Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 11/21/11

This could have been a look-ahead contest for the Detroit Lions. The Thanksgiving game is always the biggest one on their schedule because it puts them on the national stage with nothing else available for the sports fan. This holiday is even better for gluttonous fans because it is finally relevant to the NFC North and has playoff implications.

The Detroit players didn’t receive their wake up calls in a timely manner because they had a lackluster first half. There was some question as to how effective Matthew Stafford could be playing with his hand injury, but all of that was put to rest in the second half when the squad exploded for close to the half century mark.

A viable case could be made for running back Kevin Smith. He attained one hundred forty yards on only sixteen carries. His two touchdowns were also instrumental in the outcome. Stafford receives the game ball chiefly due to his five touchdown passes. Cam Newton was a turnover machine with four interceptions. He had a lot of hype early in the season, but it’s intriguing to see that the Panthers have the same record as the Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings.

The defense will have to step up in a major way if the team expects a chance at victory on Thursday. Kyle Vanden Bosch was the only defender to obtain a sack on Sunday. If Aaron Rodgers is not pressured, he will pick apart the Detroit secondary all day long. He might anyway, because he is simply just that dialed in at the moment. It’s never a good sign when a team’s leading tackler is a corner back. That means that too many plays are ending far away from the line of scrimmage. I have nothing against Eric Wright whatsoever, but when I think of UNLV football, defensive prowess is not the first thing that comes to mind.

Besides the turnovers, third down efficiency was also another major component to the outcome. Detroit converted on six of eleven opportunities while the Lions only achieved thirty percent of theirs. Detroit’s receiving corps is so much more adept than any of their opponents at securing the ball in these crucial situations. Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson had a dozen receptions and over a hundred fifty yards between them.

Detroit cannot afford to relax with the increased relevancy recently demonstrated by the Chicago Bears. They took down the San Diego Chargers on Sunday at Soldier Field. The team’s remaining schedule has the Packers twice, the Saints, Chargers, Raiders, and Vikings on it. That has over half the contests coming against probable playoff squads, so execution is of the utmost importance.

The short holiday week benefits Detroit more than Green Bay. They have younger players at the skill positions. The players don’t have to travel since the game is at Ford Field. They also have more to play for because they aren’t undefeated and the reigning Super Bowl champions. The Lions have something to prove.

 

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