It’s only week three, but for the Detroit Lions, this Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans is a must-win.
Detroit has started the season 1-1 along with the entire NFC North. The Lions haven’t put themselves in an early hole, but a loss in Nashville would do just that.
The game kicks-off at 1 p.m. EST and can be seen on Fox.
The Titans have started 2012 in miserable fashion, going 0-2 and looking bad doing it. Tennessee has been outscored 72-23 and outgained 806-496.
The Titans have looked flat-out bad, and running back Chris Johnson has looked even worse than that. Johnson is averaging 1.1 yards-per-carry, and hasn’t led the team in rushing in either game. It has been quarterback Jake Locker has led the Titans in rushing both games this season, not CJ2K.
The Lions come into this game looking a bit anemic on offense, but better than expected on defense. It appears as though the defensive unit will get even better this week with the return of corners Chris Houston and Bill Bentley. Safety Louis Delmas did not practice Wednesday, but it is possible he will return to the field as well.
The offense also gets a key player back this week: running back Mikel Leshoure. Leshoure makes his NFL regular-season debut this Sunday, and will make an impact right away in the Detroit backfield.
However, even with Leshoure running the ball, quarterback Matthew Stafford must play better or the Lions will be in jeopardy of a 1-2 start. Stafford may be able to get away with mistakes against a Titans defense that has been quite porous thus far, but he cannot continue to turn the ball over. If Detroit wins the turnover battle, they won’t lose this game.
The key in this game will be Leshoure and the running game. If Leshoure gets going, play-action becomes more effective, opening up receivers for Stafford. Should Tennessee’s safeties start creeping up toward the line of scrimmage, Calvin Johnson will have a one-on-one matchup deep.
And I’ll take Megatron in that matchup 100 out of 100 times.
Even if the offense gets going, the defense and special teams unit still need to play solid football. Detroit will be able to outscore the Titans in this game, but only if the other two units play mistake-free. The defense has to keep everything in front of them, and the special teams guys have to do the same. Allowing big plays not only leads to points, but also changes momentum. Tennessee can win this game by creating big plays and getting the crowd behind them early.
Its only week three, I know. But looking at the schedule ahead of them, the Detroit Lions cannot afford to lose this football game.
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