In any season where the Detroit Lions are on track to get to the playoffs, the week of Thanksgiving is huge.
The Thanksgiving Day game is usually against a division rival or just a quality, but beatable team. The Sunday game establishes the momentum and sets the tone for the short week of practices. For special game weeks like Thanksgiving week, it’s up to the leaders on the team to keep the Lions focused.
After the Lions failed to beat the struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers, quarterback Matthew Stafford needs to shine on and off the field this week for the Lions to take a step to securing a playoff spot in 2013.
The Buccaneers’ offense, certainly shaky and unpredictable, racked up points on a Detroit defense that has not lived up to its potential this season. Buccaneers QB Mike Glennon showed enough ability to be productive against the Lions’ mediocre secondary, and offensive mistakes killed the Lions at the worst possible times.
Also, let’s be honest, the Lions experienced some crazy bad luck. Perhaps Lions fans should just assume that’s all part of the “The Schwartz”, the looming dark cloud of mistake-riddled and undisciplined play that follows coach Jim Schwartz.
With a short week, this could be the most dangerous loss of the season for the Lions. Stafford needs to get the troops in line, run an efficient and error-free offense, and play within himself against the Packers. There’s no need to stray too far from the handbook against the Packers to be successful: lots of Calvin Johnson, lots of Reggie Bush, some Joique Bell sprinkled in, and enough passes spread out to other receivers.
If Stafford can manage to get over 200 yards receiving out of the rest of the crew, than Johnson can do his thing, as long they don’t forget about him in the second half. Stafford needs to take control and get Johnson touches on short yardage as well as long yardage plays to keep him contributing.
Whether the Packers have Aaron Rodgers or not, the Lions still need to consider the Packers a heavy hitter, especially on the big stage that is Thanksgiving Day football. They should stick to the formula, get lots of players involved in practice so that it translates to the game and play smart, simple football.
Taking two losses in one week certainly doesn’t help the standings, and it’s even worse for confidence. For Stafford and the Lions, this Thanksgiving week could make or break their entire season.