More than anyone I know, my brother-in-law, Ted, loves Thanksgiving dinner. Not only does he gorge himself on all the staples, but what he really looks forward to is a week's worth of chowing on leftovers.
One year his wife, Sarah, came down with a nasty case of food-poisoning a couple of days after Thanksgiving, while Ted became only mildly nauseous. They knew the culprit had to have been one of the leftover dishes, and the logical reaction was to start dumping Tupperware containers. But Ted couldn't bring himself to do it. He took his chances and kept feasting on post-Thanksgiving fare until it was completely gone.
This is a long way of saying that in my family, as in most of yours, this holiday is about eating, end of story. But if you're a member of the Lions, who host the Packers in the first of three games Thursday, this year's Thanksgiving could also include a choking theme.
There, I said it. It brings me no pleasure to report that the Lions, finally showing some life in 2007 after six consecutive miserable seasons in the Matt Millen era, are in danger of having it all slip away. Yet reality (like my ravenous brother-in-law attacking a turkey leg) bites, and this is Detroit's: Coming off consecutive defeats to the Cardinals and Giants, and with the powerful Packers coming to town, the Lions (6-4), by the time the turkey is served, could find themselves effectively shut out of the NFC North race and facing a rigorous road to a wild-card berth.
Detroit's remaining schedule – at Minnesota, Dallas, at San Diego, Kansas City and at Green Bay – is a reasonably challenging one, especially given this team's struggles on the road. More daunting is the fact that the Lions already seem to be showing signs of cracking: Witness last Sunday's post-game comments by quarterback Jon Kitna, he of the 10-victory preseason guarantee, regarding the Giants: "That is not a better football team than us. We gave them the football game today. We gave it away. We had mental errors. We beat ourselves."
Whether or not Kitna actually believes this, it comes across as whiny and delusional – after all, the beauty of sports is that such esoteric questions are resolved by the scoreboard. Kitna's typically a terrific leader, and as a seasoned veteran he needs to steer his untested team through a potentially stressful time. Holding thoughts like those inside would be a great way to start.
Speaking of holding things inside, here's my holiday question for Ted: Bro, can you please pass the stuffing – for the next 23 consecutive meals?
Now, the rankings, from the fattest of birds to the most spoiled of leftovers:
1. New England Patriots: Will they put up 60 on Philly?
6. Pittsburgh Steelers: Was that an aberration, or have we been too generous in our assessment of this team?
9. Seattle Seahawks: If you've got the quarterback and the receivers to pull it off, why not throw the ball all over the place?
17. Houston Texans: In a different division, would this team make the playoffs?
18. Buffalo Bills: You guys weren't hoping to sneak into the playoffs on a point-differential tiebreaker, were you?
19. Kansas City Chiefs: Compared to Mike Solari's offense, doesn't Martyball seem like The Greatest Show On Turf?
22. Chicago Bears: After a one-year reprieve, should we now conclude that the Curse of the Super Bowl Losers is back with a vengeance?
25. Carolina Panthers: Attention, John Fox – the next time you try one of those pooch punts, what do you say you put a couple of fast guys out there to cover it?
28. New York Jets: Guys, where did that come from … and can you please at least put up a fight on Thanksgiving?