Article by Brian Cloney
The 8-2 New England Patriots will visit the 2-8 Detroit Lions as the Lions host their annual Thanksgiving day game. On paper, the Patriots should handily defeat the Lions and head home in good shape to prepare for the epic battle with the New York Jets.
However, this game is not as easy as it may appear. Five of Detroit’s eight losses have been by five points or less and they recently took the Jets into overtime before losing. The Lions have arguably the best wide receiver in the game in Calvin Johnson. The Patriots are ranked 31st in the NFL in passing yards allowed. The one thing the Lions do well happens to be the one thing the Patriots have a hard time stopping. Keeping Tom Brady off the field as long as possible will help Detroit’s cause.
Calvin Johnson Vs. Devin McCourty-Calvin Johnson is a game changer and the Patriots will have a tough time limiting his production. McCourty has shown flashes of brilliance, but is still a rookie cannot possibly do it all by himself. Adding to the problem is the emergence of Brandon Pettigrew as a quality pass catching tight end. Pettigrew is tied for first in receptions by a tight end and will make the Patriots pay should they focus too much on stopping Calvin Johnson.
Patriots Offensive Line Vs. The Lions Defensive Line-The Patriots enter the game 6th in the NFL in sacks allowed per pass attempt. The Lions enter the game ranked 4th in sacks. This will be a huge challenge for the Patriots as Ndamukong Suh leads all rookies with 7 sacks. The recent addition of Logan Mankins will pay dividends keeping Suh at bay. The Patriots can and will neutralize an aggressive defense with their exceptional short passing game. Look for Welker to be called upon early an often should the pressure get to Brady.
Patriots Vs Patriots-The Patriots number one opponent in this game is themselves. The Lions enter the game as one of the worst rushing teams. Their top running back Jahvid Best may not play leading Detroit to rely on winning the game through the air. Shutting down the Lions passing game will shut down the Lions entirely. The Patriots rely heavily on first and second year starters to implement their “Bend Don’t Break” style of defense.
Stats that may shock you:
Total yards gained per game
Points allowed per game
The Patriots will don their throwback Pat Patriot uniforms
Detroit has lost its last six Thanksgiving games by an average of 23 points.
Tom Brady made his Patriot debut against the Lions in 2000.
The Patriots are 8-1 all time versus the NFC North.
The Patriots and Lions have played 9 times since 1971. The Patriots lead the series 5-4.
Stefan Logan is the only player to rank in the top 5 for both punt and kick return average.
The Patriots are favored by 7.
Stephen Neal, Myron Pryor, Jonathan Wilhite and Mike Wright have been officially ruled out.
Tom Brady (Foot) and Fred Taylor (Toe) are listed as questionable.
Jason Hanson, Lawrence Jackson, Matthew Stafford have been ruled out.
Tony Scheffler (Ribs) is listed as doubtful and Jahvid Best (Toes), Shaun Hill (Quad), and Kyle Vanden Bosch (Knee) are listed as probable.