O'HARA'S WEEK 4 PREVIEW: Lions preparing for first division matchup of the season

Defensive lineman Alim McNeill feels good about how the Detroit Lions executed a plan they had put in place that resulted in a dominant performance in a win over the Atlanta Falcons.

What McNeill likes even better is the prospect of more performances like the one that produced seven sacks.

Sunday’s game was a bounce-back to recover from the overtime loss to Seattle the previous week.

The players made a concerted effort to avoid repeating the breakdowns that had cost them in the loss to Seattle.

“Just our preparation, and us players being able to communicate on the field as far as rushes and different stuff,” McNeill said. “We were playing complementary football, playing together more. It was a lot different this week.

“The little things are what win or lose games.”

McNeill had a big game against the Falcons. He had one of the seven sacks on Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder, and he also had a tackle for loss, two quarterback hits and three tackles.

As an interior lineman, he had a key role in limiting the Falcons to 44 yards rushing on 20 attempts.

In his third season with the Lions, McNeill has become one of the team’s young leaders. He liked how the Lions were dominating their opponent.

“It feels good because it’s things you worked on throughout the week,” he said. “It’s coming to life. You’re starting to get the sacks you prepared for.

“It feels good.”

Next up, short week: The Lions are in a different realm from recent seasons, when their goal was to play meaningful games in December.

The Lions are firmly in the playoff race, and every game matters – from the opening-game win over the Kansas City Chiefs to the final game against the Vikings.

Thursday night’s road game against the Green Bay Packers could have ultimate playoff consequences. Both teams are 2-1 and tied for first in the North.

The Packers used to own the Lions, no matter who who played quarterback. That is no longer the case, and not just because Aaron Rodgers is gone from Green Bay.

The Lions have won the last three games against the Packers that includes a memorable 20-16 win over the Packers in the final game of the 2022 season at Lambeau.

The loss dropped the Packers to 8-9 and out of the playoffs. The Lions were a game ahead of the Packers in the North at 9-8.

The Packers have wins over the Bears and Saints, and a loss to the Falcons – a team the Lions dominated.

Jordan Love has performed well as Rodgers’ replacement, with seven TD passes and one interception. Jared Goff has been steady for the Lions, as usual.

A sure sign of the shift in power in this matchup: The Lions are favored by 1.5 points.

My pick: Lions 23, Packers 13. The Lions continue to overcome injuries to do it.

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