Last Sunday, New England defeated another top AFC team in the Indianapolis Colts, but it was not that easy. For the second straight year, the Patriots faced the possibility of blowing a 31-14 lead in the 4th quarter to Peyton Manning, but the "bend but don’t break" defense once again came up with the huge interception to keep pace with the New York Jets in the AFC East.
This week, the Patriots face the same test that they did a few weeks ago, which is the dreaded "trap game". They take on the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving for the first time since 2002 before playing the Jets for the AFC East title on December 6th. Last time, the Pats face a potential trap game, they had one of their worst games of the season against the Cleveland Browns. Keep in mind, the Lions will not be an easy game to overlook, because if it wasn’t for Quarterback Matthew Stafford’s shoulder injury or kicker Jason Hanson’s injury, the Lions would have hung on to a ten point lead against the Jets in the 4th quarter back in Week 9. The Lions have lost a record 26 straight road games, but they get to play in Ford Field for this matchup and they have some pounced on some unsuspecting good teams at home in the past.
Here are my special Thanksgiving Keys to this game:
1. STUFF The Run: In honor of the stuffing on Thanksgiving, the Patriots will need to shut down the dynamic run ability of rookie running back, Jahvid Best. Best has hit the rookie wall over the past few months, running for just 382 yards and four touchdowns. This has been a big reason behind Detroit having the league's 31st ranked rushing offense. If the Lions are allowed to control the clock and keep Tom Brady on the sidelines, this will open up the opportunity for quarterback, Shaun Hill, to manage the game.
As for the Patriots, their run game has really taken off the last two weeks. Last week against the Colts, BenJarvus Green Ellis and Danny Woodhead had over 160 yards rushing combined. If the Lions can take away the running game, it can limit the play action ability of Tom Brady. This would help the Lions’ strength on defense, which is getting after the quarterback with their solid defensive line.
2. MASH The Quarterback: In honor of mashed potatoes, the New England Patriots need to pour some gravy on Lions’ QB Shaun Hill. In seven starts, Hill has thrown for nearly 2,000 yards with twelve touchdowns and nine interceptions. However, he has been sacked twelve times. New England has done a good job in pressuring Ben Roethlisberger and Peyton Manning, two of the elite quarterbacks in the game the past two weeks. They need to continue this trend to keep the Lions' offense on their toes.
If you are a Patriots fan, I believe you have to thank the Jets for knocking out Matthew Stafford. Compared to Shaun Hill, Stafford would be a much more dangerous threat because of the connection he has with “Megatron” Calvin Johnson. If Devin McCourty can cover Johnson and force Hill to go to secondary weapons like a Nate Burleson or a Brandon Pettigrew, this works heavily in the Patriots’ favor.
3. Protect the TURKEY: The Turkey is the main part of the Thanksgiving meal. The turkey on the Patriots’ roster has to be Tom Brady. Brady is the NFL MVP as of right now, in my opinion. New England has done a great job of protecting the quarterback the past two weeks. The offensive line is thriving with Logan Mankins back in the lineup. The unit has only allowed Brady to be sacked once in the last two weeks (Dwight Freeney in the 3rd Quarter last week).
This week, the Pats get a tougher test in the Detroit Lions’ pass rush of Kyle Vanden Bosch and Ndamukong Suh, who are seventh in the NFL in sacking the quarterback. If the Lions are going to have any chance to win this game, they need to pressure Brady and make him get rid of the ball quickly.
Detroit is sixteenth in the NFL in interceptions, but second year cornerback Alphonso Smith has five interceptions this year. I also like Detroit's second year free safety, Louis Delmas, who leads the team with 60 sacks and has forced two fumbles. Both could be big factors in turning the tide in Detroit's favor if they are able to force some turnovers from the Patriots.
Prediction: So, is the feast going to be a happy one for Patriots’ fans? Yes, I believe so because of their balance offensively. Detroit has one of the worst run defenses in the league, as pointed out by Foxboroblog.com’s Jason Thompson in his fantasy column. If Green-Ellis and Woodhead continue to dominate, Brady should continue to thrive with the play-action pass.
The Patriots' players learned something from the Cleveland Browns’ debacle. They now know to look at the team solely on the uniform and not by the record. This is especially important right before the Game of the Year, December 6th against the Jets. I predict that Detroit keeps it close with Calvin Johnson, but New England pulls away in the 4th Quarter.
Patriots 27 Lions 17
As I end this preview, I want to wish all my readers a Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families from everyone at Foxboroblog.com. I, for one, am thankful that I have the privilege to share my football knowledge, especially about the New England Patriots with all my readers. Enjoy your holiday and the football! Just be thankful, win or lose, that you have a winning team to root for because not a lot of fans can say that.