As a Lions fan, Thanksgiving is always a special day. It isn’t special solely because of family and friends, but also because I get to watch the Detroit Lions with them.
Recently, the 12:30 Thanksgiving Day game that has belonged to the Lions since 1934 has been less than exciting. In 2008, many fans wanted to see the Lions removed from the Thanksgiving Day game altogether because the team was so bad. That year, Detroit got blown out by Tennessee 47-10, the franchise’s worst loss on Thanksgiving.
What a difference three years can make. Since then, the Lions have become one of the more intriguing teams in the NFL, with a plethora of young playmakers including quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Calvin Johnson and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. The talented Lions are now 7-3 after going 0-16 in the 2008 campaign, making them one of the NFL’s biggest surprises this year.
Now, the Lions face their biggest challenge yet as the undefeated Green Bay Packers come to town. Green Bay has an arsenal of offensive playmakers, headlined by quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has thrown for 31 touchdowns to just four interceptions this year, and ranks first in the NFL in completion percentage and quarterback rating. Rodgers, in my mind, is on track to becoming the best quarterback in NFL history. If the Lions want to win, they will have to rush Rodgers into bad throws.
The Lions, while talented, have struggled a bit lately winning just two of their last five games. In these games, Stafford has been as hot and cold as ever, showing flashes of brilliance while at the same time causing many Lions fans to shake their heads in disappointment. The Lions as a team have mirrored Stafford, looking like an elite team one possession and a mediocre one the next.
But the 10-0 Packers may have shown some of the same signs of inconsistency in their last game against Tampa Bay. Yes, Green Bay won the game, but by a less-than-expected nine points. Tampa has been average at best this year, and I fully expected a huge Packers win.
Now, a win is a win, but this win showed me that the Packers can be beaten. A chink in the armor is all Jim Schwartz and the Lions needed to see in order to game plan for the Pack. The recipe for success? Throw the football. The Packers defense ranks towards the bottom of the NFL in every major passing category except one: interceptions. The Packers actually lead in this category with 19, but I won’t buy into a defense that allowed Josh Freeman to throw for almost 350 yards.
While the defensive line must get pressure on Rodgers, Matthew Stafford is once again the key for success. If he can get the offense started quickly and not turn the ball over, the Lions have a shot in this game. However, the Lions MUST get off to a better start than they have in the last two games. They will not be able to come back from 17 or 20 points down against Green Bay like they have been able to against Carolina, Minnesota and Dallas.
If I were a gambling man, I would still put my money on the Packers. There is no reason they shouldn’t win another Superbowl this year- they are the benchmark in the NFL. But don’t sleep on the Lions; they have the ability to not only compete, but win this game.