Sitting here a month ago, it looked as though this game against the Minnesota Vikings would be an easy win and Detroit would be heading into the bye week on a positive note. However after falling to the winless Tennessee Titans last Sunday while Minnesota pulled the upset at home against the San Francisco 49ers, the perspective on this game has changed dramatically.
Entering today’s matchup against the Vikings, the Lions already find themselves in a must-win game since another loss could be devastating for any playoff hopes they may have. However given the upsets and surprises around the NFL including within the NFC North a win for the Lions coupled with a Bears loss and all of a sudden Detroit will find themselves tied atop the division.
Not to mention another loss to a team the Lions should beat will only fuel the fire of those constantly calling for the heads of Martin Mayhew, Jim Schwartz, Matthew Stafford and any high profile personnel member or player.
Detroit Lions Player to Watch: Mikel Leshoure (RB)
Last weekend Leshoure was one of the few bright spots for the Lions as the second year back rushed for 100 yards and touchdown in the 44-41 OT loss. Granted it was against a miserable Titans run defense however it gave Lions fans and that offense some hope that a relative one-dimensional offensive game plan could potentially become multi-dimensional.
This week Leshoure will be matched up against a run defense for Minnesota that isn’t great by any means but still very effective. Further success for Leshoure would only continue to help the Lions’ bigger strength in their passing game and give Matthew Stafford more options on those third and short situations.
Minnesota Player to Watch: Jared Allen (DE)
Whether he’s making comments off the field or causing havoc in the offensive backfield, Jared Allen has been a thorn in the side of the Lions for as long as I can remember.
Last week the Lions’ offensive line did an excellent job at giving Stafford plenty of time in the pocket and running lanes for Mikel Leshoure. Jared Allen though presents new challenges as he’s very capable at getting to the quarterback and making those big tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
In passing situations look for the Lions to use extra blockers in the box to help contain Allen enabling Stafford to evaluate his options down field.
Keys for the Lions Offense: Get Calvin involved earlier in the game
Detroit’s biggest offensive weapon has probably been one of the quietest early on in the game. Scott Linehan earlier in the week mentioned that the team will do a better job at getting Megatron involved in the offensive game plan earlier which really should be no-brainer from the start.
Still the Lions’ success on offense still depends on the Stafford/Johnson connection given the running game still being suspect despite Leshoure’s performance last weekend.
Keys for the Lions Defense: PLAY BETTER IN THE SECONDARY!
At this point it’s clear that just about any quarterback in the NFL can have a field day with the Lions’ secondary. And hell if Jake Locker can do it last weekend you have to assume that Christian Ponder can do the same exact thing. Obviously if the Lions want to be successful today on defense it’s all going to start with what happens in the secondary. If they continue to get torched all of a sudden the running lanes will open up for Adrian Peterson and you’ve got a whole new set of problems on your hand.
Simply put the Lions’ secondary can very much set the pace for the entire defense.
I still like the play makers the Lions have on the offensive side of the ball which despite last week should continue to give the Lions the edge if the game turns into a shootout. You also have to assume that the special teams simply can’t be as bad as it was last weekend… right?
Lions 28, Vikings 23