ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- He missed practices last season as a way to try and preserve himself, as a way to make sure that when things mattered on Sundays, he would be able to participate with the rest of the Detroit Lions.

Calvin Johnson, though, would rather not watch practices from the sidelines. Not during training camp, and not during the regular season, either. So he said even though he’s healthy now, there’s no plan that he knows of to rest him during game weeks.

Johnson
“We’re going to do what coach wants us to do, but a lot of that was due to some injuries, you know,” Johnson said Tuesday. “So really, I’d really prefer to be out here and practicing and getting the timing down.”

That hasn’t been an issue for Johnson so far this preseason. While he only played in one game -- Week 3 against Jacksonville -- he participated in almost every practice and often made the play of the practice.

He continued that into the first game week, evidenced by the image of him grabbing a towel midway through his eight-minute media chat to wipe off his face. He even joked before he started talking he didn’t want to move too much to make sure sweat didn’t flop around on any reporters.

That Johnson is working as hard as he typically does is no surprise, though. Not when his stated goal -- even when asked about individual accomplishments -- always goes back to wanting to finally win.

Obviously a healthy Calvin Johnson adds greatly to the Lions' chances of that.

“Body feels good. It actually felt great to get out there a couple weeks ago and get some work in,” Johnson said. “Got a good little couple drives in. But body feels good, felt good today and got some good work out here. Pushing each other. We’re receivers so we run a lot. We’ll be in shape.”
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It looks like it will be at least eight weeks before JC Tretter sees the field for the Green Bay Packers.

The team is expected to use its one-and-only spot on the injured reserve/designated to return list on the player who was supposed to be its opening-day starting center.

Tretter
"The timeline is such that it would make sense to designate him for return," Tretter's agent, Alan Herman, said Tuesday.

Tuesday was the first day teams could use that designation on a player, and it would not show up on the NFL's official transactions until Wednesday. Herman said late Tuesday afternoon he had not been told the move had been made yet.

Tretter sustained a fracture to his left knee during the Packers' Aug. 22 preseason game against the Oakland Raiders.

Herman originally said Tretter's injury, which does not require surgery, should heal in six weeks. That coincides roughly with when Tretter could return to practice under the temporary IR rules, which allow a player to practice after six weeks and play after eight.

If the move is made this week as expected, the first game Tretter could return for is Nov. 9 against the Chicago Bears. It comes a week after the Packers' bye.

The Packers used the injured reserve/designated to return on Randall Cobb last season after the receiver broke his tibia in Week 6 against the Baltimore Ravens. Cobb could have returned in Week 15 but did not come back until the regular-season finale against the Bears.

The move allows the Packers to use Tretter's roster spot on another player, but unlike the regular injured reserve list, Tretter can return later in the season. The most likely candidate for that roster spot is practice-squad center Garth Gerhart.

Rookie fifth-round pick Corey Linsley, who did not take a single snap with quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the preseason, will start in Tretter's place. At this point, the Packers have only seven healthy offensive linemen on their roster.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- James Ihedigbo's resting tour continued Tuesday, as the safety sat out his second straight practice for "rest," as he put it Monday after practice.

Ihedigbo
Meanwhile, Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell had said earlier that Ihedigbo was receiving treatment, typically meaning there is at least some undisclosed ailment going on. The Lions don't have to release an injury report until Thursday, so it'll be interesting to see if Ihedigbo returns to practice then.

Ihedigbo insisted he would be ready to go against the New York Giants for the season opener.

Safety Don Carey remains out with a hamstring issue and linebacker Kyle Van Noy was put on short-term injured reserve Tuesday afternoon, so he'll be out at least until the off week.
Detroit Lions' Ndamukong Suh is one of the most complex and polarizing players in the NFL. He has immense talent, yet sometimes crosses the line, be it throwing around quarterbacks or stomping on opponents.

But who is Suh, really? It is a question not many people have been able to answer, either because they haven't been able to get close enough or because he is complex and smart enough to not give that bit of his life away.

Colleague Liz Merrill spent time with Suh and with the people around him to try and figure out who, exactly, Ndamukong Suh is.

Read the entire piece here. Highly recommend it.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The way Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy sees it, Seattle is the perfect place for Bryan Bulaga's first game in nearly 22 months.

And he might be right.

Bulaga
The last time Bulaga played against the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, it was perhaps the low point of his career. The right tackle was responsible for two of the eight first-half sacks of quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the Packers' 14-12 loss to Seattle in Week 3 of the 2012 season on Monday Night Football.

