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Week 11 NFL Preview: Lions vs. Packers Thanksgiving Starts Early

Coming off of a bye week where it seemed that every player except the third string kick returner had an injury to nurse, the Packers start up the stretch run of their 2012 NFL season today by going on the road and playing the rival Detroit Lions.  Currently the Packers are the 5th seed in the NFC playoff picture, but are only 1 game behind the Bears for the division lead (thank you officials of the Seahawks game). Any NFC North division game is important, but this one is very important for the Packers. With the Bears playing the 49ers on Monday night without a concussed Jay Cutler, the Packers need desperately to win this week to put pressure on the Bears. If the Packers win and the Bears lose, the Packers will grab the division lead; both teams have the same record, but with the Packers week 2 win against the Bears, the Pack Attack will have the tiebreaker in hand. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves because the Packers have a tough test ahead of them at Ford Field today. It doesn’t matter what the win-loss records are, division games on the road in the Black and Blue division are always a challenge. Let’s breakdown this week’s match up.

On a side note, I’m ecstatic that the Packers and Lions are playing on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, instead of on Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving day, my family’s preparation of Thanksgiving dinner starts at 7:00 in the morning, and goes until about 2:00 in the afternoon, when we finally sit down for dinner. So whenever the Packers are playing on Thanksgiving, I barely get to see any of the game. All of my family are Patriots fans because I live in Massachusetts, so the unless the Pats are playing, the Turkey Day preparations are going on as planned. But since the Packers are playing today, I don’t have to worry about hydrating the turkey, getting the cranberry sauce ready, making sure my little cousins don’t kill each other outside, or explaining to my grandma why it’s not appropriate to make Native American jokes at the table when we eat dinner. Save all of those chores for Thanksgiving Day, and save today for watching the Packers/Lions on my couch, drinking beer, and using questionable language in analyzing all calls by referees.

Now that the Lions are competitive again, the past few Packers/Lions games have been very entertaining to say the least, and it seems that interesting subplots have always been created due to the outcome of the game. If you remember, in 2010 Aaron Rodgers suffered a concussion during the 7-3 loss to the Lions. That loss to the Lions came during a bad stretch for the Packers, which let to them gaining the last playoff spot in the NFC and having to play all playoff games on the road. As the say, the rest is history. During last year’s Thanksgiving game, Lions Defensive Lineman Ndamukong Suh “may or may not have” stomped on Packers offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith. I use “may or may not have” because after the game Suh boldly stated that he didn’t stomp Dietrich-Smith, but he apologized for it two days later. That incident lead to the “dirty player” tag being put on Suh. Then on New Year’s Day of this year, former Packers Quarterback Matt Flynn got the start during the regular season finale, and led the Packers to a 45-41 shootout win over the Lions at home. Flynn threw for 480 yards and 6 touchdowns, and this game officially put him on the map as one of the top free agent Quarterbacks for that upcoming free agent class. Now Flynn is getting 8+ Million dollars per year to sit behind a rookie quarterback in Seattle, but I digress. As you can see, Packers/Lions games are always interesting, so today’s game at Ford Field should be the same.

In honor of Thanksgiving, today’s preview will be done by giving projected “Turkey Day Awards” to those players who I believe will make an impact on the game. The past two previews have been pretty statistic heavy, so let’s mix it up on this one. As I say on all of my posts…And Away…We Go!!

Dark Meat Award: Not exactly a popular choice of the majority, but just as effective getting the job done 

Winner: Packers Rushing Game

With Aaron Rodgers at the controls and with the amount of weapons he has to throw to, it’s easy to say that the Packers passing attack is the reason why they will win a certain game. But this week against the Lions, I believe it’s going to be James Starks and the Packers running game that makes the difference in the game. I feel it would be smart of Mike McCarthy to call a more conservative type of game today on the offensive side, running more than throwing. I say that because the offensive line for the Lions is full of great pass rushers, but they’re not exactly stellar against the run. Currently, the Lions defense is ranked 19th in the NFL against the run, allowing 116.2 yards per game on the ground. The last two games for the Packers, against the Jaguars and Cardinals, the Packers running game has been a great compliment to the passing attack. Two weeks ago against the Cardinals, the Packers gained 176 yards on the ground and gave the Packers offense the balance it was looking for. Today against the Lions, the running game is going to be important on two levels. One, it will keep the Lions defense guessing and hopefully keep Aaron Rodgers off his back. Two, it will keep the high powered offense of Detroit off of the field. The Packers pass defense over the past couple of weeks has looked like the pass defense of last year. Keep the Detroit offense off of the field with the run.

Okay guys, sorry, but I have to cut this preview short. I’m actually off to register for my wedding at some stores. Here’s the bare bones of it, I don’t think that the Lions are disciplined enough to stay in this game; defensively or offensively. I think the Packers are going to give up some points today to Stafford, Megatron, and co., but I think the Lions defense is going to give up more. Packers win a shootout in Detroit.

Green Bay Packers    38

Detroit Lions              35

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