Every Thanksgiving, millions of American sports fans, myself included, as well as at least a couple hundred thousand bored Americans with nothing else to do besides interact with relatives plunk themselves down on the couch and watch the Dallas Cowboys , the Detroit Lions and whoever those two teams are playing that particular Thursday. The Cowboys have had their ups and downs but the Lions have generally just had downs, and I don’t mean first downs.
This year though, it’s going to be a little different. The Lions are facing their NFC North rivals, the Green Bay Packers and normally this would mean a Packers blowout. That may still be the case, given how good the Packers are shaping up to be this year. But as of this week, the Lions are 5-0 for the first time since 1956. Their QB, Matthew Stafford has (knock on wood) managed to avoid suffering a season-ending injury the way he did during his first two seasons, the defense is performing well and Javid Best and Calvin Johnson are easily the best RB and WR the Lions have had since Barry Sanders and Herman Moore in the mid-90’s.
But it’s not just the Lions who’ve thrown every prominent football pundit’s 2011 playoff predictions straight in the trash. Heading into Week Six, the AFC East does have the New England Patriots in first place, as per usual. But this time they’re sharing it with their former punching bags, the Buffalo Bills, who just held off what was supposed to be this year’s “Dream Team”, the Philadelphia Eagles. Really, the only surprise there was that the Eagles even managed to come close to rallying past the Bills, which is a sentence I never thought I’d write.
In the AFC South, Houston, which always looks good in the preseason but has never made the postseason is tied for first with a Tennessee team that was supposed to still be reeling from the end of the Vince Young debacle but is instead 3-2 largely thanks to the play of Matt Hasselbeck, whose career was supposed to be over by now. The Washington Redskins lead the NFC East with Rex Grossman (!) as their QB, right ahead of the New York Giants, who’ve also already upset the Eagles.
Finally, in the NFC West, the first place team is neither last year’s division winner, Seattle, nor trendy preseason pick Arizona, who were supposed to win the division after they traded for Kevin Kolb at QB but San Francisco. You know the San Francisco whose coach, Jim Harbaugh has never had the head job in the NFL before. And they’re doing it with a 48-3 blowout of NFC South contender Tampa Bay and with the much maligned Alex Smith at QB.
Of course we’re barely into the second month of the season so a lot of this could change very quickly. But I’m hoping it doesn’t. I mean I’ve got to have something to do this Thanksgiving.