What to Look For…

Thursday’s matchup between the Patriots and the Lions looks to be a tale of two teams headed in different directions.  The Lions, with a record of 2-8, are in last place in the NFC North and it seems that any hope of them making the playoffs has now dispersed.  The Patriots, with a record of 8-2, are tied for first place in their division as well as the best record in the NFL.  Super Bowl aspirations are becoming more prevalent for this team, even with how youthful this team is.  But, as we have seen time in and time out this year, games that look like sure wins on paper often prove to be better matchups than anticipated.  On Thanksgiving day, when you plop down in front of the television at 12:30pm, here is what you should look for…

-The biggest “x-factor” in this game is Calvin Johnson.  When you look in the dictionary under the word “man,” Calvin Johnson’s picture should be there.  At 6’5”, 236 pounds Johnson is bigger than any defensive back that the Patriots have by far, and he is equally as fast.  It has to scare Belichick when the Lions essentially have a tight end lined up on the outside that can outrun any defensive back that he has.  The Pats’ pass defense hasn’t been great this season, but they have done enough to win.  I would love to see McCourty matchup against Johnson for the duration of the game, but so far this season Kyle Arrington has drawn the short straw and had to matchup against the opposition’s number one wideout.  What to look for: How the Pats’ corners matchup against Calvin Johnson.

-The Detroit Lions have one of the worst run defense in the entire NFL, giving up an average of over 130 yards per game.  Fred Taylor is active for Thursday’s game, so we will finally get to see the Patriots backfield at full health (minus Faulk).  BJGE has filled in for Fred Taylor better than any of us could have expected, but the amount of carries he gets have been anything but consistent.  I am very interested to see how the workload is dispersed between Taylor, Green-Ellis, and Woodhead, but I’m assuming that BJGE’s production will take the biggest hit.  What to look for: How efficient the Patriots run game is against one of the league’s worst run defenses, especially with all of their running backs back to full health.

-Tom Brady is listed as questionable for Thursday’s matchup with a bad foot and shoulder.  Brady is continuously listed on the injury report with shoulder issues, but this is the second week in a row he has listed as questionable with a foot injury.  After such a short turnaround, it will be interesting to see how truly healthy Tom Brady is.  I’m not suggesting that there is any possibility that he won’t play, but watching him plant his foot and drive into throws may give us an indication of how healthy he is.  What to look for: How Tom Brady plays after a short week and an injured foot.

-With such a bad record and few things left to play for, Thanksgiving is like the Lions’ Super Bowl.  Very few times, if any, each season the Lions play for a national audience, so it has to be expected that they will come out with guns blazing on Thursday.  For some of the younger players (i.e. Ndamukong Suh, Jahvid Best, etc.) this game is the first time that they have played in the NFL for a national audience, and others (i.e. Calvin Johnson) would love to prove to the country how truly great they are.  If the Patriots come out flat, the Lions could very well throw up 14 quick points and have the Pats in a huge hole that will be touch to get out of.  What to look for: How the Patriots deal with the extreme emotion that the Lions will bring to the table.

-THIS WEEK’S PREDICTION: Patriots 34 – Lions 24

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