Bulaga had allowed just one sack in 12 starts the previous season and didn't have another game in which he allowed more than one sack the rest of the 2012 season.

Several demons from that night in the Seattle still torment the Packers (see Mary, Fail), and Bulaga's uncharacteristic performance remains one of them, in part because of what he went through in the two years that have followed.

"I think Bryan needs to go back to Seattle, just like we all do," McCarthy said Tuesday, two days before the Packers open the season against the Seahawks.

Seemingly on the way to becoming one of the premier right tackles in the NFC, Bulaga's career path changed significantly shortly thereafter. He has not played in a regular-season game since Nov. 4, 2012, when he sustained a season-ending hip injury that was followed by a knee blowout the following summer that cost him the entire 2013 season.

Although he insisted this week that he has not given the last Seattle game much thought, it's hard to forget just what the Seahawks did to Bulaga and the rest of the Packers' offense in the din of the boisterous crowd at CenturyLink Field. The problems started almost immediately. On the Packers' third play from scrimmage, then-rookie Bruce Irvin tossed Bulaga aside like it was nothing and sacked Rodgers 2.5 seconds after the ball was snapped.

As if to show it was no fluke, Irvin beat Bulaga on the next series with an up-and-under move and got to Rodgers in 3.4 seconds for his second sack.

When the night was over, Bulaga had been charged not only with the two sacks but also with another quarterback hit and eight hurries allowed, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

"I really don't go back [two] years and look at game tapes, I really don't," Bulaga said. "Obviously it needs to be better than what it is; I knew that after the game, but I really don't compare years to years, especially single games. But yeah, overall individually, I definitely do [need to protect better] and as a group, we just need to be more solid. The more time we can give Aaron the better."

Against the Seahawks, even that might not be enough given how well their secondary covers. On four of the sacks in that game two years ago, Rodgers held the ball longer than 3.5 seconds (including longer than 4.8 on two of them).

Bulaga wasn't responsible for any of the four sacks Chris Clemons had that day, and Clemons has now moved on to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but there's still plenty of motivation for Bulaga -- and the rest of the Packers' offensive line. The environment will be just as difficult, as loud or louder than it was in 2012, and the opponent just as capable. The Seahawks fielded the league's top-ranked defense last season on the way to their Super Bowl title.

"That game is a great example of getting out of your fundamentals, and when those things happen, it can snowball on you," Packers offensive line coach James Campen said. "That's certainly a lesson learned."

This is the start of an important season for Bulaga, the 25-year-old, fifth-year tackle. The former first-round pick is in the final year of his contract. According to McCarthy, Bulaga has come back in better shape than ever -- "He's 15 pounds heavier," McCarthy said -- while Campen insists Bulaga's level of play is back to where it was before the injury.

"He looks better than he did," Campen said.

And what better place to show it than in Seattle.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Though Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer wouldn't reveal his starters at strong safety or middle linebacker when he was asked about them on Monday, the Vikings' unofficial depth chart would suggest little has changed at those two positions.

The Vikings listed Jasper Brinkley as their starting middle linebacker and Robert Blanton as their top strong safety before their Week 1 game against the St. Louis Rams, keeping both players in the same spots they occupied throughout the preseason.

Depth charts are worth about as much as the paper they're printed on, of course (and in this case, we're looking at an electronic version of the chart), but the listing at least suggests the Vikings haven't changed their thinking on the two positions since the end of the preseason.

Brinkley figures to come off the field in passing situations, and his strength against the run keeps him ahead of Audie Cole for now. And if Blanton can show the instincts in coverage that led the Vikings to put him in their first-team defense during organized team activities and minicamp, their safety concerns might be alleviated for now, especially against a Rams offense that could sputter with Shaun Hill replacing Sam Bradford at quarterbakc.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – It goes against everything you probably think run defense is about in the NFL.

Smaller cannot be better.

Not in a world of 325-pound offensive linemen, 250-pound fullbacks and 230-pound running backs.

But after watching their 1,000 pounds of girth on the defensive line last season fall from a top-five run defense at the midway point of last season all the way to 25th by end of the year, the Green Bay Packers are trying a different approach.

[+] EnlargeGreen Bay Packers
Matt Ludtke/AP ImagesMike Daniels moves into a starting role this season after posting 6.5 sacks in 2013.
With that kind of decline, the Packers could not stand pat. So they let two of their three starters from last year – 338-pound Ryan Pickett and 325-pound Johnny Jolly -- leave after their contracts expired. Both remain out of football. They planned to surround their 337-pound nose tackle B.J. Raji with a pair of lighter, more athletic defensive ends in Datone Jones (285 pounds) and Mike Daniels (305).

