Thanksgiving NFL slate appealing
After so many years of bad Detroit Lions teams ó and their games, no matter the week, meaning so little ó all of a sudden that traditional Turkey Day contest in the Motor City is no turkey at all.
Detroit, which is 7-3, hosts the reigning Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, who are 10-0, to open a tremendously compelling three-game NFL feast Thursday.
The always-polarizing Dallas Cowboys (6-4) host the Miami Dolphins (3-7) next in a matchup between two teams on three-game winning streaks, and the San Francisco 49ers (9-1) are at the Baltimore Ravens (7-3) at night in the Harbaugh Bowl, the first time two brothers will face each other as head coaches in the league.
A case can be made that these are the three most intriguing NFL games of the week. It certainly qualifies as the most enticing Thanksgiving Day lineup in decades.
ěThatís good. Good for the NFL, good for the fans, good for the people,î Minnesota Vikings linebacker Erin Henderson said. ěSomething entertaining to watch while we all stuff our faces with that good food.î
Not convinced this is a special tripleheader?
óThe six teams are 42-18, which translates to a .700 winning percentage. The last time the holidayís NFL participants boasted that strong a combined win-loss record was 1975 (also .700).
óItís the first Thanksgiving since 1998 ó when there were only two games ó that each club in action won its previous game.
óThe Packers are the first unbeaten team to play on the fourth Thursday in November since the 1962 Packers also were 10-0, before losing to Detroit. Including the playoffs, Green Bay has won its last 16 games in a row.
óSan Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh will match wits with his older brother, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh, in a game for family bragging rights ó and with significant playoff-seeding implications.
óEven the game that was shaping up as a dud, Miami at Dallas, now becomes worth watching, because the Dolphins are the only team in NFL history to go from 0-7 to 3-7 and present a real challenge to the recently resurgent Cowboys and quarterback Tony Romo (who, by the way, is 18-2 with 49 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions for his career in November).
óThe lineup includes four teams with at least a share of first place (Green Bay, San Francisco, Baltimore and Dallas), two who can clinch a playoff berth this week (Packers, 49ers), and one with the inside track for a wild-card berth (Detroit).
Give the Lions credit for helping boost the anticipation for this yearís Thanksgiving games, because they sure deserve a lot of the blame for the holidayís NFL blandness of late.
ěHeck, there even was talk about moving that game out of Detroit ó I thought it was sacrilegious talk ó because Detroit hadnít been very competitive on those days on national TV. So the thinking was, ëHey, letís spread it around to other cities,íî said NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci, who coached the Lions from 2003-05.
ěAnd I think that talk went away, thankfully, because it needs to be in Detroit forever,î he added. ěAnd theyíre really competitive right now.î
Only two other times in the past 50 years ó yes, 50 years! ó did the Lions arrive at Thanksgiving at 7-3, in 1993 and 1969, according to STATS LLC. You have to go all the way back to 1962 to find them with a better record (8-2) at this point in the season.
Each of the past two years, they were 2-8. That was an improvement from 2008, when the Lions were 0-11, on their way to 0-16.
And while Detroit has lost a franchise-record seven consecutive games ó by an average of more than 20 points ó in its annual showcase, there is reason to believe they can make things interesting this time around.
ěFrom what itís been in the past to now, itís different. For us to be doing as good as weíre doing right now, itís real exciting. Then weíve got Green Bay coming in ó the big, 10-0 Green Bay,î said Detroit defensive lineman Corey Williams, who used to play for the Packers.
ěItís going to be fun. Itís going to be like a mini-Super Bowl, I think, atmosphere-wise,î Williams said.
Plus, this particular trio of games gives fans a chance to see some of the sportís most dynamic players: Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, putting together one of the greatest seasons ever by a QB; Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh; San Franciscoís canít-be-run-on defense, led by Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith.
For other NFL teams, thereís work to be done Thursday, practicing and preparing for their next games. Then theyíll go home and turn on the television.
ěI might get a little peek at John and Jim going at it. I think thatíll be entertaining,î St. Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said. ěWeíll certainly get the players out of here early, and the coaches as soon as we can after that, and Iíll follow.î
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