For the first time in a long time, the Detroit Lions will be playing a meaningful game on Thanksgiving when they host the division-rival Green Bay Packers at Ford Field on Thursday afternoon.
The undefeated Packers are still playing for home field advantage throughout the playoffs as the surprising San Francisco 49ers are just one game behind Green Bay for the best record in the NFC.
Meanwhile, Detroit have won seven-of-10 games, and are tied for the third best record in the NFC. However, the Lions appear poised for the wild card spot, as the Packers are the clear favorites to win the NFC North.
This is also the stretch where Detroit face some difficult competition. The Lions will have another meeting with the Packers in the final week of the season, and also have games against teams battling to make the playoffs: New Orleans, Oakland and San Diego.
Last week the Lions amassed nearly 500 yards against the Carolina Panthers. Quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for 335 yards, and five touchdown passes. Detroit also got a lift from an underdog story in Kevin Smith, who filled in admirably for Jahvid Best and Maurice Morris, as the recently re-signed running back rushed for 140 yards on just 16 attempts and finished with two rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown.
While the Detroit offense was running wild on the Panthers, the Lions' defense struggled. Though the Lions intercepted four of Cam Newton passes, they also conceded 409 total yards, and 28 points to the Panthers' offense.
Detroit will need a better effort against the Packers, who have won 16 games in a row, and have perhaps the best offensive weapon in the league. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the clear favorite to win the MVP, and the Packers lead the NFL in scoring average per game (35.5), and are fourth in total average yards per game (406.5).
Green Bay may be without their leading rusher, James Starks, who is questionable with a sprained knee. Wide receiver Greg Jennings has a bruised knee, but should play. Offensive tackle Chad Clifton is out with a hamstring injury.
Ryan Grant will pick up the slack for Starks, and often gets better as the game progresses.
The Packers may need to be cautious of what they're up against on Thanksgiving. The Lions are excited about the challenge of facing the Super Bowl Champions on their home field in front of a nationally televised audience.
It's going to be fun, said defensive lineman Corey Williams. It's going to be like a mini-Super Bowl, I think, atmosphere-wise.
ODDS: Green Bay is favored by seven points.
OVER/UNDER: 56 points.
PREDICTION: This will be a tight game. Though Green Bay's offense has been excellent all season, they should be in for perhaps the toughest test against Detroit. Buoyed by a boisterous crowd, the Lions will play inspired football against the Super Bowl champions. Expect the Lions' defensive line to slow the running game and pressure Rodgers into making passes he wouldn't normally make. Rodgers will need to find tight end Jermichael Finley who is due for a big game.
On the other side of the ball, the Packers' defense is due to step up after giving up 455 yards last week to the Buccaneers. But Stafford should still piece together a good game with many passing options. Yes, it will be a Thanksgiving upset.
PREDICTED SCORE: Detroit 33, Green Bay 30.