And then they lost Raji to a season-ending torn biceps in the preseason.

So the defensive line the Packers will take into Thursday's opener at the Seattle Seahawks has an average weight of 309.4 pounds. Last year's defensive line averaged 314.3 per man. This year, the Packers have just one 330-plus pounder, undrafted rookie backup nose tackle Mike Pennel (332 pounds).

"You look at the type of guys in which we have this year as opposed to years past, it's … I wouldn't say smaller, but I would say it's a more active, faster, more aggressive D-line as well as linebacker group," Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews said. "So we feel good about it."

The early returns suggest the Packers might be on to something, although it's always dangerous to make any assumptions based on the preseason. However, with the exception of a 40-yard run by Oakland's Maurice Jones-Drew, who broke three tackles on the play, the Packers' defensive starters did not have much trouble shutting down the run when they played in the first three preseason games.

"People have tried to run the ball on us in the preseason, and we've done a nice job against that," Packers defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said. "Some of the teams we played -- Oakland, Tennessee and St. Louis -- they were not fancy. Oakland, especially, was a power team. I think we'll be OK there."

The Seahawks might be the better judge of that.

The defending Super Bowl champs ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing yards per game (136.8) last season, which is nearly what the Packers allowed per game last season. And the Seahawks' featured back, Marshawn Lynch, breaks tackles by the handful.

The Packers go into that game with a new nose tackle -- free-agent pick Letroy Guion (315 pounds) replaces Raji in the starting lineup -- but perhaps defensive coordinator will play even less of his base 3-4 defense than he did last season, when he used it just 24.8 percent of the time.

The alternative would be to use just two down linemen. Either way, the Packers will be smaller and lighter up front than last season.

"It makes me laugh when people say we're smaller," Jones said. "We're not small. Josh Boyd and I are both 6-4, 290 pounds. That's not small at all. Those are two big defensive ends. I wouldn't necessarily say we're smaller. I would just say we went away from the 330-pound defensive linemen and went to a more traditional guy. A lot of people don't see that, but it's not like we're a small defensive line so we can't play the run."
If the Detroit Lions front office woke up this morning a little bit queasy, it would be somewhat understandable, and it has nothing to do with their present and everything to do with their future.

The Lions took a gamble when they were unable to get a deal done with star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh before the start of the season. They are aware, too, that tabling negotiations with him at the start of training camp meant they’ll have a much smaller window to work with to sign Suh after the season.

Suh
 On Tuesday morning, they also started to realize exactly how much it might cost to retain Suh’s services well into the future.

Houston defensive end J.J. Watt -- who, like Suh, is considered the best at his position in the NFL -- earned a six-year, $100 million contract extension with a reported $51.8 million guaranteed, the most guaranteed cash ever for a defensive player.

He and the Texans got the deal done with two seasons left on his rookie deal so the two sides never came close to the potential sweat-it-out deadline the Lions and Suh appear barreling toward.

The Watt deal, if divided equally -- and we don’t know specifics yet -- would equate to $16.6 million per season. While Suh and Watt play different positions, that’s probably around the range Suh would be trying to earn.

Like Watt, Suh has been healthy throughout his career and has been dominant as his position. Like Watt, teams have to game plan around Suh when they face him, which opens up holes for everyone else on the defense.

There’s another thing in play, too, when it comes to this particular Watt deal. Watt is represented by Tom Condon, which is part of CAA. Suh is represented by Jimmy Sexton.

His firm? CAA.

This, right here, is why it never made sense for Suh to strike a deal with Detroit earlier than he needed to. Yes, he could have set the market with his contract, but there would have also been the possibility he might have seen Watt or Gerald McCoy earn more money than him. And while money isn’t everything, it is still a very big thing for players who have a limited window to maximize their earning potential.

After Watt’s deal and with the Lions calling off talks with Suh for a while, this also gives McCoy a chance to set a defensive tackle number. Oh, and by the way, McCoy is represented by Ben Dogra.

His firm? Yep, you guessed it ... CAA.

While Suh has never explained why he ditched Relativity Sports for CAA, you might be seeing exactly why he did play out throughout all of these contract extensions. CAA is being able to work to set the numbers for Watt, McCoy and Suh and happen to represent all of them, so they theoretically know what they are getting into with each deal.

When contract negotiations do resume between Sexton, Suh and the Lions after the season, this is the new baseline the player and his agent are going to work with. Since Suh has a clock ticking until he can test his true worth on the free agent market in March, he continues to hold increasing leverage over the Lions, who will have to decide whether or not to let the game-changing tackle go.

