Lions fans await rare high-stakes Thanksgiving game

1st-place battle on Thanksgiving a rarity for fans.

Thanksgiving

Nov 26, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) scores a touchdown while being pressured by Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Eric Rowe (32) during the second quarter of an NFL game on Thanksgiving at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a history of mostly losing seasons, Lions fans have always cherished the spotlight of their annual Thanksgiving game. It’s a nationally televised game that pretty much everyone in the country watches in their grandma’s basement as they anxiously await dinner. Regardless of record, the Lions get one day a year where people are forced to pay attention.

So while winning on Thanksgiving isn’t exactly a Lions tradition, players like Calvin Johnson and Barry Sanders have had some of their most memorable moments on turkey day. Moments that those who love football can appreciate — like Calvin Johnson’s 3 Touchdowns last year in his final losing season as a Lion. For awhile, particularly during Detroit’s 8-year Matt Millen nightmare, fans outside of Detroit got sick of seeing the Lions get killed year after year.

Some would argue the Lions didn’t deserve the highly-coveted Thanksgiving game. And to be honest, it was hard to blame anyone for complaining when Detroit has two winning seasons over the past fifteen years.

Who can forget the 6-touchdown massacre from Peyton Manning in 2004, when the Colts won 41-9 (Harrington vs Manning round 1). Or more recently, the painful overtime loss to the Houston Texans, 34-31, after Jim Schwartz botched a challenge call that likely cost the Lions the game in 2012.

Some would argue the Lions didn’t deserve the highly-coveted Thanksgiving game. And to be honest, it was hard to blame anyone for complaining when Detroit has two winning seasons over the past fifteen years. This year, since Detroit is 6-4 and leading the NFC North, NFL fans are actually looking forward to watching a game that has Playoff implications. The Lions have become one of the most exciting teams to watch in 2016. Quarterback Matthew Stafford getting national acclaim for his late-game heroics.

The Minnesota Vikings, meanwhile, are 6-4 and just snapped a four-game losing streak against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. A win and Minnesota would be back on top of the NFC North. The Vikings have serious issues at the offensive tackle position and are without RB Adrian Peterson and QB Teddy Bridgewater. Sam Bradford, after a nice start to the season, is looking more like the Sam Bradford we’ve grown accustomed to in the NFL.

Thanksgiving

Dec 14, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes (29) tackles Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) during the third quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Detroit won 16-14. Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Defensively, the Vikings are as talented as anyone in the NFL. Head Coach Mike Zimmer is a defensive guru, with a knack for getting after quarterbacks. Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes are extremely talented players in the secondary, and they have a great linebacking core. In week nine, the Lions stole the game, winning 22-16 in overtime. Another Vikings loss and they could be done essentially with the injuries they have. The Lions need to play a complete game for once to stay on top of a tight division race.

The Green Bay Packers are losing, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA championship and Donald Trump won the election. Maybe 2016 is the year of achieving the impossible. Either way, this Thursday fans will be tuning in to watch a 1st-place Lions team fight to stay on top on national TV. Enjoy it for once!

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