How quickly things can change in a single month. It's why the NFL remains perhaps the most captivating sport to follow. Despite being without their biggest star and sustaining a loss the last time these teams met, the Detroit Lions are still in first place, and haven't yet been overtaken by the Green Bay Packers. That's mostly because the Packers have lost their biggest star in the meantime.
As many predicted then, however, the pivotal showdown game on the schedule remains Thanksgiving. The 5-5-1 Packers visit the 6-5 Lions, who have started to leak plenty of oil at the top of the NFC North. Green Bay hasn't been without their share of problems, either. What's been going on with a dinged up Packers' defense since the team's last met? Will inconsistency at quarterback hurt against Detroit? Lions 101 chats with Jason Hirschhorn of Acme Packing Company once again to get some answers to those questions and more.
(1) Lions 101: Though Matt Flynn seemed to give Green Bay a lift against Minnesota, between Scott Tolzien and Flynn, do you think it matters who plays quarterback for the Packers on the road Thursday?
JH: Matt Flynn outperformed Scott Tolzien this past Sunday, but ultimately it only matters whether Aaron Rodgers is under center or not. If he isn't, as I would expect to be the case this Thursday, the Packers are long shots to beat good teams like Detroit. Even with Rodgers, the Packers aren't necessarily favorites on the road against the Lions. However, with Rodgers they have a realistic chance of overtaking any opponent. The same can never be said about Flynn or Tolzien.
(2) Lions 101: Lost in all the problems of losing Aaron Rodgers has been the rough play of the Packers' defense. What's been going on with Dom Capers' group lately? Where might the Lions find an advantage given their recent struggles?
JH: All things considered (Clay Matthews' prolonged absence and clubbed right arm, Sam Shields and Casey Hayward missing from the secondary, injuries to Nick Perry and Johnny Jolly), Capers' defense hasn't been a complete train wreck. That's not to say it's been pretty, though, as Green Bay has given up 26 or more points against every team it's played since Rodgers fractured his collarbone. There's just a talent void on the defensive side of the ball, one of the rare mistakes from Packers general manager Ted Thompson.
The Lions should find success where most Green Bay opponents have: against the secondary. Right now, the Packers are trotting out a group that includes Davon House, Micah Hyde, and M.D. Jennings. While each can make plays, none should be featured in their current roles. Besides a big day for Calvin Johnson, I'd expect Brandon Pettigrew and Nate Burleson to have success against this group.
(3) Lions 101: We've heard plenty of national types griping lately about Detroit's tradition of hosting the early Thanksgiving game considering the team has been so bad for decades. More often than not, though, the game has involved the Packers, which is good tradition for the organizations. Do you like the Thanksgiving Day game being in Detroit every year?
JH: For selfish reasons, I do. It's been a few years since I moved to Southern California, and because I can't get Sunday Ticket, I have to go to a bar at 10 A.M. to catch most Packers games. That's obviously not the case when they play the Lions on Thanksgiving.
But even if that wasn't the case, I wouldn't want the NFL to take away the Lions' Thanksgiving Day game. More often than not, Detroit has given us some fun games even when the matchups weren't particularly sexy on paper. Plus, the NFL has remedied some of the Thanksgiving game concerns by adding a third game that isn't tied to any one team. This format works just fine for me, and I hope the league retains it.
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