Both team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew appeared optimistic they would still sign Suh when they halted contract talks in July. That was before Watt. Potentially before McCoy.

So good morning, Tom Lewand and Martin Mayhew. You’re not negotiating with Suh until at least January. When the new year hits, this is what you’ll be looking at.

Chicago Bears game predictions

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
8:00
AM ET
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ESPN.com Chicago Bears reporter Michael C. Wright makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.

Week 1: Buffalo Bills

This Bears blasted Buffalo 40-7 the last time these teams met at Soldier Field, but this game should be much closer as the Bills have improved. Chicago's defense will look better than it has in the preseason, but it won't be dominant right off the bat. Prediction: Win


Week 2: at San Francisco 49ers

Given recent news about issues with the surface at Levi's Stadium, the Bears might feel like this is a home game. San Francisco's stadium should be rocking as the 49ers christen the place for the first time in the regular season, but the Bears will struggle offensively. Prediction: Loss


Week 3: at New York Jets

Chicago's defense will appear to be starting to come around in this game, but that will be a byproduct of ineptitude from New York's offense. Look for Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery to shred the Jets on the back end. Prediction: Win


Week 4: Green Bay Packers

Chicago gets a chance to atone for being knocked out of the postseason by this team in the 2013 regular-season finale. Green Bay's Julius Peppers returns to Soldier Field and will look like the Peppers of old, but it won't be enough for the Packers to win this one. Prediction: Win


Week 5: at Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton should bring about a case of déjà vu of the club's preseason debacle at Seattle against Russell Wilson. The offense faces a reality check against a Carolina defense that ranked No. 2 in 2013. Prediction: Loss


Week 6: at Atlanta Falcons

The perception the Falcons might be a soft team seems to become more and more real every day. Chicago will face an improved Atlanta squad, but the Falcons can't run the ball well enough to keep the ball away, and they certainly haven't proved capable of stopping the run, either. Prediction: Win


Week 7: Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins keep adding running backs, yet still can't consistently run the ball effectively. And although Ryan Tannehill looked better last season, the Bears will get to him in this one. Chicago's defense will look better than it is against Miami, but expect Cutler and the offense to be the stars of this one. Prediction: Win


Week 8: at New England Patriots

This will be Chicago's fifth road outing in eight weeks, and with the Patriots playing a Thursday night game against the Jets heading into this matchup, they'll have a long week to prepare for the Bears. That could mean trouble, possibly worse than the 36-7 beatdown the Patriots administered to the Bears the last time these teams played. Prediction: Loss


Week 10: at Green Bay Packers

Last season, the Bears lucked out at Lambeau Field due to an Aaron Rodgers injury and Josh McCown putting together a strong performance. You can expect an improved Cutler in 2014, but at Lambeau Field, he's been horrible, producing passer ratings of 43.2, 43.5 and 28.2. Prediction: Loss


Week 11: Minnesota Vikings

The Bears need to use this one as a momentum builder as they start a stretch of five home games to close out the season. Look for Jared Allen to put together a strong game, facing his former team with the motivation to prove he can still get it done. Prediction: Win


Week 12: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Here's another week of reunions as McCown and former coach Lovie Smith visit Soldier Field for the first time since leaving Chicago. Expect Smith to spend all week downplaying this matchup, but he'll have the Buccaneers playing with an edge. Prediction: Loss


Week 13: at Detroit Lions

A short turnaround coming off what should be a physical contest against the Buccaneers could be difficult to navigate for the Bears in their first Thanksgiving outing since 2004. The Bears are 1-4 in their past five Thanksgiving contests with their last victory coming in 1993. Prediction: Loss


Week 14: Dallas Cowboys

Why would the league schedule this matchup again in December at Soldier Field? Last year, the Bears put a 45-28 shellacking on Dallas with the temperature at kickoff measured at 8 degrees with a wind chill of minus-9. Prediction: Win


Week 15: New Orleans Saints

The best defense wins this matchup of teams with similar offenses, and obviously Chicago will be better equipped to handle the elements at Soldier Field than the Saints. The Bears come out on top in this one by forcing a couple of Saints turnovers and playing ball-control offense. Prediction: Win


Week 16: Detroit Lions

The Bears should avenge the Thanksgiving loss at Ford Field with a lopsided win at Soldier Field for their third consecutive victory. The win gives Chicago plenty of momentum near the end of its playoff push, which will be needed for the next week's outing in Minnesota. Prediction: Win


Week 17: at Minnesota Vikings

Despite playing on the road, the Bears won't be at as much of a disadvantage as they had been in the past playing in the Metrodome because this one will be outside at TCF Bank Stadium, with snow likely on the ground and no deafening inside noise. Chicago closes strong with a four-game winning streak. Prediction: Win


Predicted Record: 10-6

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ESPN.com Minnesota Vikings reporter Ben Goessling makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.

