5 things to watch: Lions vs. Vikings

The Lions (6-4) and Vikings (6-4) square off for Detroit's annual Thanksgiving Day Game at Ford Field with first place in the NFC North on the line.

Ford Field should be rockin', as the Lions look to sweep the season series against the Vikings.

Here are five things to watch out for in today's game:

LEVY RETURN?

It's hard to imagine that Levy, who sat out two months with quad and knee injuries and has only been back at practice less than a week in a limited fashion, will be ready to play today vs. the Vikings, but the Lions haven't entirely ruled it out.

After being listed as doubtful on last week's injury report, he was upgraded to questionable this week.

We'll know for sure an hour and a half before kickoff today if the former All Pro will be back in the lineup for the Lions for the first time since Week 1.

If not, Detroit's game in New Orleans next Sunday could be the next target date.

ANSAH ON THE PROWL

The Lions' All-Pro defensive end had his most productive game of the season last week, registering four quarterback hits and four tackles.

Ansah seems to be rounding back into form after an ankle injury forced him to miss most of four games earlier this season.

"I think he's coming," head coach Jim Caldwell said this week. "Even last week I think he really helped us a lot in terms of number of assists out there, even though he might not have gotten a sack.

"He's getting closer and closer, he's harassing them a little bit more, think they can sense his presence."

Ansah being back to his old self again is a huge boost for a Lions defense that's been playing much better football the last month. Detroit hasn't allowed more than 20 points to their last four opponents.

Let's not forget what Ansah did to the Eagles on Thanksgiving last season. In front of a national audience, he recorded 3.5 sacks, four tackles, two tackles for loss, three quarterback hits and both forced and recovered a fumble.

The Lions will certainly take even a fraction of that production later today.

RUN GAMES

Today's game will feature two of the worst rushing attacks in football.

The Vikings are last running the football at just 70.0 yards per game, but the Lions aren't much better at 79.5 per contest.

The Lions did a better job running the ball in the first matchup (25 carries for 97 yards vs. 25 carries for 78 yards), which helped contribute to Detroit's victory.

Both defenses are about the same against the run. The Vikings are allowing around 101 yards per game. Detroit, 105.

A 42-yard run by Theo Riddick was the biggest play for either team in the first matchup, and it set up Detroit's first score of the game.

Whichever team makes more headway running the ball today will have a better chance at winning.

BIG PLAYS

The Lions and Vikings in wins last week both got a touchdown from all three phases – offense, defense and special teams.

Big plays in this game can literally come from anywhere, and with these two offenses struggling to score of late, big plays from either defense or special teams could swing the game.

These are two of the better special teams units in the NFL. In fact, the Vikings have three return touchdowns (two punt, one kickoff) on the season. Detroit's Andre Roberts has returned two punts back for touchdowns.

The Vikings' defense has intercepted 13 balls and brought two back for touchdowns. They've forced nine fumbles and scooped & scored once.

Detroit's Rafael Bush returned an interception 39 yards against the Jags last week to record Detroit's first defensive touchdown on the season.

HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE

Thanksgiving Day. National television. First place on the line.

Ford Field is expected to be loud to begin today's game, and it's imperative that the Lions keep them that way throughout by getting off to a good start.

The Lions are averaging just 4.3 points per game in the first quarter this year (19th in NFL), and have just three points in the first 15 minutes in their last three games combined.

"Number one, Thanksgiving Day games are really special here," Caldwell said this week. "There's no question about that and I think that our fans have been absolutely outstanding.

"They were great the other night (vs. Jacksonville). It's always a challenge to come in here and playing because of the fact that they will certainly give you some difficulty operating at the line of scrimmage.

"I think a lot happens at home that certainly gives us a lot of energy, but like I said before, you've got to play well no matter where you are. No matter who you're playing, no matter what the situation might be, you've got to play well in order to win."

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