It’s Thanksgiving time, and Detroit Lions fans have a lot to be thankful for this year.
Though the holiday has long been something of a bleak reminder of how awful the franchise has been, this year is different.
The Detroit Lions sit at 8-2 with a multi-game lead on the NFC North. Fans of the franchise are wondering if the 2023 season could finally be their year.
Where does this place Thursday’s game with the Green Bay Packers in the history of important Thanksgiving Day games? PlayMichigan looks back.
Lions competing for best record in NFL
Thursday’s kickoff with the Packers is set for 12:30 p.m. from Ford Field.
Though many outside of Michigan have complained and loathed Detroit always being the start of Thanksgiving football, few are complaining this time around.
At 8-2, the Lions have the second-best record in the entire NFL. It’s also the first time since 1962 Detroit has started a season 8-2. A win for the Lions would make them 9-2, already matching their entire win total from the 2022 season with six games to play.
While the Packers come into this game with only a 4-6 record, this feels like one of the biggest Thanksgiving Day games in history.
The Detroit Lions odds are currently listed at -20000 to make the playoffs and -1100 to win the division, which feels like a fantasy for Lions fans this early in the season.
Detroit legitimately is in contention for the No. 1 seed in the NFC and can further its grip toward its first division title since 1993 with a win.
Key Thanksgiving Day games since 1990
Thanksgiving Day and Detroit is a special relationship.
Having this annual tradition means a lot to the city and Detroit collectively goes all out for the day.
Along with the game, an annual downtown Turkey Trot and Thanksgiving Day parade give the city a spotlight it doesn’t get very often.
As a child, my parents took my brothers and myself to Lions Thanksgiving Day games for 10 years. It was throughout Barry Sanders’ career and each year was a memorable experience.
It’s good to see Detroit really being able to come into this game with something to celebrate. Ford Field is going to be loud and the national audience will see how much passion this fan base has.
It hasn’t been often that they had this many reasons to cheer on Thanksgiving Day.
Thanksgiving Day 2016: 16-13 win over Minnesota Vikings
The last time the Lions made the playoffs was 2016.
That year, they were 6-4 heading into a meeting with the Minnesota Vikings, who were also 6-4.
Detroit gutted out a 16-13 victory thanks to an interception by Darius Slay in the final minute of play that set up a game-winning field goal from Matt Prater as time expired.
The win would be part of a five-game win streak that would get Detroit to 9-4 and in the NFC North lead. However, the Lions lost their last three games of the season and failed to win the division. They were then eliminated in the playoffs in the first round by the Seattle Seahawks.
Thanksgiving Day 2014: 34-17 win over Chicago Bears
That year’s Lions team may be the best in some time. The 2014 squad had a similar feel, as they went 11-5 in the regular season before the controversial playoff loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
That year, the Lions welcomed the Bears to town on Thanksgiving. Detroit was 7-4 coming into the game, while Chicago was 5-6.
Detroit found itself down 14-3 after one quarter, but then scored 21 points in the second quarter to take control. Matthew Stafford had two touchdown passes to Calvin Johnson in the quarter while local legend Joique Bell added a 1-yard TD run.
Bell would add another TD in the fourth and rushed for 91 yards while Stafford threw for 390 yards.
The win started a four-game win streak to get the Lions to 11 wins.
Thanksgiving Day 1995: 44-38 win over Minnesota Vikings
Coming into the 1995 Thanksgiving Day game, the Lions were just 5-6. But, a win over the 6-5 Vikings was part of a seven-game win streak to end the regular season.
The game itself was an offensive shootout as Warren Moon threw for 384 yards and three touchdowns for the Vikings, while Scott Mitchell threw for 410 yards and four touchdowns.
Three different Lions – Brett Perriman, Herman Moore and Johnnie Morton – each had over 100 receiving yards. Barry Sanders added 138 rushing yards and a TD.
Detroit won its last seven games, scoring 24 points or more in each win. The Lions were the hot team entering the playoffs, only to lose to the Philadelphia Eagles in the first round, 58-37.
Thanksgiving Day 1991: 16-6 win over Chicago Bears
The last time the Detroit Lions won a playoff game was the 1991 season.
That year, the Lions won the NFC Central and carries similar energy into Thanksgiving as this year’s squad.
Detroit was 8-4 as it hosted the 9-3 Chicago Bears in a key division matchup.
Facing a familiar face in then-QB Jim Harbaugh, the Lions would rely on kicker Eddie Murray to get a win.
Detroit scored the first 10 points of the game in the first quarter, including the lone touchdown on a pass from Erik Kramer to Robert Clark. Murray added three field goals, including a 50-yarder in the third quarter.
Chicago and Harbaugh were held to just two field goals from Kevin Butler. Harbaugh had four interceptions in the game, two of which went to Terry Taylor.
The win was part of a six-game win streak to end the season that allowed the Lions to finish a game ahead of Chicago and win the division. Detroit then went on to beat the Dallas Cowboys 38-6 for its last playoff victory on Jan. 5, 1992.
Let’s hope the 2023 season will be what ends this ongoing streak of over 11,600 days since Detroit last won a playoff game.