Week 1: at St. Louis Rams

This is a tough opening for the Vikings' offense, against a talented Rams defense with a pass rush that could give the Vikings' offensive line trouble in the Edward Jones Dome. But with Sam Bradford out -- and former Vikings quarterback Shaun Hill likely to start in his place -- the Vikings should be able to grind out a victory in their opener. Prediction: Win


Week 2: New England Patriots

Facing Tom Brady at home, with just one week of regular-season film for Brady to study on their defense, the Vikings might have a shot to slow down the future Hall of Famer, a year after coach Mike Zimmer drew up a game plan that forced Brady into his worst game of the year against the Bengals. But it might be too much to ask the Vikings' current defense to rise to that level. Prediction: Loss


Week 3: at New Orleans Saints

A trip to the Superdome against one of the NFC's preseason favorites doesn't look like a particularly appetizing matchup for the Vikings. Drew Brees and his array of weapons will test the Vikings' secondary depth as much as any offense on the schedule this season. The Vikings might have to hope they're productive enough on offense to trade touchdowns with the Saints. Prediction: Loss


Week 4: Atlanta Falcons

The Vikings' pass defense will be tested again, but the Falcons' remade defense is also trying to rebound from an ugly season. At home, the Vikings will get a win to finish the first month of the season at .500. Prediction: Win


Week 5: at Green Bay Packers

The only prime-time game on the schedule comes on a Thursday night at Lambeau Field. The Vikings' last win here came in 2009, when they had Brett Favre at quarterback. They left with a tie in 2013, when Aaron Rodgers was hurt. Zimmer has beaten Rodgers twice, but if the quarterback is healthy, expecting a Vikings win on national TV at Lambeau is too much to ask. Prediction: Loss


Week 6: Detroit Lions

The Vikings have lost one home game to the Lions since 1997 and that came during a 3-13 season in 2011. With 10 days to rest before this one, the Vikings will claim their first NFC North victory under Zimmer. Prediction: Win


Week 7: at Buffalo Bills

This should be one of the more favorable road matchups on the Vikings' schedule, and against the league's 28th-ranked run defense from a year ago, Adrian Peterson will be able to find enough running room to help the Vikings get above .500. Prediction: Win


Week 8: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As the Vikings make their first of two trips to Florida, their old head coach will be waiting for them: Leslie Frazier is now the Buccaneers' defensive coordinator, presiding over a talented unit that could be one of the best in the NFC. That group will frustrate the Vikings' offense and help Frazier get the last laugh. Prediction: Loss


Week 9: Washington Redskins

The Vikings head into their bye week after facing the Redskins for the fifth consecutive year. Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris and DeSean Jackson will give the Vikings' defense plenty to worry about, but the Vikings held on to beat the Redskins last year, and with a sturdier defense, they'll do it again. Prediction: Win


Week 11: at Chicago Bears

Minnesota's last win at Soldier Field came in 2007. Against a dangerous Bears offense -- and in Jared Allen's first matchup against his old team -- the Vikings' losing streak in Chicago doesn't figure to end. Keep an eye on cornerback Xavier Rhodes in this one -- the Vikings will mostly keep him on one side of the field, which could mean he'll have to match up against both Brandon Marshall (whom he controlled in a matchup last December) and Alshon Jeffery. Prediction: Loss


Week 12: Green Bay Packers

At this point in the season, the Vikings would be in need of a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. They haven't fared well in cold weather in recent years, and when they played the Packers on the same weekend last year, the temperature at kickoff at Lambeau Field was 19 degrees. Fans at TCF Bank Stadium will be in full throat for this one, but Rodgers and Eddie Lacy will hand the Vikings a difficult defeat. Prediction: Loss


Week 13: Carolina Panthers

The Vikings' slide continues here, against a Panthers team that sustained some losses in free agency but still has Cam Newton at quarterback and an impressive defense. A loss here would drop the Vikings to 5-7 and effectively put their playoff hopes on life support. Prediction: Loss


Week 14: New York Jets

It's hard to know which direction the Jets will go with Geno Smith at quarterback, but with the Vikings in need of a victory, they'll rattle the quarterback, take advantage of a leaky secondary and post their first outdoor December home victory since "The Miracle at the Met" in 1980. Prediction: Win


