It's hard to remember the last time the Lions played a meaningful Thanksgiving Day game—although they've tried pretty hard in the last two weeks to make this one irrelevant.
A two-game losing streak—at the hands of the up-and-down Cardinals and the exposed Giants—has pushed Detroit farther from contention in the NFC North, and closer to the land of also-rans and wild cards.
Playoff position aside, the fact that we're even talking about the Lions in the playoffs is remarkable. When Jon Kitna predicted 10 wins at the start of the year, no one believed him.
It doesn’t look like such an absurd proposition.
And beating the Packers on Thursday sure would help.
The Lions are 6-4, with games against the Vikings and Chiefs remaining. Getting Green Bay at home gives them their best shot to beat the Pack and gain ground in the division.
If Kitna and Co. do beat the Packers, they'd need only three more victories to get to double-digits in the win column—and a near-certain NFC playoff spot.
Of course, all that is easier said than done.
First of all, the Lions haven’t been playing all that well. In the loss to Arizona, Detroit finished with a negative rushing total. In last week’s game against the Giants, they turned the ball over four times.
The Lions have scored just 31 combined points in their last two games, which won't be enough to keep up with the high-scoring Packers.
That’s the other thing—Green Bay is really good.
The Packers were a feel-good story early in the season, but few people gave them much of a chance to contend down the stretch. Now that they have a dependable running game, that scenario is much more likely.
Brett Favre keeps getting better and better as the year goes on, and looks to have developed a real rapport with his receivers. The defense, too, has been outstanding—particularly the play of cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Al Harris.
That said, when you look at the Packers, you don’t really think 9-1—and that may be what the Lions have going for them.
Green Bay is a good team, but they don’t have the aura of an elite team...at least not yet. And the Lions have shown the ability to cause a lot of problems for opponents with their strong offense and opportunistic defense.
Playing in front of a supportive home crowd in a meaningful late-season game is unfamiliar territory for this Lions team. It will be interesting to see how they handle it—but I have a feeling they’ll do just fine.
Prediction: Lions 27, Packers 24
For more picks, visit www.kevanlee.com.