ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions are trying to do something they haven’t done in the modern era of the NFL -- win five games in a row on Thanksgiving.
What the Lions have already done on the holiday is rare in the modern era, having won four straight Thanksgiving Day games for only the second time since the AFL-NFL merger, the other time coming from 1997 to 2000.
It’s why Lions coach Jim Caldwell’s statement Monday was pretty curious when he was asked about their success on Thanksgiving and how he prepares his team for a short week. Caldwell didn’t seem happy with what his team has done.
Yet it is impossible for the Lions to have had more success under Caldwell on Thanksgiving, where he’s 3-0.
“I don’t think we’ve had a lot of success. We haven’t had enough success, you know?” Caldwell said. “We don’t look back, we look forward, and our week, in terms of how we prepare, it depends on where we are physically, and we adjust accordingly.
“These short weeks are tough to deal with. It’s hard for guys to come back, but it’s also perhaps one of the great games in terms of our tradition around here, you know?”
Not only have the Lions been good on Thanksgiving, they’ve been dominant. Detroit has won its past three Thanksgiving Day games by an average of 17 points.
That includes blowout wins over Chicago (34-17) in 2014 and Philadelphia (45-14) in 2015. Last season, the Lions beat the Vikings 16-13 on a 40-yard Matt Prater field goal as time expired.
So, if anything, Caldwell has been at his best on Thanksgiving. And on Thursday, the Lions have a chance to win five straight Thanksgiving games for the first time since the Lions won six straight games on the holiday from 1950 to 1955, which included five wins over Green Bay and one over the New York Yanks, a team that was eventually disbanded.
This year, however, might be the biggest Thanksgiving game for the Lions in a long time.
The Lions get the Vikings on Thanksgiving this season and the stakes are massive. If Detroit wins, it closes the gap in the NFC North race and holds the tiebreaker over the Vikings if the teams are tied at the end of the season. If Minnesota wins, the tiebreaker would come down to best record in the division (the Lions are 3-0 and the Vikings are 2-1 at this point) and then common games, which is too early to pin down.