I'm going to try to do one of these every week for the Lions. I’ll not only focus on what the Lions have to do to win the game, I’ll include some things their opponent needs to do as well. This week is the opener when Detroit (0-0) hosts St. Louis (0-0).
Lions keys to victory
1. Contain Steven Jackson. Steven Jackson is a horse, huge and fast. Steven Jackson is the kind of guy that can take over a game and the Lions struggled against the run all last season. Can they figure out a way to keep him in check?
2. Keep Chris Long out of the backfield. Chris Long can be a disruptive force on the edge, he’ll be the first of many good DEs the Lions will see this year. Stafford will need time to throw if Detroit wants to play the deep ball game, and Chris Long is the number one guy on the Rams that can affect that.
3. Get Kevin Smith going early. St. Louis gave up the most yards to running backs in the NFL last year and they are fighting injuries on their interior line. Smith can be a good two way threat when healthy. If the Lions can get some good plays out of him early, St. Louis will be forced to adjust and it will open up opportunities in the passing game.
St. Louis keys to victory
1. Go to Steven Jackson early and often. Detroit’s D-Line can get extremely aggressive, the best way to slow this down is by establishing the run game. If Steven Jackson starts tearing them up, they’ll be forced to stay home instead of teeing off on Bradford.
2. Keep track of Young, Pettigrew, Broyles, Scheffler, and Burleson. Yeah, Calvin Johnson gets all the attention, but Stafford threw for over 3300 yards and 25 TDs to the other guys on the team. If you put too much emphasis on Megatron, Stafford will pick you apart with his secondary options. There needs to be a balance between covering Johnson and covering everybody else.
3. Challenge the secondary. Detroit’s top two D-Backs are hurt, if they even play they’ll be playing hurt. The rest of the squad is either unproven or new to the team. Try to take advantage of any one-on-one matchups against the Detroit corners and safeties.
Prediction – St. Louis has a new coach, a new system, and new players. I think they’ll be better this year than they were in 2011, but there will be a learning curve. Detroit’s offense will give the hometown crowd a show, but the defense will have trouble with Jackson. Detroit 31, St. Louis 23.