By Andrew Kahn
The Detroit Lions played on Thanksgiving before 24 of the current NFL franchises even existed. The Lions’ first owner scheduled the inaugural game in 1934 to try and generate interest in the team. It worked, and has become an annual tradition. Lions fans may feel like losing has become a Thanksgiving tradition as well, though they can take “comfort” in the fact that Detroit’s .434 winning percentage on Turkey Day is not much worse than its .456 all-time mark. The Lions (7-4) destroyed Green Bay in last year’s game for its first Thanksgiving victory in 10 years, and are just one game behind the Packers for first in the NFC North. Chicago is a disappointing 5-6. Watch the action on CBS at 12:30 ET.
When Chicago has the ball:
Chicago’s offensive statistics are down from last year; they rank in the middle of the pack in most major categories. Matt Forte, however, has been his usual dynamic self, and continues to be a threat no matter how Chicago gets him the ball. Can they get him going early? The Bears have not scored in the first quarter in six straight games. They are also near the bottom of the league in turnovers (21), a problem in last year’s two losses to Detroit. Jay Cutler needs protection—and needs to protect the ball—on Thursday.
The Lions, meanwhile, are tops in the league in yards per rush attempt allowed and third in overall yardage. It figures that Cutler will throw often, and Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Martellus Bennett are still dangerous receiving threats, regardless of their inconsistent production this season. The offense that looks like its old self first will be in a good position to get the win.
When Detroit has the ball:
Like Chicago, the Lions have taken a step back offensively from last year and have managed a combined total of 15 points the last two weeks, with no touchdowns. An offense with Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush has sputtered, partly because some of the stars have had nagging injuries. Golden Tate has stepped up, but you figure the sidearm-slinging Stafford and Megatron will have to get back in sync if Detroit is going to make a playoff push. The run game has been poor as well, and the offensive line is banged up. Thankfully for the Lions, center Dominic Raiola will play despite an investigation into a cut block he delivered on Sunday.
The Bears looked solid on defense the last two weeks, but most teams do against Minnesota and Tampa Bay. Against better competition, Chicago has been exposed. Remember, in the two previous games, Chicago allowed a total of 106 points. On the season, only three teams have allowed more passing yards per attempt than the Bears. Adding to their issues, linebacker Lance Briggs and cornerback Kyle Fuller are game-time decisions. Detroit hasn’t had a true offensive explosion—more than 24 points—since Week 1. Perhaps that changes on Thanksgiving.
Prediction: Detroit 28, Chicago 24
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