NFL Thanksgiving News & Notes

For any self-respecting football fan, gorging oneself on NFL games on Thanksgiving Day is just as enjoyable as the activity going on at the dinner table. The Sports Xchange and Seahawks.NET preview all three games - Green Bay at Detroit, the New York Jets at Dallas, and Indianapolis at Atlanta. Bon Appetit!

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Green Bay Packers (9-1) at Detroit Lions (6-4)
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GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Thursday, 12:30 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/22/07
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: FOX, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver
SERIES: 156th meeting. Packers lead series, 84-64-7. Green Bay has won three straight and 11 of the last 13 encounters between the division rivals. The Packers are 6-9 on the road against the Lions with Brett Favre at quarterback since 1992 but 3-2 at Ford Field. Green Bay won both postseason meetings, in the NFC wild-card round in the 1993 and '94 seasons.

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Lions are giving up 256.9 yards per game through the air -- a scary prospect going up against the league's second-ranked passing team. Detroit has overcome that so far by creating a league-high 30 takeaways. However, if the Lions can't force QB Brett Favre into mistakes, the secondary better tackle well because the Packers lead the league with 1,488 yards after the catch. ... The Lions ran the ball on their first four offensive plays last Sunday, but then abandoned the ground game when it stalled. Seven total rushing yards is a big reason Detroit is riding a two-game losing streak. RT Jonathan Scott is expected to return, but the Lions are still very wary of Green Bay's pass rush. Expect QB Jon Kitna to look to the inside routes with WRs Mike Furrey and Shaun McDonald working against the Packers' nickel and dime packages.

KEY INJURIES: Packers: RB Ryan Grant (ankle sprain) expects to play; DT Johnny Jolly (shoulder) is out at least two weeks; FS Nick Collins (knee sprain) and TE Bubba Frank (knee sprain) are likely to miss another game. Lions: DE Dewayne White (triceps) will try to practice this week in hopes of returning after missing two games.

FAST FACTS: Favre's 7,774 passing yards against Detroit is his most against any opponent. ... This will be the Lions' 68th game played on Thanksgiving Day.

PERSONNEL NEWS:

Packers:

--RB Ryan Grant participated only in the jog-through at the start of practice Tuesday. The team, though, is optimistic that its featured back will play Thursday at Detroit after he suffered a sprained ankle late in the game Sunday.
--FS Nick Collins has been ruled out for the game Thursday. Collins, who suffered a sprained knee Nov. 4 at Kansas City, was hoping to play this week. Rookie Aaron Rouse instead will make his third straight start.
--TE Bubba Franks won't play for the fifth consecutive game. He has been out with a sprained knee and is gradually getting back into practice since last week.
--CB Will Blackmon will remain sidelined because of a broken foot he sustained in practice in early October. He has missed the last six games.
--LB Tracy White was held out of most of practice Tuesday as he tries to get over a nagging ankle injury that kept him out of the last game. White is tied for second on the team with 11 special-teams tackles.

Lions:

--WR Roy Williams said the lack of practice this week wouldn't hurt the offense's effort to start clicking. "The things that we do are mental," Williams said. "It's not the physical; it's the mental. It's the wrong routes or the wrong blocking assignment or stepping the wrong way as a running back."
--RT Jonathan Scott, who has missed two games with a broken thumb, will return and replace the struggling George Foster as the starter. He will wear a protective cast.
--DE Dewayne White, who has missed two games with a triceps injury, practiced fully Tuesday. It appears he will start against the Packers wearing a protective brace.
--RB Kevin Jones, who has been managing a sore foot all season, appears ready to play against the Packers despite the shorter recovery time this week.
--LB Teddy Lehman did not practice Tuesday because of a foot injury. But it is not related to the Lisfranc injury he struggled with earlier in his career, and coach Rod Marinelli said he might be ready for Thursday's game.
--DE Ikaika Alama-Francis has not been practicing because of a hamstring injury. Alama-Francis was not expected to be active, anyway. The rookie has been inactive for eight of the Lions' 10 games this season.

INSIDE THE CAMPS:

Packers:

The loss of defensive tackle Johnny Jolly for at least the next two games because of a strained shoulder means Corey Williams and possibly starting end Cullen Jenkins will have to shoulder more of the load on the inside. The Packers have the luxury of depth on the line, but not having Jolly in a primary role could impinge on what has been an effective rotation thus far. Jolly has been an early-down menace, alongside Ryan Pickett, producing 31 tackles and knocking down five passes.

