The Philadelphia Eagles (4-6) and Detroit Lions (3-7) are two teams headed in different directions leading into their Thanksgiving matchup on Thursday.
The Eagles lost in embarrassing fashion on Sunday to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, allowing rookie quarterback Jameis Winston to set a career-high with five touchdown passes in a 45-17 beat down at home. The Lions, meanwhile, come in on a two-game win streak after defeating the Raiders 18-13 last week due in large part to another dominating defensive performance.
Both teams (mathematically, maybe not realistically) have an outside shot at a playoff spot still which should at least keep players on both sides thinking about a win more so than the feast to come postgame. Does that mean compelling football too?
Philadelphia Eagles at Detroit Lions
Kickoff: Thursday, Nov. 26 at 12:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Eagles -1
Three Things to Watch
1. Martha Effect
Since owner Martha Ford made sweeping changes across the organization, firing both team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew, the Detroit Lions are 2-0. Coincidence? In her address to the team and fans following the firings, Ford stated that this season was not over despite the 1-7 record, and that she expected the team to compete, improve and ultimately win football games in 2015. The last two games...that is exactly what has happened. The defense is suddenly reverting back to their 2014 form as one of the tops in the league, allowing just 14.5 points per game in the last two weeks. The offense has moved the football more consistently with Jim Bob Cooter now calling the shots as the team's coordinator. Improvements on both sides have the Lions finally playing the kind of football most expected from the onset of the year.
2. Mark Sanchez to Start Once Again for the Eagles?
Mark Sanchez did more Mark Sanchez things in his first start this season, throwing three costly second-half interceptions that completely took the Eagles out of the game against Tampa Bay last week. When asked Tuesday if he will start again this week against Detroit, Sanchez’s response was simply “I don’t know.” Sanchez and Sam Bradford have both taken reps in practice this week, but no starter has been named of yet, leading to the speculation that Bradford has not been medically cleared for play to this point. Whichever quarterback gets the start will be going against a Detroit defense that has allowed just 29 combined points the previous two weeks.
3. Shutdown Corner
During the Lions two-game win streak, third-year corner Darius Slay has allowed just one completed pass in his direction. After not giving up a single reception against Green Bay, Slay blanketed standout rookie Amari Cooper all day long, holding the first-year receiver to just one reception for a measly four yards. One side of the field taken away clearly had an effect on quarterback Derek Carr who completed just 52 percent of his passes for 169 yards – a season-low. Slay will have another stiff challenge this week against Jordan Matthews who will undoubtedly be shadowed all game long as the only true threat in the Eagles receiving corps.
Football is a game of momentum and Lions have plenty of it headed into turkey day, especially on the defensive side of the football. While the offense has put up just 36 combined points in two games, the defense is looking more and more like the 2014 version that ranked second overall in the league. The Eagles, on the other hand, are hoping that the short week can quickly erase last week’s debacle against the Bucs and springboard them back into an NFC East race that is far from over. If Detroit’s defense continues to play lights out as they have the previous two weeks, it won’t matter who is starting at quarterback for the Eagles.
Prediction: Lions 24, Eagles 19
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and current writer for CollegeFootballGeek.com. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @MikeBainbridge2.