Lions-Eagles Preview: Taming Detroit’s roar

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What happened to last year’s Detroit Lions team? You know, the one that seemingly came out of nowhere to finish the season with a 10-6 record and make it to the playoffs?

That team is now 1-3 and are seeking an answer to that question themselves. More importantly, they want to stop giving people reason to ask it.

For the second week in a row, the Philadelphia Eagles will face a team coming off of its bye and seeking to reclaim its season. The Lions have arrived in Philadelphia rested and ready to roar, and it’s up to the Eagles to quiet their bite at the Linc.

The Lions are third in the NFL in total offense, averaging 412.2 YPG  but have little to show for it in terms of their record. Detroit is averaging 25 points a  game, though, as compared to Philadelphia’s next-to-bottom of the league 16. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has struggled this season, notching more interceptions (4) than touchdowns (3) with 1,183 yards after coming off a 2011 season where he tallied 41 TDs and 16 INTs for over 5,000 yards.

While we are all wondering what happened to all of the sacks we expected to see out of Philadelphia’s defensive line (they haven’t had a single one in two games and only have 7 this season), they have done well with the pass defense and held opposing QBs to an average rating of 67.1. Expect them to continue with the pressure but it would be nice to add some good, old-fashioned quarterback sacks to the mix.

Calvin Johnson, has 29 catches for a total of 423 yards this season but only has one touchdown, which interestingly did not come from Matthew Stafford but rather backup quarterback Shaun Hill. The  elite receiver is still trying to find the chemistry to match the magic of last year with his quarterback and the Eagles must ensure that that does not happen on their watch.

It’s been no secret this season that the Eagles have struggled mightily in covering the best receivers of the game (I don’t even want to mention the Cardinals and Larry Fitzgerald, lest you have flashbacks.) Megatron is as good as they come, matching physicality (he’s 6’5 and 236 lbs) with speed. The Eagles have not gone into detail about their plans for covering Johnson but going one-on-one should not be an option. All hands need to be on deck to limit the damage that Megatron can inflict.

The Lions have struggled to find a consistent running game this season with RB Jahvid Best out of action.  Mikel Le Shoure, however, is a significant threat,  running for 100 yards and a touchdown in his Week 3 NFL debut. He was quiet the following week with just 26 yards but his potential is there and needs to be stifled. MLB DeMeco Ryans and DT Fletcher Cox have been very successful at stopping the run and their efforts should be helped by the return of Akeem Jordan to the weakside.

The Eagles offense will see a similar look on the Lions defense, as Detroit also utilizes the Wide-9. One of the team’s standouts on defense, tackle Ndamukong Suh, has recently received heavy criticism from an unnamed GM in the league for being overhyped, and it’s true that Suh has dominated as he has in previous years. He is still a force and the Eagles will face a pissed off and slightly embarrassed Suh due to the comments and yet another off-field incident from Thursday.

I’m hoping he doesn’t get made enough to stomp somebody again.

Detroit middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch has helped the Lions to limit the traction of opponents’ running  games, keeping them to 4.1 YPC this season. LeSean McCoy had just 53 yards on 16 carries in Pittsburgh but the Eagles have tried to use the run steadily the past few games (hurray!). For Shady to have any success the Eagles o-line has to find a way to fight a boy named Suh up front, meaning that he will keep Evan Mathis and Dallas Reynolds’ hands full all day.

It’s been well-documented what Vick needs to do today in order to lead the Eagles offense–hang on to the ball. If he can do that and get the ball to playmakers like DeSean Jackson, Brent Celek, and perhaps Jeremy Maclin will want to make some noise in an otherwise quiet season, we will see an end to the low number of points the Eagles have been able to tally this season. The offense needs to strike first and strike often to show that they’re being all they can be.

Like Philadelphia, Detroit is struggling on special teams, with the Lions’ unit having allowed 2 kickoff and 2 punt returns for touchdowns already this season. Will the Eagles decide to shake things up on their own return game and finally oust Damaris Johnson in favor for Jackson on punt return duty?

A young  Lions team on the road facing a mountain of criticism from folks ranging from their fanbase to executives of another team faces another young team in Philadelphia that seeks to start its by with a 4-2 record that makes it harder to question the possibilities for their long-term success. The Eagles last home game was a rousing win against the Giants and the fans will be hyped. Prediction: Eagles 33 Lions 17

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