Williams (six sacks) and Jenkins have been wreaking havoc as the replacement tackle tandem in passing situations. Williams now will be back in a starting role and taking on more work in the base defense.
The coaches will have to draw the line on how much to use Williams in early-down situations because of how vital he is to the pass defense. What's left in reserve, though, are Colin Cole and Justin Harrell, this year's first-round draft pick. Cole has been active for only two of the last six games, while Harrell is looking to be activated for the first time in the last five games after recovering from a sprained ankle.

Lions:

Jonathan Scott will replace the struggling George Foster at right tackle. Scott has replaced Foster three times this season already -- twice within games, once as the starter -- but he has missed two games because of a broken thumb and will have barely practiced this week because of the shortened schedule. He has to face Packers left end Aaron Kampman, whose nine sacks are tied for third in the NFL.
"Minor soreness," Scott said, rapping on the hard cast covering his left thumb and wrist, "but it's protected by this cast." Scott said his thumb hadn't completely healed but had reached the point where it could take contact. "It kind of gives me an advantage because it's kind of hard," Scott said, smiling and holding up his cast. "If somebody gets hit with it, I feel sorry for them."

Stephen Peterman and Damien Woody are expected to continue rotating at right guard.

The Lions put safety Idrees Bashir on injured reserve and signed safety Greg Blue. Bashir was a contributor on special teams and rotated in on defense. Blue probably won't be ready to contribute in this game.

--After rushing eight times for minus-18 yards at Arizona, the Lions rushed 11 times for 25 yards Sunday against the Giants. "It's hard to stay with sometimes," coach Rod Marinelli said. "You want to run it more, but I think we averaged like 2.8 yards per carry. That's what I look at, not attempts." The Lions actually averaged 2.3 yards per carry against the Giants. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz ran the ball eight times in the first half, but only three times in the second half -- and not at all in the fourth quarter -- as the Lions played catch-up. "We did come out running it," Marinelli said. "That's what we tried to do. But after a while, you've got to move the ball, too. That's all part of it. You've got to try to move the ball, score and win. That's what you're trying to do to win the game, whatever it takes, and that's what we tried to do."

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New York Jets (2-8) at Dallas Cowboys (9-1)
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GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Thursday, 4:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/22/07
SURFACE: Sportfield Realgrass
TV: CBS, Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
SERIES: Ninth meeting. Cowboys lead series, 6-2. The last meeting occurred in 2003, when the Chad Pennington-less Jets lost, 17-6, at the Meadowlands. That game left the Jets in an 0-4 hole which they were unable to climb out of in an eventual 6-10 season. At the time, Pennington was out with a fractured wrist suffered in that preseason. In the last meeting between the teams at Texas Stadium, John Hall's 37-yard field goal with 1:35 left gave the Jets a 22-21 victory on Dec. 19, 1999. Ray Lucas threw two touchdown passes for the Jets.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Jets RB Thomas Jones is coming off his third 100-yard game of the season, and must have another big game on the ground with first-year starting QB Kellen Clemens still erratic downfield. Clemens also could be without injured WR Laveranues Coles, who has half of the team's 12 touchdown catches this season. Jones has to be able keep the chains moving and help keep the Cowboys' offense on the sideline as long as possible. ... While QB Tony Romo continues to pile up impressive numbers, the Cowboys have a chance to get their running game back on track after gaining just 72 yards against Washington. The Jets are allowing 148.2 yards per game on the ground, although the defense played with renewed energy against Pittsburgh with DE Shaun Ellis having an impact in several snaps lining up at outside linebacker. LB David Bowens could be used in a spying role containing Romo outside the pocket similar to what he did against Ben Roethlisberger.

KEY INJURIES: Jets: Coles (high ankle sprain) is uncertain, but expected to miss at least one game. Cowboys: CB Anthony Henry (ankle sprain) continues to play limited snaps as the nickel back.

FAST FACTS: Thomas Jones and Cowboys RB Julius Jones will play against each other for just the second time in their NFL careers. ... The Cowboys are trying to reach 10-1 for the first time in franchise history.

PERSONNEL NEWS:

Jets:

The loss of linebacker Jonathan Vilma to a season-ending knee injury has forced the Jets to start rookie David Harris, a second-round pick. He has 45 tackles in his first three starts. Abram Elam now has started four straight games at free safety. The Jets like his aggressiveness, but he has a tendency to go for the kill shot rather than the ball while in coverage. He also has a habit of whiffing on tackles in the open field. Against Pittsburgh, he missed QB Ben Roethlisberger after coming clean on a blitz.

