OK, the truth is the 21st Thanksgiving Day meeting between the Packers and Lions is not a playoff game. It just feels like one. The Pack is trying to avoid putting up an 0 for November, but if they do they’ll still be alive in the wacky North, though they’ll need a little help from their friends to win another division title and a ticket to the playoffs.
Unless Mike McCarthy is channeling his ultimate inner Bill Belichick, Aaron Rodgers will miss his fifth game and use the next ten days to prepare to shake off the rust against the Falcons on December 8th. That means Matt Flynn gets to play against his favorite team. If he can put up half the numbers that he did the last time he faced them, the Pack will have a good chance to win.
Flynn becomes the fourth starting QB of the season. I mean, I know we had a really nice 20 year run, but four in a season even surpasses the Vikings. His second half performance last Sunday gives hope in a matchup that seems heavily slanted towards the Lions.
I say that because of the health of the two teams. While Detroit will likely be missing its best (and I use that term loosely) corner in Chris Houston (injured his foot on Sunday), they’re otherwise in solid shape. Megatron is nursing an aching knee, but it doesn’t seem to slow him down on game days. Of course, we all remember he missed the first matchup, as did the now healthy Nate Burleson, who Stafford targeted ten times on Sunday with seven completions.
This game is all about how the Packers defense handles the Lions. Flynn will be fine. The offense should hum against a Lions defense that can’t stop the pass. In their last three home games they lost to the Bengals, won a crazy last second shootout with the Cowboys and let rookie Mike Glennon and the 3-8 Bucs beat them. The moment won’t be too big for Flynn. He’ll be fine, as long as Ndamukong Suh doesn’t stomp on his head, or pull of his arm.
No, this will come down to whether the pass rush can force Mathew Stafford into a couple key mistakes. He threw four picks last week–the Bucs’ secondary is upper echelon–and it’s starting to get into his head. He’s hearing from the doubters. When he’s on, he’s a top five talent and his receiving corps will be a huge challenge for the Pack. The good news is it looks like Sam Shields will be good to go, though with a hamstring and a very short week we’ll be keeping an eye on him. Let’s hope he’s 100%.
His presence will allow the Pack to double Megatron and hopefully still have enough talent on the field to stop the other guys. Davon House will likely see a lot of Burleson, and Brandon Pettigrew provides an inviting third down target at tight end–the Pack will need to take care of him.
Johnny Jolly also appears ready to return, a huge shot in the arm for the run defense, which needs to improve dramatically if we’re to take this team seriously down the stretch. They could really use Nick Perry to handle the edge in this game. That’s where AP made his money last week and where Reggie Bush likes to live. If Perry plays I like the Pack’s chances at slowing Bush a lot better. He was listed as limited on Tuesday. We may know more later today after practice. It’s about 8:30 on Wednesday as I write this. Getting set to hit the road to Milwaukee, so today’s practice could provide more insight on the injured guys. I’ll add an update at the bottom if the need arises.
We can probably expect some weirdness in this one. It seems to be that way in every Thanksgiving Day game. But if they’re to finally win a game without Rodgers, the Pack will need to win the turnover battle, make no special teams mistakes and play much better on defense–if Shields and Jolly are healthy they should. Pretty obvious stuff, I know. But that’s what will determine this one.
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite day of the year. Let’s hope the Pack can kick it off the way we’re accustomed to when these teams match up (at least in the last couple of decades). Unfortunately, for me, the fourth quarter on Sunday is not enough to make me a believer. I hope they prove me wrong. Have a safe, fun Thanksgiving with your loved ones and friends.
Lions 27 Pack 24