Four Downs: Packers-Lions preview (Thanksgiving Edition)
Four Downs is back on a short week of rest to preview Thursday’s Thanksgiving Day spectacular, and by spectacular we mean the day will be so regardless of any football game because it’s Thanksgiving. That, in and of itself, is something to be thankful for. Holiday cheer and other related comments can be left here or on our Facebook page.
1. What’s also worth being thankful for? That the NFC North is spontaneously combusting in front of our eyes. In any other light, it is a horrific scene – oil leaking everywhere, the windows stuck in the down position in the middle of winter, flaming wheels flying off in all directions, brake lines cut and a spider web of cracked glass serving as the windshield, all on a rusted-out body of an old Nissan Sentra skidding down a highway at top and uncontrollable speeds.
But in Green Bay it is a welcome parade of incompetence. That’s because you could also say it like this: in the month of November, the Packers have lost and tied their way into striking distance for a division crown that they only have business still capturing because the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions remain in the slow and gentle process of waking up from the drunken stupor they hurled themselves into upon realizing they had a puncher’s chance when Aaron Rodgers went down.
We’ve never known much, but we officially no longer have any grasp of knowledge for football this season. In terms of the Packers and Lions, and the NFC North in general, this a good thing keeping the Packers on life support, and a bad thing because there are no expectations anymore, but mostly it’s just a very confusing thing and we’re done trying to understand it.
2. We could try to crawl through the ever-shrinking window, the one remaining open to the playoffs for the Packers, and we all know that Thursday’s game in Detroit is a massively implicated one as far as that goes. We’ll watch as always and hope for the best, but the rest of Four Downs is going to get into the easy-to-use Thanksgiving trope spirit. What are we thankful for as Packers fans, other than this paranormal remaining hope for the playoffs?
For one, Eddie Lacy, who has been everything we could’ve thought up in our minds in the moments and days after the Packers drafted him in April. In the consistently-inconsistent ebbs and flows of this year, Lacy’s dependable pulverizing of defenders has been a lot of fun to see continue unhindered. And now when we say Roll Tide we can actually justify it with a shred of reason, which is nice.
3. We’re thankful for Jarrett Boykin, a young receiver who got a chance for real playing time when James Jones and Randall Cobb were both out earlier this year. Boykin has been excellent from the time his chance first really materialized – Oct. 20 against the Browns – using his physicality and outright athleticism to best defenders on all kinds of routes and catches, leaping grabs down the sideline, close-quarter snags across the middle, shoe-lacing low throws off the turf. At first, it was another example of Rodgers bringing the best out in everyone around him, but as the quarterbacks have changed Boykin has remained heavily targeted and productive in the offense. Over the last three games he leads the team in targets, with 31, and his 23 catches this season resulting in first downs are second on the team only to Jordy Nelson’s absurd 42.
4. We’re also thankful for Seneca Wallace ever-so-briefly and then Scott Tolzien and now Matt Flynn, for trying. (Please don’t hang up on us. Hold on.) This quarterback thing seems pretty tough in almost every circumstance, and replacing the best one going is, obviously, like replacing someone who is the best at something with someone who is not.
(Or, in a way, like Gob Bluth once said, “It would be sort of like going from prime rib to – I don’t know – weird brother of prime rib.” And sure, does this quote only remotely apply? Probably. But these are strange times and we’re scared and “Arrested Development” has never not helped.)
So anyway, we guess we’re thankful that we’re learning – albeit in a decidedly uncomfortable way – how important Aaron Rodgers is to this larger football machine. We’re thankful he plays here, whenever he does again, especially given the imbalance shown by the Packers, the over-reliance on one side that is seemingly too fixed with scar tissue in this broken manner to be corrected in a short amount of time.
That being said, and this is a weird time to say this, but Mike McCarthy’s steadiness in a continuous storm of injury and change is something that doesn’t get mentioned enough. He’s good making sure his teams avoid the all-out nosedive, they hang around, and that is something, even if it doesn’t sound or feel super-inspiring right now.
And there’s plenty more to be thankful for too. It’s easier to do this when there isn’t a game on, when we’re not on that particular not-really-safe roller coaster, so we’ll remember now that it’s better to care than not. Somehow, the Packers are still alive for a few more days, at the least. Given this season, there’s more there to be thankful for than not. Or maybe we’re just in a festive pre-holiday mood, or in the terminal stages of deep denial. Either way, we’re trying.
All this doesn’t mean that Thanksgiving’s game is anything but absolutely essential. It just means we’re going to be here either way for awhile, so while we can we’re going to keep our minds in the happy clouds of fandom without consequence, or in other words, any day but gameday. Also: Thanksgiving can’t be ruined because that’s how special it is. Don’t forget this.
So happy Thanksgiving everyone, and thanks for reading. Eat a lot of food for us and we’ll do the same for you.
Pick: Lio – just kidding, Packers. We’re picking the Packers here and, if you haven’t noticed, will probably be doing so for every game forever because predictions are just that important to us.
(On the following scale: Ted Thompson is a tough guy to read. In an attempt to pay homage to his flat style of delivery, we will couple our pick with a 1-5 rating scale of our confidence translated into Thompson Confidence, which, we feel, is just as ultimately silly and tough to derive meaning from as choosing a score.)
Honorary Ted Thompson ‘I feel confident’ scale of confidence: 1.87 ‘I feel confident’-s out of 5.