Week 15: at Detroit Lions

Another road loss in the division would doom the Vikings' playoff hopes, and it will come in a building where they've won just once since 2009. By this point in the season, if injuries have reduced the Vikings' secondary depth at all, it could be too much to withstand against Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and the rest of a dangerous Lions offense. Prediction: Loss


Week 16: at Miami Dolphins

If the Vikings are out of the playoffs at this point, the game could be a good opportunity to take a look at Teddy Bridgewater as the rookie returns to his hometown. In any case, the Vikings can get a win against a Dolphins team with a tough defense, but plenty of questions on offense, especially on the offensive line. Prediction: Win


Week 17: Chicago Bears

The Vikings will end their season at 7-9, with a home defeat against a Bears team that could have plenty to play for in Week 17. Allen's return to Minnesota as a member of the Bears should be emotional, but he'll be warmly received in a game where Bridgewater could get a chance to start at home and begin his case for the top job in 2015. If the Vikings establish an identity on defense and move closer to figuring out their quarterback situation, it'd be tough not to call this season a success. The guess here is they'll have taken steps in that direction by December. Prediction: Loss


Predicted Record: 7-9 

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ESPN.com Detroit Lions reporter Michael Rothstein makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.

Week 1: New York Giants

The offense and defense for the Lions will still have some mystery to them in the first week, so that should help the Lions here. Add in a raucous "Monday Night Football" crowd and a Giants offense that has a lot of questions -- especially on the line -- and it should give Detroit a good start to the season. Prediction: Win


Week 2: at Carolina Panthers

The Panthers have the type of team that could give the Lions fits this season: strong-armed, mobile quarterback (Cam Newton), a good running back (DeAngelo Williams) and a deep, threatening wide receiver (Kelvin Benjamin). Combine that with a tough road environment and a team with playoff experience, and this won't be an easy game at all, though this is the type of game in which Nick Fairley could have a monster impact, given that playing his old Auburn teammate will surely motivate him. Prediction: Loss


Week 3: Green Bay Packers

The Lions played very well against the Packers at Ford Field this past season, but that was without Aaron Rodgers. As long as Rodgers is healthy, Detroit will struggle against Green Bay and the Rodgers/Eddie Lacy/Jordy Nelson/Randall Cobb offense should keep pace with the Lions' offense. Prediction: Loss


Week 4: at New York Jets

The Jets have issues at cornerback, a young quarterback still learning and questions at receiver -- typically a spot where opponents might exploit Detroit this season. This is a great combination for Detroit, which has the offense to take advantage of this scenario. Prediction: Win


Week 5: Buffalo Bills

Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz knows this personnel well and could know how to fluster Matthew Stafford, but the Lions have too much talent on offense and defense for the Bills. The most interesting thing about this game will be the reception Schwartz receives. Prediction: Win


Week 6: at Minnesota Vikings

The Lions are playing with confidence here off two straight wins, and the Vikings still have a lot of questions beyond Adrian Peterson. If Matt Cassel is struggling, there will be calls for Teddy Bridgewater at this point -- and playing in those situations never really bodes well. Prediction: Win


Week 7: New Orleans Saints

There's just a little bit of familiarity between these two teams, but the Saints have an advantage here because Sean Payton and the Saints understand so much of what Detroit will do offensively. Yes, that works both ways, but New Orleans is a more talented group with one of the best coaches in the NFL. He'll devise wrinkles to take advantage of any issues that might arise from said familiarity. Prediction: Loss


Week 8: at Atlanta Falcons

Julio Jones and Roddy White will be an issue for Detroit's secondary, and Matt Ryan is still a top quarterback, but the Lions should have more experience dealing with high-powered offenses by this point. Meanwhile, Detroit's offense will be looking for a big rebound game after struggling against New Orleans. Prediction: Win


Week 10: Miami Dolphins

Cameron Wake will be a problem, but otherwise, this is a team Detroit should have a lot more talent than. Playing at home will help as well, along with a bye week to nurse any lingering wounds and jet lag from playing in London two weeks prior. Prediction: Win


Week 11: at Arizona Cardinals

Detroit almost won in Arizona this past season, but missed field goals and defensive struggles doomed the Lions. The Cardinals should be able to match Detroit offensively, and teams that can do that will be a bugaboo for Detroit all season. Prediction: Loss


Week 12: at New England Patriots

From the West Coast to the Midwest to the East Coast in a week is a rough schedule. New England is also one of the best coached teams in the league, and by mid-November, Foxborough should be frosty. Not a good combination for the Lions. Prediction: Loss


