NFL's best Thanksgiving slate since 1975


NFL's best Thanksgiving slate since 1975

From Comcast SportsNet

By Howard Fendrich, Associated Press

After so many years of bad Detroit Lions teamsand their games, no matter the week, meaning so littleall of a sudden that traditional Turkey Day contest in the Motor City is no turkey at all.

Detroit, which is 7-3, hosts the reigning Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, who are 10-0, to open a tremendously compelling three-game NFL feast Thursday.

The always-polarizing Dallas Cowboys (6-4) host the Miami Dolphins (3-7) next in a matchup between two teams on three-game winning streaks, and the San Francisco 49ers (9-1) are at the Baltimore Ravens (7-3) at night in the Harbaugh Bowl, the first time two brothers will face each other as head coaches in the league.

A case can be made that these are the three most intriguing NFL games of the week. It certainly qualifies as the most enticing Thanksgiving Day lineup in decades.

Thats good. Good for the NFL, good for the fans, good for the people, Minnesota Vikings linebacker Erin Henderson(notes) said. Something entertaining to watch while we all stuff our faces with that good food.

Not convinced this is a special tripleheader?


The six teams are 42-18, which translates to a .700 winning percentage. The last time the holidays NFL participants boasted that strong a combined win-loss record was 1975 (also .700).

Its the first Thanksgiving since 1998when there were only two games that each club in action won its previous game.

The Packers are the first unbeaten team to play on the fourth Thursday in November since the 1962 Packers also were 10-0, before losing to Detroit. Including the playoffs, Green Bay has won its last 16 games in a row.

San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh will match wits with his older brother, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh, in a game for family bragging rightsand with significant playoff-seeding implications.

Even the game that was shaping up as a dud, Miami at Dallas, now becomes worth watching, because the Dolphins are the only team in NFL history to go from 0-7 to 3-7 and present a real challenge to the recently resurgent Cowboys and quarterback Tony Romo(notes) (who, by the way, is 18-2 with 49 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions for his career in November).

The lineup includes four teams with at least a share of first place (Green Bay, San Francisco, Baltimore and Dallas), two who can clinch a playoff berth this week (Packers, 49ers), and one with the inside track for a wild-card berth (Detroit).

Give the Lions credit for helping boost the anticipation for this years Thanksgiving games, because they sure deserve a lot of the blame for the holidays NFL blandness of late.

Heck, there even was talk about moving that game out of DetroitI thought it was sacrilegious talkbecause Detroit hadnt been very competitive on those days on national TV. So the thinking was, Hey, lets spread it around to other cities, said NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci, who coached the Lions from 2003-05.

And I think that talk went away, thankfully, because it needs to be in Detroit forever, he added. And theyre really competitive right now.

Only two other times in the past 50 yearsyes, 50 years!did the Lions arrive at Thanksgiving at 7-3, in 1993 and 1969, according to STATS LLC. You have to go all the way back to 1962 to find them with a better record (8-2) at this point in the season.

Each of the past two years, they were 2-8. That was an improvement from 2008, when the Lions were 0-11, on their way to 0-16.

And while Detroit has lost a franchise-record seven consecutive gamesby an average of more than 20 pointsin its annual showcase, there is reason to believe they can make things interesting this time around.

From what its been in the past to now, its different. For us to be doing as good as were doing right now, its real exciting. Then weve got Green Bay coming inthe big, 10-0 Green Bay, said Detroit defensive lineman Corey Williams(notes), who used to play for the Packers.

Its going to be fun. Its going to be like a mini-Super Bowl, I think, atmosphere-wise, Williams said.

Plus, this particular trio of games gives fans a chance to see some of the sports most dynamic players: Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers(notes), putting together one of the greatest seasons ever by a QB; Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson(notes) and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh(notes); San Franciscos cant-be-run-on defense, led by Patrick Willis(notes) and Aldon Smith(notes).

For other NFL teams, theres work to be done Thursday, practicing and preparing for their next games. Then theyll go home and turn on the television.

I might get a little peek at John and Jim going at it. I think thatll be entertaining, St. Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said. Well certainly get the players out of here early, and the coaches as soon as we can after that, and Ill follow.

Krug: My play is "not something I'm proud of at the moment"


Krug: My play is "not something I'm proud of at the moment"

BOSTON -- Torey Krug has plenty of legitimate reasons why he might be getting out of the gate slowly this season.

Krug is still ahead of his initially scheduled return from major shoulder surgery on a torn labrum last spring, and has spent the last couple of games playing his “off” side on a defense pairing with Joe Morrow. It was passable on Thursday night in the win over the New Jersey Devils, but Krug wasn’t much good at all while finishing with a -3 rating in a 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden on Saturday night.

