After the Patriots beat the Colts 31-28 at Gillette Stadium, they are on the road  to face the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Thanksgiving. Before each Patriots game this season, as always here’s a preview with my five keys to the game that I hope will lead to a Patriots victory. 

WHERE TO WATCH: The game will be shown live on CBS at 12:30 PM EST. You can also listen to the game on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston.

GAME NOTES: The Lions are 2-8 and coming off a 35-19 loss against Dallas at Cowboy Stadium. This is a team that is better than their record, and is potentially your classic trap game. The Lions have played many teams tough this season. The Patriots cannot take this team lightly. 

On offense, their regular starting quarterback, Matthew Stafford, is out for this game. In his place will be Sean Hill, who is a capable backup quarterback and can be effective as a starter.  The real threat for this team on offense has to be wide receiver  Calvin Johnson. He has some impressive numbers so far this season. He has 55 receptions for 725 yards and 10 touchdowns. He will be someone that the Patriots will need to watch. They also have a very good tight end in Brandon Pettigrew who has 50 receptions this season.  Lastly, rookie running back Javhid Best has done a nice job running the ball for the Lions running for 382 yards and 3 touchdowns.

On defense, this unit can actually get after the quarterback. They are led by rookie defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh who already has 7 sacks. They also have Kyle Vanden Bosch at defensive end who has 4 sacks. The Patriots offensive line will have to be at their best to contain the Lions defensive line. The Lions also have a talented cornerback in Alphonso Smith who has 5 interceptions this season. This unit overall is very competitive.   

It is easy to go into this game against the Lions and think the Patriots will have an easy time on Thursday based on Detroit’s past history. However, I really think this will be a tougher game than most believe. This Lions team will be a challenge to beat, and I would not expect this to be an easy game for the Patriots. There is talent on this Lions team that is still figuring out how to win.

Here are my “five keys” which  I believe could play a role in a potential victory for the Pats.

1. The Patriots offense needs to score early and get up against the Lions. The Lions have played most teams close this season. However, they have had a hard time figuring out ways to win. If you can get up against them early, you might bury them for the majority of the game. I think it is important to put them away early and not give them hope.  

2.The Patriots offensive line needs to contain Suh and Vanden Bosch. These two players will make a stong effort to put pressure on Tom Brady. If the line cannot contain these players, we could see a similar situation we saw in Cleveland with the offense not clicking on all cylinders.

3. The running game needs to be complimentary to the passing game for the Patriots offense.  Ultimately the Patriots will move the ball through the air, but a complimentary running game against the Lions will open up the play action pass game for the Pats. The Lions are 26th in the league against the run.  Benjarvus Green-Ellis could be a key tomorrow for the entire offense, and he should be able to run the ball against the Lions.

4. The Patriots defense need to contain Johnson. This wide receiver is already establishing himself as an elite player. The Patriots will probably need to double team him the majority of the game.  I don’t think you can stop Johnson, but maybe you can limit the amount of his catches.

5. The Patriots need to be more efficient on third down defense. The Patriots continue to be the worst in the league on third down defensively. I feel it is very important to make third down stops against a young team like the Lions. You don’t want the Lions’ confidence to build during the game on offense. The Patriots have to get off the field at a better clip on Thursday.

I am nervous about this game. I see a Lions team that does have talent on both offense and defense. The Pats should win this game, but in no way do I feel it will be easy. I am predicting a 28-24 victory for the Patriots.  

What are your predictions? Feel free to post them in the comments section below.