In the first part of this four part season preview, I looked at the first two weeks of the Detroit Lions schedule, along with many interesting trends of the 2010 Detroit Lions. Now, lets take a look at the next six games:
Opponent: Minnesota Vikings
Key Defensive Matchup: Lions defensive tackles vs. Adrian Peterson
The Lions don’t need to shut him down, simply slow him down. In the last two years, Adrian Peterson has averaged a whopping 5.7 yards per carry against the Lions, and in two games against the Lions last season, he averaged 6.8 yards per carry. Those numbers must change if the Lions have any hope of winning. There is some silver lining though: Peterson has fumbled the ball a grand total of seven times in the last four matchups against the Lions, and has fumbled at least once in every game against Detroit. With an attacking interior line, I would expect to see multiple fumbles from Peterson again.
Key Offensive Matchup: Lions interior line vs. Kevin Williams
The biggest issue for the Lions won’t be Jared Allen. For all the trash talk from him, he has only 5 sacks in four games against the Lions. Not bad, but definitely something the Lions can live with. The bigger issue is Kevin Williams. The younger Williams had a four sack game against the Lions in 2008, and has always provided great interior pass rush. With Pat Williams declining, maybe the Lions should look at double teaming Kevin Williams and leaving Pat Williams one on one.
Overall: This game will be won by the team that can capitalize on the turnovers. Adrian Peterson is the fumbling machine, and Brett Favre throughout his career has been an interception-throwing machine. Lions will get their opportunities; question is whether they will capitalize…
Opponent: Green Bay Packers
All right, time for our favorite player to step up his game. I tried to find any stats or anything that would show a dent in Rodger’s game…couldn’t find one. I don’t like to rave about our opponent’s quarterbacks, but the stats are simply amazing. He has a 112 QB Rating when playing from behind, so you can’t just score a lot and hope to throttle him that way. He has a 133 3rd down QB rating, so pass rush doesn’t really affect him. Hell, the Lions sacked him 5 times and even made him cough up the ball in their game last October, but he still torched the Lions for 358 yards, 2TDs and a 114 rating. The only real way to affect his game would be limit the damage (ie take away the big plays). In four starts against the Lions, Rodgers has managed passes of 47, 62, 68, and 71 yards. Take away those, and Lions have a much better chance of winning the game. The only man capable of doing that is Delmas.
This is the type of situations where the Lions really needed a second receiver last season. Charles Woodson and Calvin Johnson are going to battle all day, and we can’t too much from him. Burleson had a few solid seasons playing sidekick to Randy Moss. Time for him to step up. Al Harris is 36 years old and has missed 12 games the last two seasons, so Burleson should definitely be able to take advantage of him.
Overall: I think this is the toughest game of the season. Lambeau Field has never been kind to the Lions; couple that with a young, elite quarterback that can pass with pressure in his face, and a very good defense, and you have yourselves a really tough opponent. Do the Lions have a chance? A very small one. Green Bay doesn’t shoot itself in the foot with turnovers like the Vikings, but the defense, as good as it is, can be exploited. Last year, a team like Tampa Bay dropped 38 on the Packer defense, so they are not without problems of their own.
Opponent: St. Louis Rams
Key Defensive Matchup: DeAndre Levy vs. Steven Jackson
Last year, Steven Jackson won the game for the Rams, and to think if Detroit had held its own, St Louis might have been 0-16 themselves. The Lions massive upgrade in the defensive line should prevent another big game from Jackson, but it has to be Levy who makes sure Jackson doesn’t get anything more than 4 yards per carry. Levy proven that he can a very reliable tackler, and run defense is his specialty, and I have faith that he will get the job done.
Key Offensive Matchup: Matthew Stafford vs. Rams Secondary
This is where Matthew Stafford has to show that he has made progress. Last year, he was 14 of 33 for 168 yards and no picks. Not bad for a rookie, but in his sophomore year, he needs to light up a weak Rams secondary. Neither of the corner are good enough to cover the Lions receivers, and starting defensive ends Victor Adeyanju and Chris Long had a combined 5 sacks last season, so pressure should not be a problem.
