TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 11: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions scrambles during the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on September 11, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
The Lions come home to Detroit this weekend trying to build on an impressive week one victory over the Bucs. Here at Pride of Detroit, I, too, am looking to build on a good performance. I correctly predicted the final score of last week's game (but we all know the score should have been more lopsided), and although I don't expect that to happen again for some time, I do plan on improving this column as more statistics become available.
This week, the Kansas City Chiefs come to town looking to put week one completely behind them. After getting embarrassed at home by the Buffalo Bills, many expect the Chiefs to come out angry and motivated. It is important to remember that this team went 10-6 last year and won their division. If word out of Allen Park is true, the Lions remember and are not overlooking the Chiefs.
Before I get to the numbers, there are a couple changes from last week. I have thrown out preseason stats and just focused on week one performances. As a means of comparison, I used 2010 averages. Obviously, there are flaws in this method, but, again, it's early in the season and there are not a lot of statistics in my arsenal. Again, I ask you to take them with a grain of salt. Also, I have added rankings to each unit. Those are completely based on yardage.
Okay, on to the show!
The Lions absolutely crushed Tampa Bay's averages from last year. Despite an early pick-six, Matthew Stafford controlled the game, and, at times, the passing game looked unstoppable. The biggest area for improvement for the Lions passing attack is red zone offense. In four trips to the red zone, the Lions only managed to cash in for a touchdown twice, settling for field goals the other two trips.
Kansas City's pass defense struggled mightily against the Bills on Sunday. Ryan Fitzpatrick had all day to throw, getting sacked only once, and took full advantage of it. He had a career-high 133.0 QB rating, and tied his best performance with four touchdowns.
Having watched the game, it was clear the Chiefs do not have a solid pass-rusher outside of Tamba Hali. Hali managed to sack Fitzpatrick once, but, for the most part, the Bills quarterback had all day in the pocket. The Chiefs also looked very susceptible to good tight end play, which is music to Lions fans' ears.
This is a matchup that the Lions should easily exploit. Many of the Chiefs' weaknesses match up perfectly with the Lions' strengths: a poor pass rush going up against the best pass protection of week one, and weak tight end coverage going up against Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler. I expect huge numbers this week. Lions +3.5.
Lions Run Offense (10th) vs. Chiefs Run Defense (27th)
Though the Lions appeared to have improved on their running game from last year, the statistics don't exactly tell the same story. The Lions managed to get 126 yards on Sunday, which was 10th best in the league, but they had to carry the ball 35 times to get there. Their 3.6 yards a carry drops them down to 19th best.
The good news is that the Bucs were expecting the run for much of the second half, so the element of surprise was not there. Unfortunately, the Lions first half performance was just as bad, averaging only 3.6 yards a carry before halftime.
The Chiefs failed to slow down one of the worst rushing attacks from last year. Fred Jackson looked nearly unstoppable, blowing over Chief linebackers and defensive backs. All day, Jackson was breaking tackles and leaving Chief defenders in the dust. However, as you can see, they did manage to hold him under the 4.3 YPC average from last year (barely).
The Lions do not have a runner that can break tackles like Jackson can. It is still unclear as to how successful the Lions running game will be this year, but I think it's fair to say that it will not be outstanding. While the success of the Lions passing game may open up rushing lanes, there are still too many unknowns in this matchup to award either team an advantage. Draw.
Chiefs Pass Offense (30th) vs. Lions Pass Defense (19th)
Matt Cassel had one of the worst days of all quarterbacks in the league last week. Kansas City, as a team, ranked 30th in passing yards and quarterback rating. Cassel's completion percentage was decent (61.1%, 19th best), but it becomes clear why, when you look at his average yards per attempt (3.3, 31st in the league). What it all boils down to is that the Chiefs are a dink-and-dunk team, despite having the likes of Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston. The Chiefs lost one of their better passing options in Tony Moeaki, and it looks to have severely impacted this offense.
The Lions pass defense, though giving up 259 yards last week, is very stout. Most of Josh Freeman's yards came when the Lions were playing a prevent defense. However, the Lions looked surprisingly mediocre in their pass rush, only getting to Freeman twice.
The key to this matchup is pretty simple: force Cassel to throw the ball. In his ten victories last year, Cassel only averaged 27.1 pass attempts. In his five losses, he averaged 35.8 pass attempts. When the game is on his shoulders, he usually collapses. Lions +1.
Chiefs Run Offense (12th) vs. Lions Run Defense (4th)
The Chiefs had the best rushing attack last year, averaging 164.2 yards per game and 4.7 a carry. Last week, they were well on their way to performing at similar levels, but the score dictated that they abandon the run. Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster both had impressive days, but they were drastically underused (only 14 carries between them).
Detroit's run defense was incredibly improved from last year in week one, holding what was one of the better rushing attacks in 2010 to only 56 yards on 16 carries. LeGarrette Blount, who dominated in their previous matchup, was a complete non-factor. But this was only one performance, and the Lions will have to continue to play like that for me to believe they are as good as they appeared on Sunday. I'd be shocked if they were still a top five run defense by the end of the season.
The Chiefs, despite their unimpressive opener, have a great running game. This will be a tougher challenge for the Lions than Tampa offered last week. This matchup is key for the Chiefs if they want to hang with the Lions, and I think they'll be somewhat successful. Chiefs +1.
The Lions end up with a +3.5 advantage, which is pretty significant by "On Paper" standards. Like many teams, I don't really expect the Chiefs to be able to slow down the Lions' passing attack, especially given the season-ending injury to Eric Berry. If Kansas City devotes their offense to the running game (like they should), they may be able to hang with the Lions for most of this game. But if their defense falls behind early and often, this could get ugly. I expect them to stick with the running game as long as they can, and they'll have the Lions sweating in a similar fashion to last week. Lions 34, Chiefs 20.