Power rankings: Detroit Lions surge as Thanksgiving preparations heat up

Detroit Free Press

Thursday games are almost universally despised in the NFL, by players who put their bodies at risk by playing on a short week and coaches who cram a full week of work into a 72-or-so-hour period.

“Coaches got to be on point on minimal sleep and the players have to be on point with sore bodies,” Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell explained Monday. “They’ve got to get themselves ready to go, recover, and be ready to roll on Thursday.”

The Lions host the Buffalo Bills in their annual Thanksgiving game Thursday at Ford Field, one of three Turkey Day affairs on what has the makings of an interesting schedule. The Lions have won three straight, while the Bills are one of the best teams in the AFC. The Dallas Cowboys host the New York Giants in an afternoon battle between rival seven-win teams in the NFC East. And the New England Patriots visit the Minnesota Vikings in a nightcap that features two more potential playoff teams.

MORE FROM BIRKETT:Assessing Lions’ playoff chances: 9 wins could earn them a wild card in down NFC

The schedule was created in part to give new NFL broadcast partner Amazon a showcase game next Thursday between the Bills and Patriots.

Campbell said the Lions will not have any full-speed work at practice this week, and he explained some of the process he and his staff will go through to get ready for the game.

The Lions actually started scheming for the Bills last week, when position coaches were asked to generate ideas for a specific area of the game plan. Coordinators Ben Johnson and Aaron Glenn were excluded from the process so they would stay focused on last week’s opponent, the Giants.

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“The coordinators have given everybody assignments on kind of their priorities,” Campbell said. “Like (running backs coach) Duce (Staley) for example would be, yes, run game with (offensive line coach) Hank (Fraley), but also screens, things of that nature. And (tight ends coach) Tanner (Engstrand has) got run play-action pass and he’s involved in both areas, run and pass game. But they all have an area that they’ve got to get done.”

When the Lions returned to Detroit on Sunday after beating the Giants, coaches went straight to the team’s Allen Park practice facility to start game-planning for the Bills.

Assistant coaches presented their research and ideas to coordinators, and after “an hour or two” of sleep, everyone reconvened to game-plan some more.

In a normal week, NFL teams typically take Monday to review the previous game, coaches spend all day Tuesday game-planning while players have the day off, then they install base offense and defensive packages on Wednesday, third-down plays on Thursday and red zone packages on Friday.

This week, Campbell said the installations will run somewhat together with “some of it (going) all the way up until gameday. I mean, they’ll get it in the morning.”

The Lions have surged from last in the power rankings at the start of the month to 18th in this week’s poll. That may seem high for a 4-6 team, but the league is especially mediocre this year and they did beat the teams directly in front of them, the Giants and Washington Commanders, who remain slightly ahead of the Lions based on their full bodies of work.

This week’s NFL power rankings

1. Kansas City Chiefs (8-2)

2. Philadelphia Eagles (9-1)

3. Minnesota Vikings (8-2)

4. Buffalo Bills (7-3)

5. Miami Dolphins (7-3)

6. Baltimore Ravens (7-3)

7. Tennessee Titans (7-3)

8. Dallas Cowboys (7-3)

9. San Francisco 49ers (6-4)

10. Seattle Seahawks (6-4)

11. Cincinnati Bengals (6-4)

12. Los Angeles Chargers (5-5)

13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5)

14. New England Patriots (6-4)

15. New York Jets (6-4)

16. New York Giants (7-3)

17. Washington Commanders (6-5)

18. Detroit Lions (4-6)

19. Atlanta Falcons (5-6)

20. Indianapolis Colts (4-6)

21. Green Bay Packers (4-7)

22. Arizona Cardinals (4-7)

23. Cleveland Browns (3-7)

24. New Orleans Saints (4-7)

25. Los Angeles Rams (3-7)

26. Las Vegas Raiders (3-7)

27. Denver Broncos (3-7)

28. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-7)

29. Chicago Bears (3-8)

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-7)

31. Carolina Panthers (3-8)

32. Houston Texans (1-8)

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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