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GREEN BAY – By the time Detroit Lions receiver Golden Tate returned home at 5 a.m. Tuesday from Dallas, the Green Bay Packers already had three full nights of sleep since their last game.

All things are not equal this week as the Packers and Lions prepare for a winner-take-all NFC North title game. The Lions were last in the NFL to play Week 16, visiting the Dallas Cowboys for Monday Night Football. Because Christmas fell on Sunday this year, most games – including the Packers' win against the Minnesota Vikings – were pushed up 24 hours to Saturday.

“It really doesn’t matter,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said Wednesday. “That’s one of the things that people look for, built-in excuses. We don’t make that as an excuse. We’ve played a lot on short weeks, we’ve played Thanksgiving Day games every single year. That’s a short week. It’s a lot shorter than this one that we’re dealing with."

The Lions are one of two teams that play on Thanksgiving every year, along with the Cowboys. The difference with a Thanksgiving week is both teams – the Lions and their opponent – have the same, short schedule.

In this case, the Packers have two extra days of rest.

The league office did Detroit no favors this week. The Lions have a legitimate gripe about schedule inequity, but there’s nothing they can do about it. So you won’t hear them complaining.

“It could be tough for a few guys,” Tate said, “but it’s the cards that we were dealt. If you would’ve said at the beginning of the season that going into Week 17 we were going to be playing that game for our division, I would’ve taken it no matter on what day we played or what the circumstances were. So I think the best thing we can do is not complain about the days that we’ve had or didn’t have, and just go out there and play ball.

"We’ve got a lot on the line now. So just go out there and try to play the best game we can, and not worry about the things we can’t control like how the schedule falls for us or against us.”

rwood@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood

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