ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Jim Caldwell is not looking too far ahead.
That’s also the advice the Detroit Lions coach is offering to his team as they prepare for the Thanksgiving Day matchup with the NFC North-leading Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field.
The Vikings (8-2) lead the division by two games over Detroit (6-4).
But don’t try telling Caldwell that this next game is more significant than any other.
“They’re all big,” Caldwell said. “Every single one of them’s a factor in the grand scheme of things. The most important one is the next one.
“Someone else might have a different philosophy. I don’t believe in functioning that way. My experience has been it can work against you more than it works for you when you start looking at the grand scheme of things.
“You can’t act as if one game is going to make a complete difference in the season, because you don’t know what’s going to happen the rest of the season. You have no idea.”
The Lions only need to look back to the 2016 season to understand how looking ahead can lead to disappointment.
Last Thanksgiving, the Lions and Vikings also met, and Detroit’s 16-13 victory improved the Lions to 7-4 and gave them the NFC North lead by one game over the Vikings.
However the Lions dropped their final three games of the regular season, while the Green Bay Packers, 5-6 after 11 games, ran off five wins in a row to grab the NFC North title from Detroit.
Examples such as last season, and others he’s encountered over his coaching career, convinced Caldwell to narrow his focus and avoid looking beyond what’s next.
“I fight against it with everything I have,” Caldwell said. “That’s part of my DNA. I’m not going to change.
“I can only tell you that we look at them one game at a time. We look at these guys for who they are. They’re a very good team. They’re on a roll.”
The Lions’ 27-24 win at Chicago on Sunday gave them a 3-0 road mark within the division for the first time in the Super Bowl era.
“Anytime you win on the road in this league it’s a huge bonus,” Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “On the contrary, we haven’t done a great job at home.”
The Lions have a solid 4-1 road record, but are only 2-3 at Ford Field.
“We’ll have a big opportunity this Thursday at home against a division opponent, against a really good team and we’ve got to come out and play well,” Stafford said.
Despite being one game out of a playoff position, the Lions still face a tough climb to qualify for postseason play.
Seeded seventh at the start of the day Monday, the Lions would drop to the eighth seed if the Atlanta Falcons (5-4) defeat the sixth-seeded Seattle Seahawks (6-3) on Monday night, because the Falcons beat the Lions earlier this season.
The Lions also lost to the Carolina Panthers (7-3) and New Orleans Saints (8-2) and would lose any tiebreaker to either of those teams.
Not that Caldwell is worrying about all those possibilities.
“We’re not worried about ramifications, we’re not worried about all of the buildup and things of that nature,” Caldwell said.
“We’re worried about how we play. That’s what our goal is, to get focused in on our preparation and get ready to play a tough, hard-fought game.”
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