Overall: This is a must win game. Since the last meeting between the two teams, one could argue that the Rams got worse. Leonard Little is no longer there; their starting quarterback will be worse than the one that faced the Lions last year (whether it is Sam Bradford or AJ Feeley). Will Witherspoon has been replaced with an aging Nai’l Diggs, and Bobby Carpenter has never started a game in the NFL. If the Lions execute their game plan to fair degree of accuracy, this is a win.
Opponent: New York Giants
Key Defensive Matchup: Kyle Vanden Bosch vs. David Diehl
As good as the rest of the Gaints offensive line is, left tackle is one of the weakest positions for the Giants. Generally, I don’t like using Pro Football Focus’s stats, but in this case, the numbers are very useful. David Diehl is rated as he 63rd best tackle in the NFL last year, and has never been ranked higher than 60 in the three years the site has existed. He gave up 12 sacks last season, which is good for 5th worst in the league. I would think that KVB would have his way with Diehl, and if he does, then the Lions have a good shot at winning in the Meadowlands.
According to PFF, Jeff Backus is the 13th best pass blocking tackle in the league. Cherius, on the other hand, ranked 50th among all NFL tackles in pass blocking. Now, I am not sure that I agree with Backus being the 13th best pass blocking tackle, but I would agree that Backus can relied upon far more than Cherilus. This is somewhat of a tough matchup depending on how you look at things. The good part is the Cherilus plays right tackle, so Stafford will be able to see the pressure coming, and I think Cherilus does a much better job against pass rushers that rely more on strength, than speed.
Overall: most of the matchups on the both side of the ball look pretty decent. The biggest defensive concern will be whether or not the Lions corners can cover the three great receivers the Giants have (I don’t think they can), but pressure from Detroit’s front line can mask a lot of the mistakes made by the corners. Offensively, the biggest issue is obviously the Giant’s pass rush, but the offensive line is much improved, and if Backus can play his game, then the Lions should be fine.
Opponent: Washington Redskins
Santana Moss always does well against the Lions. He accumulated 20% (178 out of 902) of his entire season’s receiving yards in the game last year. The previous year, he had 9 catches for 140. If you have him in your fantasy team, you should start him. However, the Lions did win last season even after his big game, and the 2008 game was a close one too. Plus, Chris Houston should do a much better job than guys like Philip Buchanon….well, at least we hope he will. At worst, there will be some very happy fantasy GMs.
Andre Carter is a ten year NFL veteran that had double digit sacks last season. That sounds pretty good; however, he played all of those ten seasons as a defensive end, and will only be playing his 8th career game as an outside linebacker. Generally, defensive ends that switch to OLB struggle in pass coverage, and Carter should be no different. The good thing is that the Lions have two, maybe even three, tight ends that can take advantage of a weakness likethat.
Overall: If there is one game the Lions are going to dominate this season, this is it. All of the stars are aligned. The Lions have done very well against the Redskins in the near past. They will be rested coming off their bye week, and the Redskins will be coming off of matchups with high octane offenses in Green Bay, Indianapolis, and Chicago (?).
Opponent: New York Jets
This is probably the most favorable matchup for Suh. He is going up against a rookie that played division II football last year, and didn’t even play guard. The rest of the Jets offensive line is pretty solid, so guys like Corey Williams, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril will have a tough day, but Suh should prove to everyone why he was the 2nd pick in the NFL draft. If he can stop the run and provide the type of penetration he is capable of, the Lions will have a great shot at winning this game.
Key Offensive Matchup: Brandon Pettigrew/Tony Scheffler vs. Jason Taylor
For a second straight week, the Lions tight ends will be crucial in their offensive success. The Jets are an aggressive, blitzing team, and the best counter offense will be to make the Jets OLBs drop back and cover. Last year, the Dolphins took their franchise sacks leader off of field on many downs to the favor of a undrafted rookie because that’s how bad Taylor was in pass coverage. The Lions should take full advantage of this weakness.
Overall: I don’t think the Jets are as good as most analysts make them out to be. A lot of people look at Cromartie and Jason Taylor as upgrades, but they are as much of a liability as they are additions. The Lions will be at home, and should be fairly rested as they will be just two weeks off of their bye week, and should be coming off a win. All in all, a very winnable game.