Krug was beaten in a race to the puck for a key shorthanded goal by Montreal speedster Paul Byron in the third period, and the B’s defenseman was a part of the group that allowed an insurance goal to the Habs that effectively iced the game. Krug also had five of his seven shot attempts blocked on the evening, and is still struggling to get his points through in what used to be a very effective weapon for the Black and Gold.

Clearly Krug looks like he’s still feeling his way back to full form coming back from the shoulder issues, but he wasn’t biting on that excuse after the loss to the Habs.

"There's no consistency in my game for whatever reason. I've gotta make sure I'm working to get better, so that my teammates can count on me every single shift,” said Krug. “It’s not there right now, and I’ll take the blame for that. I’ve just got to work through it.

“I have no consistency to my game at all. I make a good play and the next shift it’s a poor play. It’s not something I’m proud of at the moment, but I’ll work through it. I always have. There’s always times during the season when you play poorly and you have to work through it. Unfortunately for me it’s the start of the season, but I’ll get back to a place where my teammates can’t count on me every time I jump over the boards."

With zero points in five games, the link is also obvious between the power play’s struggles and Krug’s erratic play out of the starting gate this season. Claude Julien didn’t specifically address Krug by name, but said there is plenty of blame to go around after another in a long line of home losses to the Canadiens.

“We just lost a game here, so now we’re trying to pick on players. We lost this game tonight because we didn’t play well enough. We made mistakes that were too costly, and when you give up four goals to Montreal, and you have [Carey] Price at the other end, it’s pretty hard to beat that team,” said Julien. “So we needed to be better. I think overall, in a lot of those areas where we, like I said, we shot ourselves in the foot with some real poor mistakes. We can’t afford to do that against the Montreal Canadiens.”

The Bruins also can’t afford to go too much longer this season without Krug returning to form given his standing within a Boston back end that isn’t exactly flush with puck-moving defensemen.

Talking Points: Price a problem for Bruins once again


Talking Points: Price a problem for Bruins once again

BOSTON -- GOLD STAR: The Bruins have a very hard time beating Carey Price, and that was proven once again on Saturday night in Boston. The best chances for the B’s probably came earlier in the game with Ryan Spooner getting a couple of quality scoring chances in the early going, and Price making a very solid stop on a spinning David Pastrnak surprise shot from the high slot through traffic in the closing seconds of the second period. In total, Price made only 19 saves but didn’t give in when the Bruins really needed a mistake to open the door and let them back in. It certainly won’t go down as Price’s best, but it was another great example of why the Montreal netminder is so important to the success of his Canadiens team.

BLACK EYE: Torey Krug had a rough night in 22:29 of ice time. He was on the ice for three goals against, he had five of his shots blocked throughout the game and he was beaten in a race to the puck by Paul Byron for a shorthanded goal during a key sequence in the third period. Krug was also on the ice for the crucial final goal scored by Torey Mitchell when both the D-man and David Krejci were prime culprits in the play developing as it did. It’s certainly not helping Krug that he’s playing on his “off” side with Joe Morrow right now, and that he’s doing all of this while also still ahead of when he was supposed to return from major offseason shoulder surgery. Krug has been “okay” through the season’s first two weeks, but he wasn’t good at all on Saturday night in the loss to Montreal.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins had a decent first period and played to a 2-2 draw in the third period, so it was the “terrible” second period, in the words of Claude Julien, which ended up sinking the Black and Gold’s battleship. The B’s made plenty of mistakes in managing the puck, had some very long shifts on the ice where they couldn’t get an easy change and started making mental mistakes as a result of the overextended shifts. That turned into some very soft defense on Montreal’s first goal of the game, and a bad decision by John-Michael Liles to pinch with skilled guys Alex Radulov and Phillip Danault ready to make the Bruins pay at the other end of the ice. The second period was Boston’s bugaboo plenty of times last season, and it was again on Saturday night vs. the Habs.

HONORABLE MENTION: It’s tough to pick out players from the losing side that really stood out, but Dominic Moore certainly deserves some consideration for the way things have started out for him in Boston. He and Tim Schaller executed a beauty of a give-and-go before Moore finished with a flourish against Carey Price, and that goal gives the fourth line center a pair of goals in his first five games with the B’s. Moore finished with the goal and four shot attempts in 13:02 of ice time along with 6-of-12 face-off wins, and earned a take-down, along with an extra two minutes, for grabbing Alexei Emelin in a headlock and driving him into the ice.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2-8-1 -- the Bruins overall record against the Canadiens in their last 11 meetings, and that doesn’t include nine straight home losses to the Habs dating back to 2012.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's no consistency in my game for whatever reason. I've gotta make sure I'm working to get better, so that my teammates can count on me every single shift. It’s not there right now, and I’ll take the blame for that. I’ve just got to work through it.” -- Torey Krug, who struggled with a minus-3 rating in Saturday’s loss to the Canadiens.