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Eric Wilbur's Sports Blog

Hard to Not Look Past the Lions When You See What Awaits the Patriots

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AP Photo


Screw the Lions.

Oh, now that’s not to say the Patriots’ next opponent, the 7-3, NFC North Division-leading Detroit Lions are a foe to be taken lightly. Detroit comes into Sunday’s game at Gillette Stadium touting the best overall defense in the NFL, allowing only 15.6 points per game, and an offense led by Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and Joique Bell that can be parts explosive or minuscule, as evidenced in Sunday’s 14-6 loss to the 9-1 Arizona Cardinals.

This is, indeed, a marquee game for the NFL on Sunday.

But I just can’t help but look past it and all the way to Nov. 30, when the post-Thanksgiving football feast the NFL has in store is too tasty to ignore.

Patriots-Packers, in Green Bay. Followed by Broncos-Chiefs, in Kansas City in the nightcap.

One could be a Super Bowl preview. The other could help determine the Patriots’ path in getting there.

As it stands now, the Patriots, fresh off their 42-20 win over the Indianapolis Colts Sunday night, hold the top spot in the AFC with their 8-2 record. They’re a game up on 7-3 Denver, which fell to the St. Louis Rams, 22-7, which is really more like two games thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker, owned by the Patriots.

But next Sunday will go a long way toward determining a couple factors; 1. How will the Patriots fare against an unstoppable Packers offense that has averaged 48.5 points per game at home this season? 2. Should the Pats lose, can the Chiefs wrestle the opportunity from New England and grab the home field advantage spot atop the conference?

Then again, should the Pats march into Lambeau and prove their might, it may be all but over for either the Chiefs or Broncos, who could be left duking it out for the second bye in the AFC come playoff time.

All the Packers have done the last two weeks is destroy the likes of the Chicago Bears, 55-14, even after the Bears clearly quit, and, more impressively, the Philadelphia Eagles, 53-20, on Sunday. The Packers have scored 190 points over their last four games.

The Patriots have scored 163.

If anyone is playing as well as Aaron Rodgers and Co., it’s probably the New England Patriots, who many figure to already have a home playoff game wrapped up come January. Rodgers, meet Tom Brady. Eddie Lacy, Jonas Gray. Jody Nelson, Randall Cobb, here are Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman.

It has the potential for great, holiday weekend theater. And it’s not only a Super Bowl dream, it’s now the favorite.

After Denver laid its second egg in three weeks, Las Vegas turned around on Monday and declared the New England Patriots the favorites (7-to-2) to win the Super Bowl, followed by the Packers at 4-1. The Broncos are now 9-2.

The Arizona Cardinals are 8-to-1, while the defending champion Seahawks are 12-to-1, followed by the Colts, 49ers, and Chiefs at 14-to-1.

The Lions, by the way, are 25-to-1.

No disrespect to the Lions and all, but this weekend is but a speed bump to the main course.

Thirteen days. Can’t wait.

Rodgers is probably going to win the NFL’s MVP award, now that even Peyton Manning’s most devoted toadies can’t possibly justify voting for him over the Packers quarterback, who has thrown 28 touchdowns and only three interceptions on the season, numbers that Brady could have come close to matching this week had he not thrown a couple stinkers for interceptions against the Colts. Still, 24 touchdowns and five interceptions are numbers good enough to be in the MVP discussion, which might be a point of emphasis on the Nov. 30 CBS broadcast if I had to venture a wild guess.

“I’m not really thinking about that,” Rodgers told reporters after the win over the Eagles. “We’re tied with the Lions for the division lead. We want to be playing the right way at this time of the year. We have to be playing this way as we continue on. Statistics and awards take care of themselves.”

As much hype as Manning-Brady received two weeks ago, this QB matchup is better in every way, not the least of which is that neither Rodgers nor Brady turtle in the cold weather, which will likely be in full force during a late afternoon game in Wisconsin at the dawn of December. If Brady wins that one, he’ll have ended a stretch in which he’s beaten Rodgers, Manning, Andrew Luck, and Stafford, since they apparently still have to play that game (I just checked). It will mean a miracle for either the Chiefs or Broncos to catch them for the No. 1 seed.

But if Rodgers does what he’s done lately on his home turf, that primetime game becomes awfully interesting to digest, especially considering Kansas City's head-to-head tiebreaker over the Patriots (albeit with a more difficult stretch for the Chiefs - Cardinals, Steelers, Chargers - at the end of the schedule).

It’s Lions week, so we’ll try our damnedest to pay attention. The Packers are probably thinking the same thing heading into Minnesota.

If both teams win, the Packers will be in first place in time for the Patriots come to town.

Sorry, Detroit. You’ll be a good time, but you understand why our eyes may wander, right?

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