The last time the Detroit Lions won on Thanksgiving, they were playing the Green Bay Packers. Dre' Bly returned an interception for a score and Detroit upset the Packers by a score of 22-14. It's hard to believe, but since then, the Lions have not tasted victory on their big day.
Within that nine game losing streak, they've also lost four heartbreakers to Green Bay, who have made a habit of torturing the Lions on Thanksgiving with blowouts and close losses alike. Now, with Aaron Rodgers on the sidelines, Detroit should have a chance to finally respond. But, stranger things have certainly happened. Here's five elements that will tell which team wins on Turkey Day.
1. The Tone. From the get-go on Sunday, the Lions looked flat, coming out and allowing the Buccaneers to take leads, get interceptions and hang around the game. It will be important for the Lions to grab momentum early this time around and never let up. If Detroit can get an early lead and build upon it, they will keep the crowd charged up and keep good momentum on their side. Conversely, if things start out bad, Detroit could get into big trouble and lose the crowd. That could prove damaging for their effort.
2. Reggie Bush and Eddie Lacy. For different reasons, each running back will be important to watch on Thursday. Bush and the Lions should be able to run the ball against a Packer front which has been gashed in recent weeks. If Bush is able to get going which he wasn't able to do against Green Bay the first time, it will make Detroit's passing game even more dangerous. Lacy, meanwhile, has been running well for the Packers lately. The Lions' run defense has become surprisingly impenetrable, so if Lacy is able to create some easier yardage, it could help Matt Flynn and Green Bay's passing game get comfortable.
3. Will Matt Flynn Light Up The Lions Again? Last time Flynn suited up against Detroit, he put up 480 yards and six touchdowns, scorching the Lions secondary and earning himself a nice payday of which he hasn't lived up to. In a bizarre twist of fate, Flynn is back and will start in place of Aaron Rodgers on Thursday. Will the Lions be able to make him uncomfortable in the pocket and defend him better up top? Detroit has reason to fear Flynn until the game starts and the pass defense proves they're up to the challenge. The Lions cannot allow Flynn to go off again.
4. Can Matthew Stafford Play Under Control? Stafford was all over the place against Tampa Bay, having one of the worst games in his career. Every time the Lions had momentum, Stafford threw an interception in the red zone. One went for a touchdown, which set things back even more. Against a Green Bay defense which has had his number, Stafford must be a much more efficient passer and make good decisions. Should Stafford play well, the Lions can remain dangerous. If he does not, they'll be out of the playoff hunt in a hurry. Redemption could (and must) start on Thursday afternoon.
5. Darius Slay. Chris Houston is looking doubtful to play with his foot injury, so the pressure will be on Slay to play well in a starting role. He hasn't done great much of 2013 when forced into action, so the Lions will have to hope their pass rush can do a decent enough job helping out the secondary. Detroit's pass defense has been bad with Houston, their top corner, so what might it be without him in the lineup and a rookie on the back end?
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