Week 13: Chicago Bears

Detroit snapped its Thanksgiving losing streak against Green Bay this past season and should continue that momentum this season. The Bears' offense will be an issue as long as Jay Cutler is healthy, but as long as Detroit's offensive line can handle Chicago's pressure, the Lions have a good shot here. For whatever reason, both Ndamukong Suh and Fairley always seem to play well against the Bears. Prediction: Win


Week 14: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This is a complete wild-card game, but Lovie Smith knows Detroit's personnel and has an improved, talented team. This is a swing game for the Lions, but the Buccaneers' defense could stand up well against Detroit's offense. Prediction: Loss


Week 15: Minnesota Vikings

Unless Minnesota makes a surprising playoff run, Teddy Bridgewater will likely be the quarterback by now. Teryl Austin and Suh will have to like that matchup, as they can really try to pressure him. Plus, the Lions will need this to stay in the playoff hunt. Prediction: Win


Week 16: at Chicago Bears

The schedule-makers did Detroit no favors, between the mid-November bicoastal swing and this: back-to-back games at Chicago and Green Bay to end the season. Late December winds off Lake Michigan plus an essential playoff elimination game on the road doesn't bode well for the Lions. Prediction: Loss


Week 17: at Green Bay Packers

The Lions have not won in Wisconsin since 1991. Don't expect that streak to end here, as Lambeau Field will be downright frigid, the Packers could be playing for a first-round bye in the playoffs and Detroit might not be playing for much, season-wise, except to finish Jim Caldwell's first season at .500. Prediction: Loss


Predicted Record: 8-8

 

2014 Predictions: Green Bay Packers

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
8:00
AM ET
video 
ESPN.com Green Bay Packers reporter Rob Demovsky makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.

Week 1: at Seattle Seahawks

This game got a lot tougher when the Packers lost starting center JC Tretter to a knee injury that will keep him out up to six weeks. The noise at CenturyLink Field will make it tough on the Packers' no-huddle offense with a new center. But if they can quiet the crowd, they can beat the defending champs. Prediction: Win


Week 2: New York Jets

No matter what happens against the Seahawks in the Thursday night opener, the Packers will have a mini bye that weekend to regroup for the home opener. They have won six of their past seven home openers. Prediction: Win


Week 3: at Detroit Lions

No one has forgotten how badly the Packers were beaten last year at Ford Field. The 40-10 blowout loss on Thanksgiving did not sit well and will be in the back of their minds when they return. Prediction: Win


Week 4: at Chicago Bears

Returning to the site of their Week 17 victory that put them in the playoffs, the Packers face perhaps their toughest competition in the NFC North. The Bears' receiving duo of Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall will be difficult to handle. Prediction: Loss


Week 5: Minnesota Vikings

Who knows which quarterback will be at the helm of the Vikings by this point, but unless Adrian Peterson goes off on the Packers like he's capable of, Minnesota should not be much of a threat. Prediction: Win


Week 6: at Miami Dolphins

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, the former Packers offensive coordinator, gets his first shot at his old team, but the toughest thing about this game might be the South Florida warm weather. Prediction: Win


Week 7: Carolina Panthers

The Packers are fortunate to catch Carolina this season as opposed to the past, when the Panthers went 12-4. This year looks like more of a rebuilding season. Prediction: Win


Week 8: at New Orleans Saints

This might be the toughest test for the Packers' defense so far, and it's hard to imagine them coming out on top against Drew Brees and his high-powered offense. Prediction: Loss


Week 10: Chicago Bears

A year ago, the Bears came to Lambeau and knocked out quarterback Aaron Rodgers in a victory on "Monday Night Football." Another loss to the Bears could hurt the Packers' chances in the NFC North. Prediction: Win


Week 11: Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles had little trouble with the Packers the past season at Lambeau, but that was during the stretch Rodgers missed due to a broken collarbone. Still, the Eagles might be good enough to beat the Packers even with Rodgers. Prediction: Loss


Week 12: at Minnesota Vikings

One of the Vikings' greatest advantages over the Packers has been the home field of the Metrodome. Playing outside at the University of Minnesota won't have the same feel. Prediction: Win


Week 13: New England Patriots

Tom Brady versus Aaron Rodgers does not happen very often. It would be fun if this game turned into a classic quarterback duel. Prediction: Loss


Week 14: Atlanta Falcons

A dome team coming north to play outdoors in December does not sound like a formula for success. Prediction: Win


Week 15: at Buffalo Bills

By this time of the year, the Bills might be far out of the playoff race, while the Packers could be trying to secure a division title. It looks like a mismatch. Prediction: Win


Week 16: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

When he was the Bears' coach, Lovie Smith's teams often gave the Packers fits. Can he do the same with the Buccaneers? Prediction: Win


Week 17: Detroit Lions

The Lions have not won in the state of Wisconsin since 1991. Why would anything change? Prediction: Win


Predicted Record: 12-4

 

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- James Ihedigbo hasn’t played in two weeks. He didn’t even travel to Buffalo for the Detroit Lions' preseason finale against the Bills.

