The last time members of the Detroit Lions returned to their homes on Thanksgiving Day with a belly full of winning satisfaction, the now obsolete Joey Harrington was running their offense and Brett Favre still had some shred of dignity.
The year was 2003 and the Lions, led by cornerback Dré Bly’s two interceptions, forced five turnovers on their way to a 22-14 victory against the Green Bay Packers.
Fast forward eight years and eight consecutive Thanksgiving Day losses later, the Packers have returned to Ford Field, and for hungry football fans everywhere it couldn’t have come at a better time.
I have been looking forward to this Thanksgiving match-up against the surprisingly apt Lions team ever since the team began the season 5-0, surprising not only myself, but the football world as well. By the looks of it, for the first time in eight years, life has been pumped into this seemingly dead tradition, simultaneously reviving a franchise that was drawing closer and closer to extinction.
Thursday’s game not only is the beginning of a reignited rivalry, but it also holds implications, which have effects that could reverberate around the league.
On the Green Bay side, Thursday’s game is the first of a string of losable games they must survive to have hopes of becoming the second team in NFL to finish a season 16-0. However, Detroit seems to be fighting for something of equal importance, respect. A win on Thursday would not only give them the fulfillment a team would get from knocking off their division rival and leader, it would be a call to all naysayers that the Lions are here to play, and they very well could be.
I can even appreciate the level of talent the Lions have shown through these first ten games of the 2011 season. Matthew Stafford is, dare I say, their first franchise quarterback in decades. Calvin Johnson Jr. is the envy of fantasy team owners everywhere, and let us not forget their monster of a defensive line that could keep Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers on his toes come Thursday.
So could we see the upset of the year take place on Thanksgiving Day? Maybe. Just maybe.
While Detroit may have looked impressive against opponents thus far, their only wins against legitimate teams came from a Dallas Cowboys squad in the middle of an identity crisis and the offensive shame known as the Chicago Bears. The Lions’ other five wins came from Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Minnesota, Denver and Carolina, who have a combined record of 17-32.
When it comes down to it, the Lions have the advantage on the line of scrimmage and have the offensive firepower to go at it guns-a-blazing. However, until they collect more wins over quality teams, it is difficult to even gauge how they measure against a team such as the Packers. Stafford can put up 500 plus yards against a young Panthers team, but can he outsmart veteran cornerback Charles Woodson?
Detroit matches-up well where it matters, and with home-field advantage and a monkey on their back, for the first time in almost a decade football fans can rest assured that satisfaction is coming in more ways than just turkey and mashed potatoes this holiday weekend. So loosen that belt, sit-back, relax and enjoy the game.