Second-year QB Kellen Clemens will start his fourth game, and third straight. He has provided more of a vertical dimension to the passing attack than former starter Chad Pennington, and the Jets took several shots downfield against the Steelers, more than they would have with Pennington at the controls.

--WR Laveranues Coles (ankle) was quite limited in practice Tuesday. With a full week to heal, he probably could play, but he seems doubtful for Thursday's game, especially with so little time to prepare.
--LB David Bowens, a situational pass-rusher, has seen his playing time increase in recent games.
--FS Eris Smith (concussion) was limited in practice Tuesday.
--TE Chris Baker (back) practiced full Tuesday and will play. Baker had four receptions against Pittsburgh, tying a season high, despite having to stay in to block quite often.
--DE Eric Hicks was a healthy scratch against Pittsburgh. It marked the first time this season he has been inactive for a game.

Cowboys:

--WR Patrick Crayton missed practice on Wednesday after suffering a sprained ankle against the Redskins. He is questionable for the short turnaround for the Thursday game against the Jets. If he can't go Sam Hurd will start opposite Terrell Owens.
--WR Terry Glenn has yet to return to practice since having two arthroscopic surgeries on his right knee since Aug.1. He is still strengthening his hamstring is expected to begin running in a couple of weeks.
--WR Sam Hurd would start alongside receiver Terrell Owens if Patrick Crayton can't go because of a sprained ankle. Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said the team is confident in Hurd and believes he can do the job if called upon.
--DT Tank Johnson should see his reps slowly increase as he gets re-adjusted to playing football again. Thursday's game against the Jets is the third game that Johnson will play after being suspended for the first eight games of season for violating the league's personal conduct policy.
--QB Tony Romo is shining in third quarter this season. He has 12 touchdown passes and no interceptions during the third quarter in 10 games this season. His third-quarter quarterback rating is 140.6
--WR Terrell Owens was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week following his four touchdown performance against the Redskins. It's his first such honor since joining the Cowboys in 2006.

INSIDE THE CAMPS:

Jets:

The Jets are faced with the difficult task of stopping WR Terrell Owens, who is second in the league in both touchdown catches and receiving yards. New England's Randy Moss leads in both categories. "He definitely puts a lot of pressure on defenses," CB Hank Poteat said of T.O. "It's always big when you have an opportunity to play against a great receiver like Terrell Owens. (But) you should approach each week as if you want to raise your game to the next level because whenever you get the opportunity, you want to be able to make a play for your team."

Owens seemingly took a verbal shot on a conference call with Jets' media. When asked about rookie CB Darrelle Revis, Owens said, "I don't know who that is. Once I step on the field, it doesn't matter who's out there."

Owens added, "That's not a slight on him or whoever he is."

The Jets' media availability already was over for the day, so Revis wasn't available for comment.

Cowboys:

A year ago on Thanksgiving Day, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo had his national coming out party. He was a nice story up until that point. He had led the Cowboys to four victories since coming out of nowhere to replace Drew Bledsoe. But he blew up in a 38-10 Thanksgiving Day victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Romo completed 22 of 29 passes for 306 yards and a team record-tying five touchdowns.

The performance before a national television audience helped the Cowboys make the playoffs and helped Romo secure a Pro Bowl nomination.

No longer unknown, he enters this year's Thanksgiving Day game against the Jets as a national icon. He is the top rated passer in the NFC and has thrown for 27 touchdown passes and 2,848 yards. And since signing a six-year, $67 million contract during the bye week, Romo has thrown 11 touchdown passes. Romo is on pace to break all of the Cowboys' single season passing records and is being compared to the best quarterbacks in the game today, even though he has only 20 career starts.

"I don't look at individual records very often. It's an empty feeling," Romo said. "It's neat you're doing it for other people to talk about. If we win and win a Super Bowl and do some things individually it's exciting. If you do it without, it's an empty feeling."

Coach Wade Phillips didn't know much about Romo before joining the Cowboys this season. But he has been impressed with everything about Romo so far. Phillips worked with John Elway in Denver and said Romo has the tools to be one of the great ones.

