As a guy who once covered the Detroit Lions religiously, I couldn’t help but jump on it when Joe White (Co-Founder and CEO of isportsweb.com, and also my boss) asked me to write about the Detroit Lions’ game this weekend.
I’ve covered the Lions through highs and lows: the 10-6 2011 campaign that saw them make the playoffs, and last year’s team that blundered its way to a 4-12 record.
At 3-2, are the Lions more 2011 or 2012?
As I searched for the answer to this question, I couldn’t help but look back on some old Lions stuff I wrote, namely my 2012 season review.
The season was a wreck for Detroit, and for many reasons. Dropped passes, sketchy play from Matt Stafford, tons of turnovers, and a few bad breaks culminated in 12 losses for the boys in Honolulu Blue.
Will the Lions fall into their old ways and finish the season with a losing record? Or will they regain their 2011 swagger and make a playoff push?
This week’s game against the Cleveland Browns will tell Lions fans a lot about their current team. The game takes place at 1:00p.m. in Cleveland at FirstEnergy stadium and will be televised locally on Fox.
The Browns are anything but flashy, but their 3-2 record speaks to the ability of this team. They don’t have a franchise quarterback, they traded away their franchise running back, and their top playmakers are guys like Joe Haden and Paul Kruger- blue collar, lunch pail and hardhat guys who bring it every week.
These Browns can play, and while you might not believe me, you’ll see it on the field this Sunday. The NFL’s version of moneyball is coming to fruition in Cleveland and somewhere, Billy Beane is smiling.
Ok, maybe old Billy isn’t smiling because my Tigers just knocked his A’s out of the playoffs in his own house, but you get the point.
What’s interesting about this matchup is that when the Lions have the ball, you’ll see two of the NFL’s elite units on the field in the Lions’ offense and the Browns’ defense. But when Cleveland has the ball, you’ll be seeing two of the NFL’s worst units in the Browns’ offense and the Lions’ defense.
But, each of these units has their strengths and weaknesses.
Take the Lions’ offense for instance. Pressure Matt Stafford and it’s over. Simple as that.
If the Browns can knock Stafford around and get him throwing over the middle off his back foot as he loves to do, the Lions will really struggle to move the ball, and they’ll definitely turn it over.
But, if the Lions can establish a running game and give Stafford time to go through his progression, the Lions will be able to beat this Browns defense. When the Lions are clicking and Calvin Johnson is on the field, they’re nearly impossible to stop.
When Calvin is out and Stafford is hurried, well, we saw what happens in that scenario last week in Green Bay.
And speaking of Megatron, this is a game that he must take personally. Going against a premier corner in Haden, he’ll have to step up and make it a point to have a big day. Should he be quieted, I’m not sure Detroit has the firepower to score many points.
Like the Lions, the Browns have weaknesses on offense as well. Like I mentioned earlier, Brandon Weeden is hardly Tom Brady, and the combo of Chris Ogbonnaya and Willis McGahee won’t win you any rushing titles.
But this team isn’t on a three game winning streak for nothing- they can score when they need to in all three phases of the game. In fact, the Browns have outscored the Lions 85-76 over the last three weeks.
Granted, many of those points were scored with Brian Hoyer at the helm, but Weeden looked effective last Thursday night against the Bills.
Cleveland will try to establish the run in this game in an effort to free up emerging star tight end Jordan Cameron off of play-action. If the Lions allow McGahee to start hot and get some chunks of yardage early, the Lions could be in for a long day. They don’t have anyone near talented enough to cover Cameron one on one, so he’ll be enough of a problem without the threat of a run game.
The Lions need to jump out early in this one, take away the running game and limit Cameron as much as possible. This is all but an easy task: basically I’m asking Detroit to shut down the run, score a couple touchdowns early so the Browns have to throw, and then when they do throw, my theory asks the Lions to stop one of the league’s most talented young players.
If they can do that and come out of this road game with a win, then I may start believing in this team.
No big deal right?
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