If you listen to the Lions’ starting safety, though, he is not concerned.

Ihedigbo
“I’m just resting,” Ihedigbo said Monday. “Getting ready for Monday night. That’s what really the mindset going in is.”

It’s a curious statement, because Lions coach Jim Caldwell indicated after Thursday’s preseason finale that Ihedigbo had stayed behind to receive treatment. Typically, that indicates an injury of some sort that needs to be healed.

Prior to practice Monday, Caldwell declined to give an update on Ihedigbo and said to wait for the injury report, the first one being released Thursday.

Ihedigbo said he was told by the Lions’ coaching staff to remain behind in Michigan instead of heading to New York.

“I just do what I’m told and that’s what was told to me,” Ihedigbo said. “And that was the best thing for our team and that’s what I do, whatever the best thing for my team.”

Ihedigbo is expected to be a starter at strong safety opposite Glover Quin. If Ihedigbo can’t play for some reason, either rookie James Couplin or veterans Don Carey or Isa Abdul-Quddus will pick up the start.

Abdul-Quddus started for Ihedigbo against Buffalo.

As of now, Ihedigbo insists he’ll be ready to play against the Giants.

“Yeah, of course,” Ihedigbo said. “It’s Monday night.”
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions still have a week to go until they open the season against the New York Giants, but they have slowly begun preparing for the team that knocked them out of playoff contention last season.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell said practices Monday and Tuesday would be more focused on improving things they need to work on instead of game-planning, but that they might sneak some things into preparation as well.

Here's other things from Monday's open portion of practice:
  • Safeties James Ihedigbo (undisclosed) and Don Carey (hamstring) sat out practice along with linebacker Kyle Van Noy (abdominal). All three were out there and Van Noy appeared to be moving OK for having had core muscle surgery less than a week ago.
  • Nick Fairley took some reps with Ndamukong Suh during position drills, but so did C.J. Mosley. Mosley started the last two preseason games at tackle. Fairley is listed as first on the depth chart.
  • Also at practice but not participating was wide receiver TJ Jones, who is on the PUP list.
  • New numbers: Mohammed Seisay is now wearing No. 39, Jerome Couplin is No. 24 and George Johnson is No. 93.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The first time MarQueis Gray played at TCF Bank Stadium, he was a quarterback for the University of Minnesota. He ended his career with the Gophers as a wide receiver, and his next game at the stadium will presumably come as a tight end for the Minnesota Vikings as the next step in a career arc that's already doubled back on itself.

The Vikings claimed Gray off waivers Sunday, reuniting him with offensive coordinator Norv Turner after he spent the 2013 season with the Cleveland Browns. Gray was released Saturday and quickly drew the Vikings' interest because of his familiarity with Turner's system.

"I believe he had a big say so in me coming here," Gray said of Turner. "I believe he's trusting me a lot to be here. I've just got to make sure I do my part and uphold all the great things he's said about me."

Gray appeared in 12 games for the Browns last season, catching two passes and rushing six times but mostly working as a blocking tight end. That part of the game -- and the physical toll it exacts on his body -- remains the biggest adjustment after his time as a quarterback and receiver, he said.

"I've mainly tried to bulk up my strength. That's the main focus since I switched to tight end," he said. "I've been able to catch. It's just the blocking aspect I'm getting used to."

The Browns used at least two tight ends on 466 plays last year, according to ESPN Stats and Information. That was the fourth most in the league, and with Rhett Ellison the only other tight end on the Vikings' roster behind starter Kyle Rudolph, Gray could find work as an H-back if he proves able to handle the full scope of the offense. He got to work re-acclimating himself to Turner's offense after going through training camp with new Browns coordinator Kyle Shanahan and was still trying to brush up on it after a day of travel to the Twin Cities Sunday and about three hours of sleep Sunday night.

When Gray gets into the locker room for the Vikings' home opener Sept. 14, though, he shouldn't feel out of place at all.

"I probably thought (I'd be back) as an away opponent, not as a home (game)," he said. "I can't wait to be back on that field."

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