Romo is two touchdown passes away from tying Danny White's team record of 29 set in 1983. Romo is on pace to throw 46 touchdown passes this season. That would be the third most in NFL history. "He's one of the top passers in the league. I think all the stats show that," Phillips said. "Now the game's a little bit different certainly, but when he's got 27 touchdown passes already that's right in there with the great ones that have been here. Now we throw the ball more than they did then, but I think he's one of the top quarterbacks in the league."

"He has that potential to be that. I wouldn't trade him for those guys," Cowboys tight end Jason Witten. "He still has a lot to prove. The way he makes those plays consistently, he's well on his way to being great."

Romo has a streak of 13 consecutive games with a touchdown pass -- the second-longest streak in club history behind Troy Aikman's 16 (1993-94).

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Indianapolis Colts (8-2) at Atlanta Falcons (3-7)
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GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Thursday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/22/07
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: NFL Network, Bryant Gumbel, Cris Collinsworth
SERIES: 14th meeting. Colts lead the series 12-1. This will mark the first time these teams have met since Indianapolis drilled the Falcons 38-7 on Dec. 14 in the RCA Dome. Interim coach Wade Phillips, now Dallas' head coach, was coaching Atlanta during the one-sided loss. Indy's Peyton Manning completed 25 of 30 passes for 290 yards. Edgerrin James rushed for 126 yards against Atlanta.

KEYS TO THE GAME: With the passing game in an uncharacteristic funk due to injuries, rare pass protection issues and too many drops, the Colts are leaning more on RB Joseph Addai. Indianapolis would be more than happy to play a clean game offensively, control the clock and get out of town with a chance to heal up with a 12-day break between games. ... Considering their pass-blocking issues, the Falcons certainly won't miss injured Colts DE Dwight Freeney. But whether it's Byron Leftwich or Joey Harrington under center, pressure up the middle has been the real problem for Atlanta. While RB Warrick Dunn has been productive in spurts this season, it might be time to get second-year big-play threat Jerious Norwood more than the four touches he had last Sunday.

KEY INJURIES: Colts: WR Marvin Harrison (knee) could be a game-time decision; WR Anthony Gonzalez (thumb) and LT Tony Ugoh (neck) have a chance to play. Falcons: WR Joe Horn (hamstring) is uncertain; DTs Trey Lewis (right knee) and Rod Coleman (right triceps and right hand) were placed on Injured Reserve this week.

FAST FACTS: Colts QB Peyton Manning reached 100 victories in his 154th game, making him the fifth fastest player to hit the milestone behind Joe Montana (139), Terry Bradshaw (147), Johnny Unitas (152) and Brett Favre (153). ... Dunn needs 26 yards rushing to reach 10,000 for his career.

PERSONNEL NEWS:

Colts:

--WR Anthony Gonzalez (thumb) returned to practice Tuesday. He has sat out the last two games with a dislocated left thumb. He may be able to play Thursday night at Atlanta.
--OT Ryan Diem (ankle) did not practice Tuesday. He may not be able to play Thursday night at Atlanta.
--OT Charlie Johnson (ankle) did not practice Tuesday. Johnson was held out as a team decision, but may be able to suit up Thursday night at Atlanta.
--WR Marvin Harrison (knee) saw limited practice time Tuesday. Harrison will probably be a game-time decision on whether he will be available for the Falcons' game Thursday night.
--CB Tim Jennings (upper leg) did not practice Tuesday. He may not be able to play against the Falcons Thursday night.
--OT Dan Federkeil (concussion) was held out of practice Tuesday. Federkeil's availability for the Atlanta game Thursday night probably won't be decided until game time.
--S Matt Giordano (hamstring) did not practice Tuesday. Giordano may not be able to play against the Falcons Thursday night.
--OG Ryan Lilja was held out of Tuesday's practice on a team decision. He is expected to start Thursday night at Atlanta.
--S Bob Sanders did not practice Tuesday on a team decision. Sanders should be able to start Thursday night at Atlanta.
--LB Tyjuan Hagler (neck) saw limited practice Tuesday. Hagler's availability for the Atlanta game probably won't be decided until game time.
--WR Aaron Moorehead was placed on the Colts' injured reserve list Tuesday. He is now done for the season. Moorehead suffered a back injury against Kansas City last week. He has also suffered from back spasms earlier in the season.
--DT Dan Klecko was re-signed to the active roster Tuesday. Klecko had been waived late last week as the Colts' attempted to bolster their depth in a couple key areas due to injuries.
--QB Peyton Manning has a 2-1 career won-loss record against Atlanta. Manning has completed 67-of-92 for 774 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. Two of those interceptions came in his first meeting with the Falcons in 1998.

