Ok, now for a slightly less personal, more sports-related take on the Thanksgiving theme: guys I'm thankful for on each of Detroit's 4 major sports teams.
The Lions: SUH!!!!
I'm especially thankful for Ndamukong Suh. I thought DeAndre Levy would be the revelation this year on defense, and while he's been good I've really grown to appreciate Suh. The highlight above is from the 1 win in the Lions' last 7 games last year, but it's indicative of what Suh does.
Check this piece which shows him doing the same vs. New England, only Brady gets rid of the ball IMMEDIATELY and avoids the sack. It's a shame, really.
The Lions: Joique Stick!
The Lions run game has been pretty anemic, but this is mainly due to injuries on the line and poor playcalling (Lombardi telegraphs his run plays like no one else). Joique has been able to overcome that to some extent by running his ass off and lowering the BOOM. The lick he put on Cortland Finnegan (couldn't have happened to a nicer guy, really) was LEGENDARY, and hopefully will live on in GIF-dom for ages to come. It's even better in super slo-mo, btw.
The Lions: The Golden Child
Calvin Johnson has been injured and his game has taken several steps back. Golden Tate has filled in nicely with a career year of over 1,000 yds receiving. He's small but super fast, has good hands, and he's a solid deep threat as well as probably the best guy in the league to target on a bubble screen.
The Tigers: Miggy!
This one is a bit obvious, I'll admit, but look at that GIF overlay. 6 homers hit from 6 different pitch locations, all outside of the strike zone. What do you do? He had a down year last year, meaning he merely hit .313/.371/.524 with 25 HR, well below his career averages of .320/.396/.564 with 32.5 HR... I mean, come on, the guy is ridiculous. A "down year" for Miggy means he didn't contend for a triple crown. Last year he put up an OPS better than all but 5 guys in baseball, and played a decent 1B.
The Tigers: Victor Martinez
One of the 5 guys with a better OPS than Cabrera (actually, the TOP guy) was the Professional Hitter, Victor Martinez. V-Mart had a career high in batting average, OBP, SLG, and HR. I actually had mixed feelings about the Tigers re-signing him because he locks up the DH spot and they REALLY need help in the field, but honestly there is no guy in Detroit's lineup that is more dependable. Never gives an at bat away (which Cabrera does from time to time), rarely strikes out and hits pretty well with 2 strikes... The only way he could be better is if he had cat-like reflexes with the glove at the hot corner or something.
The Tigers: The Other Martinez
This is what JD Martinez did in 2014. A LOT. 13 of his 23 HR were hit in innings 7-9, 8 of them in the 9th. This was a player who was released by the Astros in March and signed by the Tigers 2 days later when Andy Dirks was injured and it became clear they needed help in the OF. Julio Daniel Martinez started out as a platoon LF until it became clear he needed to stay in the lineup, anchoring the #5 spot in the potent heart of the Tigers' lineup.
The Pistons: Drummond
The Pistons are bad right now (3-11 after last night's loss to MIL) and Drummond is having his worst season yet, but he can be straight up nasty when he wants to be. REALLY. Stan Van Gundy has been running more offense through Drummond's Post Game In Progress, which has been a frustrating process, but when he does what he does best... It goes down like it did in the 1st quarter last night.
The Pistons: SVG
He hasn't turned this team around (yet), but there are several things he's done that I like. The main thing I like about him is the candid honesty. In a pre-game interview last night, he took a lot of the blame for the offensive failures, saying he may have stunted offensive growth by relying on a couple different plays instead of moving the ball around. The offense DID look a lot better, although they lost. He's not exactly a Coach of the Year candidate right now, but I like that he's open to new ideas and flexible. Compare a Stan Van Gundy presser with Jim Caldwell's post-game interviews. Night & day.
Aaaaannnnd... that's it for the Pistons right now. They stink.
The Wings: Nyquist
That is a wicked move. Gustav Nyquist is leading the team in goals scored and tied for 7th in the NHL. He converts a pretty high shot percentage (18.5%, 2nd on the team after Datsyuk) and he's fun to watch. For a while I've wondered who will take the torch from Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. After that hot streak Nyquist had last year and what he's done so far this year, the smart money is on him.
The Wings: Pavel Datsyuk
This Thanksgiving Day game vs. Chicago SHOULD be just what the doctor ordered. Detroit still has the #1 defense through week 12, Chicago is 23rd. Detroit's offense ranks 24th in DVOA, Chicago's is 14th. Neither team is rocking the world with their special teams (coming in at 32nd & 31st respectively), and in Detroit's case that's due to some historically shaky FG kicking. Add in the home crowd and the Lions should walk away with this one. SHOULD.
Here are a couple of trends to be concerned about if you're a Lions fan: 1) No touchdowns in the last 2 games, and 2) No sacks and only 9 QB hits in the last 2 games. The offense needs to get back to scoring TDs. Out of 11 games played the Lions have scored more than 1 offensive TD in quarters 1-3 TWICE - the Giants game and the Jets game. They need to start putting up some points, and they need to hit Cutler early and often. Barring any setbacks Nick Fairley should return in the next couple of weeks, but the Lions should be able to make do.
The offensive line is banged up and Riley Reiff will likely miss the Thanksgiving Day game, and Larry Warford is still out. The line HAS to be better, on both sides of the ball, but mainly better on offense. This will be difficult without the regular starting RG, LT and a dinged-up RT. I'd like to see a variety of screens, bubble screens, short passes, and misdirection plays to mitigate the weaknesses of the O line. Lombardi called like 4 bubble screens to Tate vs. Miami, I don't think I've seen that play called since then.
The Lions SHOULD win, as I keep saying, but there's no telling with this team. A loss all but eliminates them from the playoffs, assuming another loss looming in Green Bay, week 17. The Lions are having a good season, but they need 11 wins to make the playoffs. Save me a turkey leg!