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KEY QUESTIONS: How do Lions prepare on a short week?

Detroit's annual Thanksgiving Day Game week is upon us, which means the Lions only have three prep days leading up to their monster showdown with the NFC North-leading Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field on Thursday.

Does facing a division opponent on the short week help with preperation?

The Lions and Vikings are very familiar with each other's personnel and schemes, which certainly helps preparations for a short week.

It's not like playing an AFC opponent the Lions would face once every four years, and wouldn't know much about them. The fact that these two have already played once this season helps as well.

"It doesn't mean they don't make changes or haven't made any changes since the last time we played," Lions head coach Jim Caldwell cautioned at his Monday press conference. "But it does give you a sense of who you're playing with."

Is the magnitude of Thursday's game, and what it might mean for the NFC North race, talked about with the players?

The Vikings are rolling, and currently hold a two-game lead in the division over the Lions with an 8-2 record. The Lions come in at 6-4, but already defeated the Vikings once this year in Minneapolis. 

The players know this is a big game, but Caldwell and his staff treat it like it's the most important game because it's the next game. That's just how they roll. He tries to always keep a singular focus on the next opponent.

"I can only tell you that we look at them one game at a time," Caldwell said. "We look at these guys for who they are. They are a very good team. They're on a roll. All we're worried about. We're not worried about ramifications.

"We're not worried about all of the buildup and all that nature. We're worried about how we play and that's our goal to get focused in on our preparation and get ready to play a tough, hard-fought game."

Caldwell used the analogy of a recent PGA golfer he was watching, who was off to a terrific start on the front nine, but started to look ahead and read greens for upcoming holes as he passed them. He lost focus of what he was doing at that moment, and his game took an immediate turn for the worse.

Caldwell doesn't like to look ahead, and he coaches his players that way. He said his experience has been that looking ahead works against a team more than it works for them.

This will be Caldwell's fourth Thanksgiving Day Game since taking over the Lions coaching duties. What has he learned about the short week and the game?

He's learned that the week of preparation and what is asked of the players depends on how the team is physically.

"These short weeks are tough to deal with," Caldwell said. "It's hard for guys to come back, but it's also one of the great games in terms of our tradition around here.

Caldwell knew the history of the game dating back to 1934, when it was played at old University of Detroit Stadium.

"The tradition it has here with the city ... there's some unique things about it that we're certainly excited about that we get an opportunity to do every single year.

"Some teams don't get this opportunity that often, but our guys do, and we don't take that lightly."

How do the Lions go about fixing what's currently ailing them in run defense?

Caldwell said the biggest issues are missed tackles and poor run fits. That's obvious from anyone who watched Cleveland rack up 201 yards two weeks ago and then Chicago steam roll the defense to the tune of 222 rushing yards on Sunday.

View the best stylized images from the Detroit Lions Week 11 win against the Chicago Bears by team photographer Gavin Smith.

The Lions were able to overcome it and still win the last couple weeks, because they were facing Cleveland and Chicago, let's be honest. Against Minnesota, or some of the other teams remaining on Detroit's schedule, don't even think about it.

"Just like anything else, I kind of look to see if we can get back to where we were playing well," Caldwell said. "We are capable of playing well. We've done it in the recent past. We have to do it this week."

The Lions have really missed veteran defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. In the first five games of the season before he was lost to a bicep injury, opponents averaged 74.6 yards per game on the ground.

During the last five games without Ngata, that number has increased exponentially to 153.8 per game. Detroit's also been without starting defensive end Ziggy Ansah the last two games.

Caldwell said it comes down to techniques and fundamentals, which will continue to be stressed.

What gives Caldwell confidence he can get the run-stopping issues fixed this week after not being able to fix them between the Cleveland and Chicago games?

"I have faith," Caldwell said. "We've done it before. It's not like something that's never been done."

Is there any update on Jamal Agnew's knee injury?

Agnew left the game in the second half Sunday with a knee injury and didn't return. He was walking around after the game, which is a good sign, but there was no update provided by Caldwell Monday to his status on a short week.

The Lions have to put a practice report out later Monday, so we'll know a little bit more about his status then.

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