Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. Dan Snyder is gone, but the Commanders are still prone to embarrassing themselves.
In today’s SI:AM:
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The Lions are worthy of your attention
Whatever your Thanksgiving plans are, make sure you get there early. For the first time in a long time, the early afternoon game in Detroit features a Lions team that is among the league’s best.
With their dramatic comeback win over the Bears yesterday, the Lions improved to 8–2 for the first time since 1962. Of the eight teams playing on Thanksgiving and Black Friday this year, the Lions have the best record. Heck, it’s even possible—if the Eagles lose to the Chiefs tonight in Kansas City—that the Lions will go into Thursday’s game tied for the best record in the NFL. The Lions! The team that has played 94 seasons without a Super Bowl appearance!
Detroit has played only one truly bad game this season, a 38–6 loss to the Ravens in Week 7. Otherwise, it’s been consistently solid, which, against a middle-of-the-pack schedule (14th easiest in the league) has been enough to string together a bunch of wins.
The Lions have found ways to win even when facing difficult situations, which is the hallmark of a good team. Last week, their defense allowed 38 points to the Chargers. But the offense stepped up, racking up a season-high 533 total yards in a 41–38 win. It was a similar story this week against Chicago. The Lions had a season-worst four turnovers (three Jared Goff interceptions and a fumble by Craig Reynolds on a kickoff return), which helped the Bears build a 26–14 lead late in the fourth quarter. But Detroit knuckled down in crunch time and scored two touchdowns in the final three minutes to pick up the victory.
“The great players started making great plays,” defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson told Albert Breer after the game. “JG [Jared Goff] was going down the field, playing at a high level. Everyone was doing their jobs, man.”
The Lions were one of the NFL’s most pleasant surprises last season, improving from 3-13-1 to 9–8 for their first winning season in five years. This year, they announced themselves as a team that deserved to be taken seriously with an opening night win over the Chiefs, and, while you can quibble about the strength of their schedule (they’re 1–2 against teams that currently have winning records), it’s obvious that they’ve taken a big step forward this season.
The thing that sunk Detroit last year was its god-awful defense, which ranked dead last in yards allowed (392.3 per game) and tied for third worst in points allowed (25.1 per game). It’s a different story this year after the Lions made upgrading the defense a priority. They have the ninth-best defense by yards allowed (313.0 per game), although they’re ranked 22nd with 22.9 points allowed per game. But pair that with an offense that is still among the league’s best (fifth in scoring last year, sixth this year) and you have a proven recipe for success.
Because their signature win came in Week 1, the Lions’ success has been flying under the radar. But at 8–2, it’s impossible to ignore them in conversations about the best team in NFC—and the NFL as a whole. On Thursday afternoon, millions of casual football fans are about to see just how good they are.
The best of Sports Illustrated
- Here are Albert Breer’s Week 11 takeaways, featuring comments from Aidan Hutchinson, Kareem Hunt and more.
- For more Week 11 takes, see what Gilberto Manzano wrote about the Bills’ bounce back under their new play-caller, Brock Purdy’s perfect game, and the slog between the Browns and Steelers.
- While the Chargers are disappointing yet again, Conor Orr cautions that firing coach Brandon Staley isn’t necessarily going to fix L.A.’s problems.
- Jalen Hurts and A.J. Brown were already as close as brothers before they became teammates with the Eagles. Now, they’re one of the NFL’s most unstoppable duos. Greg Bishop has more on the bond between the guys leading the Eagles to a memorable season.
- There are nine teams that have a realistic chance of making the College Football Playoff. Pat Forde mapped out what each team needs to do to get there.
- In the latest example of FedEx Field being the worst stadium in the NFL, Giants and Commanders players couldn’t shower after the game because there was no water available in the locker rooms.
- Max Verstappen won the Las Vegas Grand Prix, and then Russell Wilson used his name as an audible on Sunday Night Football.
The top five...
… things I saw yesterday:
5. Texas guard Max Abmas’s game-winner over a much taller defender.
4. Justin Herbert’s touchdown throw into an impossibly tight window.
3. Brock Purdy’s flawless throw to hit Brandon Aiyuk in stride for a 76-yard touchdown.
2. The pro golfer who kept losing his clubs in a tree.
1. The Vikings’ flawless fake punt against the Broncos.
On this day in 2012, Jack Taylor set a new NCAA basketball record by scoring 138 points in a single game. Which small Division III school in Iowa did Taylor play for?
Friday’s SIQ: In an otherwise excellent game Nov. 17, 2000, which player tied John Drew’s NBA record for turnovers in a game with 14?
- Stephon Marbury
- Jason Kidd
- Baron Davis
- Gary Payton
Answer: Jason Kidd. He had a triple double (18 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) but also turned the ball over a stunning 14 times in a 90–85 loss to the Knicks.
Kidd, who led the league in assists that season for the third straight year, wasn’t particularly prone to turnovers, even though he handled the ball so much. But he did average 3.7 turnovers per game that season, tied for the second highest of his Hall of Fame career.
There have been 22 instances of a player recording at least 12 turnovers in a game in NBA history (most recently by Giannis Antetokounmpo in January of this year). Kidd is the only player to have done it three times.