the Seahawks beat Los Angeles, but Campbell refuses to buy into a losing scenario for them.
“Either we’re playing to get in or we’re playing to be spoiler, and that’s it," Campbell said. “So, either way, we win.”
The Lions are averaging 27 points, ranking among the NFL leaders and set a franchise record with an eighth game with 30-plus points in their 41-10 win over Chicago on Sunday.
Detroit has thrown for 4,000 yards and run for 2,000 for the first time in franchise history.
The Lions ran for 265 yards against the Bears, their highest total on the ground since 1991.
In the first half against the Bears, Jared Goff completed passes to 10 teammates.
“There isn’t really like a featured guy," he said. “There isn’t really like forcing it to one guy to get him the ball or anything. It’s just kind of whoever’s open gets the ball."
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Detroit isn't getting the ball to rookie receiver Jameson Williams much after patiently waiting for his return from knee surgery. He had a 40-yard reverse against the Bears and a 41-yard touchdown reception in a win over Minnesota last month in what were his only touches in five games.
Jamaal Williams had a career-high 144 yards rushing, including a career-best 58-yard run Sunday. Williams also had his 15th rushing touchdown to put him within one of Barry Sanders' franchise record set in 1991. In the previous four games, the former Packer had run for a total of just 116 yards.
Jeff Okudah played a season-low 13 snaps against Chicago after being on the field for 44 in the previous game at Carolina, where he was benched for most of the second half.
Starting safety DeShon Elliott, who has missed two straight games, will test his shoulder this week to return to the lineup to against the Packers.
8 — That's the number of games Goff has played since throwing an interception on Nov. 6 in a 15-9 win over Green Bay.
Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn's job is to figure out how to slow Rodgers again after picking off three of his passes in the first meeting at Ford Field.
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Larry Lage, The Associated Press