Green Bay Packers (10-0) at Detroit Lions (7-3)
Kickoff: Thursday, 11:30 a.m.
TV: FOX, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver
Keys to the game: Lions RB Kevin Smith gained 201 total yards last week, giving Detroit a threat it hasn't had with Jahvid Best (concussion) missing the past four games. QB Matt Stafford needs the crutch facing a blitz-reliant defense. The Lions can sting Green Bay, using TEs Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler as primary reads to limit Stafford's risks - he doesn't shy away from forcing the ball into tight coverage. That's a tendency the opportunistic Packers readily attack, and the Lions can't set Green Bay up with the gift of a short field. QB Aaron Rodgers' uncanny precision gets a test from the Lions' penetrating defensive line, but he's been on target facing heavy pressure in recent games and should be able to pick his spots using three-receiver sets. RB James Starks (knee, ankle) is likely a game-time decision, and Ryan Grant hasn't been a threat.
Fast facts: This is the third Thanksgiving meeting in five years and 20th all-time on the holiday. ... The Lions are the first team in NFL history to win three games in a season in which they trailed by at least 17 points.
Series history: 162nd regular-season meeting. Packers lead series, 89-65-7. This is the 20th time these two teams will meet on Thanksgiving Day. The Lions-Packers game was the Turkey Day special for 13 straight years between 1951 and 1963. The Lions are 11-7-1 in the series. The Lions ended a 10-game losing streak to the Packers last December with a 7-3 win at Ford Field. The Packers have lost only one game since. This will not be the first time the Lions faced a 10-0 Packers team on Thanksgiving. Back in 1962, the Pack came to Tiger Stadium with a 10-0 record, and the Lions won, 26-14.
By the numbers: 17 -- The Lions are the only team in NFL history to win three games in a season after falling behind by as many as 17 points. … 23.3 -- The average margin of defeat in the Lions' last six Thanksgiving Day games. … 3 -- Consecutive games in which cornerback Tramon Williams has an interception. The team record is five straight games by Irv Comp in 1943. Safety Nick Collins is the last player to have a pick four games in a row, having done so in 2009.
Team statistical rankings: Packers offense – First in scoring with 35.5 ppg (fourth in total yards, 21st rushing, third passing). Lions defense – 20th in scoring with 21.9 ppg (ninth in total yards, 28th rushing, fifth passing). Packers defense – 15th in scoring with 21.2 ppg (30th in total yards, 12th rushing, 31st passing). Lions offense – Third in scoring with 30.1 ppg (11th in total yards, 22nd rushing, eighth passing).
Game plan: The long-awaited first meeting of the season between the ascending NFC North rivals has the potential to be a shootout, if not a Thanksgiving classic. The unbeaten Packers are averaging a league-high 35.5 points per game. The Lions, who are three games off Green Bay's torrid pace, rank third with an average of 30.1 points. What's more, both teams are allowing more than 21 points each time out.
Detroit rates the edge in defense and has the resources to be the first team all season to knock Aaron Rodgers off his incomparable game. As much as the Lions are vulnerable against the run, the Packers may have to continue with a liberal use of the passing game because leading rusher James Starks is probably no better than questionable to play because of knee and ankle injuries sustained Sunday. Green Bay's offensive line has been hit-and-miss in pass protection of late, and the unit was awful at Ford Field last year, when Rodgers was knocked out of the game with a concussion in an eventual Lions victory. Even if Rodgers is given some time to set up and throw against Detroit's formidable front four, he will have to be right with where and how he delivers the football because the Lions have an improved and active secondary, led by cornerbacks Chris Houston (four interceptions) and Eric Wright and safety Louis Delmas.
The Packers' 31st-ranked pass defense, coming off another mostly putrid performance in Sunday's win over Tampa Bay, will need to be as opportunistic as ever to limit the havoc Matthew Stafford could wreak through the air. Stafford will be only four days removed from slinging five touchdowns in the Lions' 49-point explosion against Carolina, and further productivity from resurrected running back Kevin Smith (201 combined yards, three touchdowns) in that game gives the Packers something else for which to plan, as if dealing with receiver Calvin Johnson weren't enough of a concern.