Thursday is Thanksgiving Day in America, a day where we give thanks for the things and people in our lives.
The Detroit Lions should be giving thanks that they have the opportunity to host a Thanksgiving Day game for the 73rd time.
After all, it wasn’t long ago when many people within the NFL were petitioning for the Lions to be removed from hosting this game. Their atrocious play throughout the last decade was nothing that anyone wanted to watch.
The Lions have a decent record of 33-37-2 on Thanksgiving, but the team hasn’t won this game in nearly ten years (2003).
Detroit will once again host the Turkey Day Classic in 2012, in their customary 12:00p.m. timeslot. The game airs on Fox.
With the 9-1 Texans coming to town, this game is far from something the Lions have looked forward to, but Detroit should be motivated by their lack of proficiency on Thanksgiving.
Winning this Thanksgiving game would mean everything to a loyal Detroit fan base that will fill Ford Field on Thursday as they have throughout the past two years.
The Lion may have to do so without iron man Jeff Backus, as he did not practice today with a hamstring injury. Backus has started 186 straight games for the Lions, the third-longest active streak in the NFL.
Should Backus miss this game, rookie Riley Reiff will take his place at left tackle.
While Backus may miss the game, the Lions have a shot at getting back key defenders Louis Delmas and Corey Williams. Both players practiced on Tuesday, albeit in limited fashion.
The focus for Detroit now becomes tackling the tall task of beating a Texans team that has only been beaten once this year; that loss coming at the hands of the Green Bay Packers. Houston runs the ball as well as anybody with star running back Arian Foster, and quarterback Matt Schaub showed everyone last week that he can chuck it with the best.
Schaub tossed for 527 yards against the Jaguars last week, which was good for 2nd all-time on the single-game passing list.
Also featured in the passing game is 6-foot-3, 230-pound wideout Andre Johnson. Johnson, like Detroit’s Calvin Johnson (no relation), poses a matchup problem regardless of his opponent. He is coming off a 273-yard field day in which he caught 15 balls, the final one being the game-winning score in OT.
The Texans pose a dual-threat offense that is as balanced as they come. Houston can beat a stacked box with their aerial attack and shred cover two with Foster and the running game.
And did I mention their defense, which ranks 4th in both yards and points per game?
They’re 9-1 for a reason.
On defense, the key for Detroit will be playing as balanced defensively as Houston will be offensively. Detroit will be forced into playing their base 4-3 defense throughout
much of this game, and will have to defend the rush and pass effectively from that set.
My key player on defense is linebacker Stephen Tulloch. He must key on Foster and try to slow him down as much as possible, if that’s at all possible. Foster has scored 12 TDs this season and has been held under 100 total yards only four times.
Offensively, whoever lines up at left tackle must slow down pass-rushing beast J.J. Watt. Watt has 11.5 sacks on the year and has said he feels very confident coming into this game.
Lions center Dominic Raiola just responded with “bring it.”
If Raiola and the Lions’ offensive line can give QB Matthew Stafford a little time to throw, the Lions may have a fighting chance in this game. If he’s running for his life all day, you can forget about it.
The best way to slow down the pass rush is to run the football well, and the Lions’ coaching staff knows this. There is no doubt in my mind that Detroit will come out early and try to establish running back Mikel Leshoure.
If Leshoure can find some holes and the offense starts to click, the Lions have shown in the past that they can score points quickly.
However the game progresses on Thursday, sit down, eat some turkey, and enjoy the day with friends and family. We have a lot to be thankful for, even if this Lions team hasn’t been one of them so far this year.
Follow me on twitter @ScottPeceny