The Green Bay Packers (10-0) travel to Detroit to take on the Lions (7-3) Thursday. The following 10 are things you should watch during the first Thanksgiving contest between the two teams since 2007:
1. Right side of the offensive line
A lot of the talk on Thursday will be about right guard Josh Sitton and his ability to keep Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh out of the Packers backfield. While that is obviously an important matchup, don’t forget about right tackle Bryan Bulaga. He had his worst game as a professional last December in Detroit, allowing two sacks, one quarterback hit and four pressures. Bulaga needs to play better against the Lions’ edge rushers on Thursday.
2. Stay disciplined
The Lions have gained a reputation as a “dirty” team this season, and Suh—the leader of bunch—has already ran his confident mouth this week. The Packers have done well in 2011 to avoid lowering themselves to such tactics (see: Atlanta Falcons week). I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Lions didn’t try to get under the Packers skin on Thursday. All 46 of the men on the gameday roster need to keep their heads in a tough atmosphere.
3. Kevin Smith’s resurgence
Lions running back Kevin Smith was sitting at home without an NFL job two weeks ago, but he burst back onto the scene with 201 total yards and three scores against the Carolina Panthers last week. The Packers have been susceptible against both the run and running backs catching the ball out of the backfield this season. They need to make sure Smith isn’t the guy who beats them on Thursday with his legs.
4. Availability of James Starks
The Packers have officially listed Starks as questionable for Thursday, which gives him a decent chance of playing against the Lions. You’d think the Packers would need him, too. Not only is he a physical presence running the football, but he’s also improved leaps and bounds in pass protection. Not having him available, and potentially having to lean on rookie Brandon Saine in spots, could leave the Packers vulnerable.
5. Megatron engaged