Week 8 - @ Detroit Lions
Blognosticator - Yusuf06
Detroit Lions, Halloween Trick…Or Treat?
In years past, the Lions were usually a scrumptious treat dropped into the Halloween bags of a few lucky NFL teams. However, before you start tasting your candy before it’s in your bag, make sure you’re aware of exactly what the Great Pumpkin has in store for us. So gather ‘round the scream, ‘er screen my pretties and let’s take a look at Yusuf’s blognostication. Muhahahaha
Though they fielded the Niffle’s worst defense last year, Gunther Cunningham’s unit has matured and improved greatly since then to become at least an average defense. And, like our defense, the Lions defense has faced some of the better offenses in the league (ranked 7th, 9th, 11th) so they’re undoubtedly a bit better than the numbers would seem to indicate. However, unlike our defense, they haven’t shown a particular penchant for keeping other teams from scoring, as they’re giving up 23 ppg.
Offensively, the Lions don’t look like much based on yardage gained, and yet they have no problems at all putting up points (24 ppg). Also like us, they have struggled a bit to run the ball at times. That could be due to poor blocking, or to Jahvid not being at his “Best” (yeah, bad pun, I’ll stick to the Halloween references) due to a turf toe injury.
So, let’s get down to it and peer into the old crystal ball to divine which team will get tricked and which will get treated next Sunday. Here are the key matchups and other things to watch for in this week’s game.
Matt Stafford Returns
After being out of the lineup for five games due to a shoulder injury, Matt Stafford is set to return this week. Shaun Hill did a great job in his absence (Terps shoutout!!) but is a somewhat limited player. Stafford will be much better able to use Calvin Johnson’s athletic ability to stretch the field, making an offense that already makes me nervous even more dangerous.
Unfortunately for Stafford, his OL looks like something out of a George Romero film and with Hill currently taking his turn in the Lions’ QB bone yard, their third string QB, Drew Stanton, should be Stafford’s backup this week.
If the recurring trips to the bone yard by Lions’ QBs make you wonder whether their OL is suspect, you’d be spot on. However, statistically they’re not as bad as the QB injuries might suggest. Rather, it appears to be a case of one weak link and/or plain old bad luck of having their QBs get injured during their relatively small number of sacks.
The Lions are 6th in turnover ratio. Like us, they have an opportunistic defense that has been as good as ours at taking the ball away (their defense has 15 takeaways in 6 games vs. 17 for us in 7 games). Turnovers may well explain why their offense has been able to score while having little yardage to show for it.
On the other side of the trick or treat door, they’ve not held on to their candy bag as well as we have, with just +1 net turnovers compared to +8 for us. Therefore, IMHO one of the keys to this game will be whether we can avoid turning the ball over and giving Stafford a short field to work with.
Suh vs. our OC/OGs
This matchup will be crucial to our hopes of coming away from this game with an apple clenched between our teeth instead of settling for a mouthful of backwash. Both of the Lions defensive tackles, especially Ndkalphabetsoup Suh who currently leads all DTs with 4.5 sacks (based on per game stats) have looked stout so far. As is typically the case, Rabach has been average at best at protecting McNabb from pressure up the middle. That could limit us greatly in the passing game.
Another issue that makes this a key matchup is that the Lions defense lines up in a bit of an odd set designed to funnel running plays into the middle of their defense, i.e. right toward Suh. Thus, this one key matchup could affect our ability to both run and pass the ball. If Rabach struggles again, we may be left looking for a spell to conjure up another way to move the ball outside of running or passing. If that happens, we could be looking at yet another offensive house of horrors similar to the Bears game. The very thought of such a nightmare is enough to make one go to extreme measures to stay awake, like consuming instant coffee-dry.
Put simply, dude is money. Probably the best way to defend him is by getting to Stafford. Fortunately for us, the matchup of Haynesworth on Stephen Peterman can really help our chances of winning this game. If Haynesworth et al can get consistent pressure on Stafford up the middle we can probably keep their offense bottled up. If not, look for Johnson to have a field day against our work in progress pass defense.
Despite the difference in the team’s records, the Lions and Redskins are remarkably similar in many ways. Both have had problems stopping the run, both defenses do a good job of forcing turnovers, both teams have played in several close games most of the season, and have holes in key areas. Where the two teams differ is in scoring/points allowed and the outcome of the close games they’ve been in.
Make no mistake about it; the Lions are not a team we’re likely to just roll over. We’re not that good yet and they’re not that bad a team. Moreover, I haven’t forgotten the sting of last year’s loss to them. Therefore, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Lions were to return from the pet cemetery to put a rock in our Halloween candy bag.
In the final analysis, the question is whether the Skins show up for the Rocky Horror Picture Show in the guise of the contenders that beat the Eagirls, or the pretenders that got rolled by the Lambs. I think our newfound ability to run the ball, key matchups between our defense and their offense along with Shanny’s coaching means we probably eke out another close win.