Falcons:

--The Falcons were decimated by injuries to key players during Sunday's game with the Bucs. Starting defensive tackles Rod Coleman and Trey Lewis were placed on injured reserve Tuesday, ending their seasons. Coleman sustained a right triceps and right hand injury while Lewis will need surgery on his right knee. The loss of the duo softens the Falcons' interior defense and forces some emergency depth. Montavious Stanley and Jonathan Babineaux will start and Tim Anderson will back up both tackle spots.

--Atlanta signed NT Jesse Mahelona after placing Rod Coleman and Trey Lewis on injured reserve. Mahelona was a 2006, fifth-round draft pick of the Tennessee Titans and played in 10 games with one start. He was cut this training camp and had a brief stint with Miami before being released in October.

--WR Joe Horn (hamstring) did not practice Tuesday but he could be ready to play Thursday. If not, he would miss his third straight game.

--DE Kevin Huntley was signed off the practice squad Tuesday. He was signed to the practice squad in September but cut in early October. The former Raiders practice squad player was re-signed Oct. 29. He will be the fourth DE but he could play because third DE Chauncey Davis might have to play some at DT.

--RB Warrick Dunn needs 26 yards to reach the 10,000-yard milestone, but he also is the only active running back with at least 9,500 rushing yards and 3,800 receiving yards.

INSIDE THE CAMPS:

Colts:

Get better on offense. Surprisingly for an offensive-minded team like the Colts, that's the game plan for the immediate future. Indianapolis had a season-low 163 passing yards in last week's win over the Chiefs. "We just have to play a little bit better," coach Tony Dungy said. "Part of it is our own doing. Kansas City had a good plan. They blitzed us a little more than I thought they would and brought some people, some pressure. We had some situations where we didn't do things quite right and have a penalty, a dropped ball, a missed assignment here and there and you don't make first downs. That's kind of what happened to us.

"We had two really good sustained drives. And we're used to doing that more often. So we've got to do the things to eliminate those mistakes. And it has been hard for us. The injuries aren't an excuse in terms of who's in there. But we just haven't been able to have the practice time that we need full-speed, full-scale. And, again, that won't happen this week. But I'm confident that once we get through this week, we'll be able to practice like we need to and eliminate some of those errors."

Opening up the passing game is key.

"We did get a lot more single safety and a lot more of them coming down into the box (against Kansas City)," Dungy said. "If that's the case, then it's always been that we've got to throw and force people to double-cover our outside guys."

Falcons:

Joey Harrington is back as the Falcons' starting quarterback for Thursday night's game against visiting Indianapolis, but it is unclear if his re-insertion is based on merit or is by default. In announcing Harrington would start Tuesday, coach Bobby Petrino cited a tailbone injury to Byron Leftwich as the rationale. The starter would be based on whom the staff felt would give the team the best chance of winning, Petrino said after playing both quarterbacks in Sunday's 31-7 loss to Tampa Bay.

However, Leftwich's injury made it an easy choice.

"Joey will start the game," Petrino said. "Byron has to see if he can get ready to be the backup. (Leftwich) came in after the game -- it's a tailbone -- and called (trainer) Ron (Medlin) that night. They took him in (Monday) morning and got X-rays. There was not a fracture."

That Leftwich didn't practice Tuesday took him out of the running to start. If he's able to practice Wednesday, he could be Harrington's backup. If Leftwich can't go through drills, he would serve as the emergency quarterback, with Chris Redman working as the No. 2.

This is the sixth quarterback switch with Harrington and Leftwich and the fourth time Petrino has changed starters. Leftwich started at New Orleans and last Sunday's game with Tampa Bay and Leftwich replaced Harrington in the fourth quarter of a 20-13 loss at Tennessee. Harrington started eight of 10 games and was called on to relieve Leftwich in the third quarter of the most recent loss at Tampa Bay.
Leftwich was unavailable for comment Tuesday. Harrington simply took the high road.

"I'm going to go play ball and do what this team is asking me to do," Harrington said. "Like I said last week if they want me to be the starter I'll be the starter. If they want me to be the backup I'll be the backup. It doesn't change how I go about getting ready for this game. My thought is to go play ball and run this offense."

Petrino was non-committal about whether Leftwich would regain his starting job at St. Louis Dec. 2 if he were healthy. Instead, Petrino said he would focus on the game with the Colts and make a decision afterwards.


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