We can finally all agree that the Detroit Lions aren’t bad…finally. Are they good? Very probable. Are they a great team, one that can be mentioned with the Packers, Steelers and Patriots of the the NFL? No. Not yet. But Thursday’s Thanksgiving matchup offers them the perfect opportunity to take a first step in that direction if they can beat the currently undefeated Green Bay Packers. The Lions beat the Bears on a national stage and earned some respect for it…the same results on Thursday would have an even more massive positive effect on this organization.
With all NFL eyes on Detroit this Thanksgiving, there’s little talk about pulling the annual game from the Lions this year. The Lions have been inconsistent as of late, but they’ve been highly entertaining all year and might just be the only team that can make Mercury Morris and the 1972 Miami Dolphins tipsy on champaign this year. The Green Bay Packers are a machine and Aaron Rodgers is their skillful engineer. Even when playing their worst this year, they’ve cruised to victories. The NFC North is all but theirs to win and a first round bye is a certaintly. No person in their right mind could argue there is a better team in the NFL.
Despite all of their utter dominance, the Packers can be beaten and the Lions, if they can play a complete game, might be the team that the Packers match up the worst with. This definitely won’t be an encore of last year’s Matt Flynn/Drew Stanton matchup. Rodgers and Matt Stafford have their respective offenses humming right now. Weaknesses negate each other. The Packers can’t run the ball and the Lions can’t stop the run. In a statement that no one thought would be heard 3 days ago, Kevin Smith may be the most important player on the field. If Sunday wasn’t a fluke and Kevin Smith is reborn, the Lions chances at an upset take a massive jump up. The only way to beat Green Bay is to keep the ball out of Aaron Rodgers hands. If Kevin Smith can do that, and the Lions win, he should consider running for mayor. Maybe Sunday was just the first chapter in his tremendous story.
A win Thursday in front of a still skeptical national audience, knocking off an undefeated team would be Jim Schwartz’s signature moment. While playoff hope-wise, it’s not the most important game left on the schedule (that goes to the Saints game due to head to head playoff tie-breaker implications) it’s still the most important game for the psyche of the team and almost importantly, the fans. An impressive second half comeback against the Panthers was great, but it was the Panthers. The Lions earned no extra respect other than reinforcements to the already known moniker of being a potent offense with bad run defense.
A win proves that the Lions are not fakes and that the Packers aren’t invincible. It also jets the Lions off to next Sunday Night’s critical game in New Orleans with a ton of confidence. A loss isn’t devastating to the Lions playoff hopes, but it no doubt proves they’re not quite ready of prime time.