Hot Read: A Time To Give Thanks

Family, football and enough food to officially be labeled a feast. That's what I call a Thanksgiving tradition. Sandwich it all between a bit of the Macy's parade (I'm a big fan of the Spiderman and Underdog floats) and a nightcap of ‘It's A Wonderful Life,' and I'm set. What makes this year even more special for Packer fans is the chance to watch their team play on Turkey Day for just the third time in the last decade.

While some of you might remember when the team played every Thanksgiving from 1951 to 1963, more will recall their sporadic appearances against the Cowboys in 1970 the Lions in 1984 and 1986, and that truly horrible 42-31 loss to third-stringer Jason Garrett and the Dallas Cowboys in 1994 (an especially memorable game for me as my dad got so disgusted he threw his hat as he stormed out of the living room, accidentally hitting my Aunt Margie in the head. But come to think of it, she was rooting for the Cowboys...).

Just two years ago, the Packers weathered a late Lions rally and hung on for a 29-27 win as they finished the season 12-4. The latter is out of reach this year, but there's no denying that a victory over Detroit this time around is crucial to the Packers postseason drive. But for a Thanksgiving Day game, it's important to exercise one more tradition; namely, giving thanks (though a big slice of pecan pie, slightly heated with a spoonful of Cool-Whip on top is also highly recommended).

What do the 6-5 Packers have to be thankful for? Here are a few thoughts for you to digest with your Tryptophan.

  • It's a given that the Packers should've beat the Cardinals, Chiefs and Eagles -- or at the very least one of the three -- but be thankful that your favorite team doesn't have a jaguar, a lightning bolt or a falcon on the side of their helmets. With two victories a piece, Jacksonville, San Diego and Atlanta might as well pull those two wins apart like a wishbone and hope they land a stud in next April's NFL Draft. They'd love to be a game over .500 heading into a Thanksgiving Day showdown with a three-win team.

  • Two words: Grady Jackson. The name might sound like it's from ‘Sanford and Son,' but in this case, one teams' trash is definitely another teams' treasure. After the Saints tossed the 370 pound defensive tackle to the curb (the Packers list him at 350, but that's a pre-Thanksgiving weigh-in) Green Bay pounced on him. ‘Little' 330-pound Gilbert Brown remains the starter at nosetackle, but it's Grady who's been getting the bulk (no pun intended) of the snaps. Green Bay had 14 sacks before signing Grady and has notched seven in the three games since. While he's only been credited with a half sack, Grady's pressure up the middle has benefited the entire defense.

  • I'm not exactly sure what the "U" in the Packers "U Bacon" formation stands for, but it might as well be "U gonna get your butt kicked." When backup tackle Kevin Barry lines up as a third tight end next to right tackle Mark Tauscher, the Packers have been nearly unstoppable running the ball and the bacon-loving Barry's been piling up the pancake blocks. Over the past two games, they've used this personnel package on roughly a third of their offensive plays and averaged 5.0 and 5.1 yards per carry despite the defense basically knowing what's coming at them. The Packers have used this formation sparingly in the past with players like Barry Stokes or Frank Winters in goal line or short-yardage situations, but they've never used it to this extent or had the kind of success they‘re currently enjoying with the 330-pound Barry.

  • It's been almost six weeks since Brett Favre threw for more than 200 yards in a game. That's also the last time his right thumb was pain free. So one of the greatest slingers in NFL history and the classiest of team players cheerily became a highly paid handoff specialist for Ahman Green, perhaps the best running back in the game right now. The results have been staggering. Where once there were conversations about whether or not Favre might throw 40 touchdowns now there are conversations abounding on Green's chances of getting 2,000 yards rushing. Behind a meat-grinder offensive line that's also provided Favre with superb protection, the Packers worked themselves back into the playoff hunt.

Last but not least, be thankful if by the time you're reading this, your pants are unbuttoned, your belly is full and the Packers are 7-5 after gorging themselves on some tasty Thanksgiving lion.

W. Keith Roerdink is a freelance writer from Wausau, Wis. and a longtime contributor to the Packer Report. Check out his weekly Hot Read column every Thursday.

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