It’s almost time for more football! Exactly 25 hours from the publication of this post, Green Bay and Detroit will square off on Thanksgiving Day for the 18th time. I’ll be positioned at NFC North headquarters to bring you thoughts before, during and after the game.
As you’re cleaning the bird this afternoon, take a few minutes to anticipate a few talking points for this game:
The Lions have sold out Ford Field for this game and their fan base is energized after quarterback Matthew Stafford’s heroics in Sunday’s victory over Cleveland. Fans also enjoyed a breakout game from receiver Calvin Johnson, who set a career high with 161 receiving yards. Unfortunately for everyone (except the Packers), Johnson’s status is very iffy because of knee and hand injuries. Stafford will start despite being listed as "doubtful" with a left shoulder injury, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Fans could miss out on a potential encore performance, and the Lions could wind up playing both of this season’s games against the Packers without their two best players. (Stafford and Johnson missed the Oct. 18 matchup at Lambeau Field, a 26-0 Packers victory.)
The Packers have tweaked their offensive approach in the past two weeks, but it’s hard to get past the mismatch their passing offense presents for the Lions' defense. After all, this is a group that gave up four touchdown passes to Cleveland quarterback Brady Quinn. The Lions' pass defense has gotten worse as the season has continued, and here are the numbers as of Week 12: Opponents have a 70.4 completion percentage, a 24-6 touchdown-interception ratio and a 110.3 passer rating. And here’s a new twist: Two of the Lions’ top three safeties, Ko Simpson and Kalvin Pearson, haven’t practiced this week because of injuries. If he wants to, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers could have an early Thanksgiving feast in this game.
The Packers have faced their share of injuries as well in this short practice week. As of Wednesday morning, they’re not sure if center Scott Wells (knee) will be able to play. [Update: Wells is expected to play.] That could force rookie Evan Dietrich-Smith into the starting lineup. And as has been mentioned once or twice, the Packers will have two new starters on defense after losing linebacker Aaron Kampman and cornerback Al Harris to knee injuries. Thursday will mark a transition game for the entire Packers defense.
A few people have mentioned the Lions’ 11-6-1 record against the Packers on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit. Let’s not put too much stock in that mark. Recently, the series has been all Packers. Coach Mike McCarthy has never lost to the Lions in seven games, and overall the Packers have an eight-game winning streak against them. In the bigger picture, the Packers have won 16 of the past 18 in this series. In this decade, the Lions are 2-7 on Thanksgiving Day.