Last updated: November 26. 2013 4:23PM - 498 Views
Mark Bell Spectator’s Eye

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It’s sure to be a lucky Week 13 in the NFL now that the bye weeks are over. A complete slate of games is on tap, starting with what’s now become a traditional Thursday triple-header on Thanksgiving Day.

Packers at Lions - Detroit is mightily trying the patience of its long-suffering fan base these last two weeks, losing consecutive games to losing teams when they had a golden opportunity to put the division crown in their pocket. This past weekend, for instance: Minnesota and Green Bay tied, Chicago lost and the Lions topped the Sunday Festival of Failure by losing to Tampa Bay at Ford Field.

Doesn’t anybody know how to win in this division now?

Detroit and Chicago are tied in the standings at 6-5 each, and at this point the Lions still have the key tiebreaker should it come to that. What they don’t have, though, is a victory over a 5-5-1 Green Bay team. Losing a second game to their divisional rival will put them in harm’s way where any playoff slot is concerned.

Looming on the near horizon is the return of Aaron Rodgers to Green Bay’s lineup and, if they don’t win now, Detroit’s opportunity for a playoff spot will be just another of those many balls they’ve been dropping all season.

In fact, an organizational fumble could very well happen this week as the Packers will probably start the previously exiled Matt Flynn, who had a pretty good game the last time he faced the Lions, did well in his return to action late in the game last Sunday, and will be highly motivated to do the same now that his adventure tour on the free agent market crashed and burned.

If the Lions’ front seven doesn’t get to him, Flynn will torch their porous secondary, plus he enjoy the opportunity of a decent running game behind Eddie Lacy. Detroit’s running game, meanwhile, continues to languish behind high and unrealized expectations for Reggie Bush, who is still much more productive per play as a receiver.

At least it’s good to have a Thanksgiving Day game in the Motor City with something of consequence at stake because the Lions have a football tradition on this special day that needs to mean something. However, neither team on the field this week is inspiring any confidence at the moment, and the calendar is counting down so they better get to it now.

In regards to the tradition, of the 71 of these that Detroit has played over the years, 35 have been against either the Packers or the Bears, and while the Lions have an 18-16 record against those teams on Thanksgiving, their overall record on the holiday is 33-36-2. Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, they are 20-23. In the decade they have now been playing at Ford Field, their record is 1-8.

I suppose that’s a tradition of a sort; but then again, so was The Dain Curse.

It’s no wonder they play the noontime game in Detroit. After all us viewers put lunch away, we can sleep through the Lions game because we pretty much know how things are going to turn out and not bother blaming the turkey because it sure wasn’t the bird’s fault.

Raiders at Cowboys - The mid-afternoon game is playing its usual odd-man-out role as an inter-conference contest of middling interest dialed up to satisfy CBS’ contract requirement for the day.

Dallas is a much more talented team and generally wins at home whether they play well or not. Meanwhile Oakland is on a downward slide again and their only win on the road this season was a struggle against an increasingly defeated, despondent and decrepit Houston team.

That nap of ours can go into overtime this year.

Steelers at Ravens - Here’s the one we want to be sure and stay awake for because these physical sorts of matchups always deliver quite a punch on the big screen. Get your woofers out!

Pittsburgh will prove it’s for real this season if it can pull off the upset and win a tough one on the road, and they will have more than a few defensive tricks up their sleeves as they go for the all-important turnover opportunity with every shot they take.

Baltimore is a different team in their home stadium - much more confident and fearless; and when they take chances there, they tend to work out.

On defense, Baltimore doesn’t give up touchdowns or even many big plays. The Steelers rely on big plays now from Ben Roethlisberger due to the total absence of a reliable running game. The Ravens are no great shakes running it either, but at least they try and keep the defense honest.

On offense, the Steelers are all about Big Ben and what you really don’t want to do against the Ravens defense is give them fewer targets. Confident in their ability to shut out Pittsburgh on the ground, Baltimore will be teeing off on the big quarterback.

This is likely to be the closest game of the day, and watch for crucial special teams plays, but it’s just impossible to take Pittsburgh in a situation like this until they develop a few more offensive options.

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