The Detroit Lions have been NFL preseason all-stars since Jim Schwartz took the reigns, but what can we expect from the upstart Oakland Raiders with new coach Dennis Allen? Let's take a closer look at the matchup.
At the start of the preseason, some were speculating that Schwartz would be taking a different approach this year after finally establishing a "winning" program. He entered this year with a sparkling 10-2 NFL preseason record, but dropped the first game vs the Browns.
Yet, the Lions should have won that game, and they followed it up with a strong road effort in Baltimore. Schwartz has a perfect 3-0 record in Week 3 of the preseason, and I like that trend to continue Saturday.
Dennis Allen is doing his best to turn things around in the post Al-Davis era, but he's 0-2 so far to start the 2012 preseason.
This game opened at pick 'em and early action has come flying in on the Lions. The majority of the public bets are also coming in on the road team.
Just yesterday, you could have gotten Detroit at -2.5, but I would still make this a play at the current line of -3 (odds courtesy of SBRforum). Anything over that and I would pass.
Going back over the last couple of years, Schwartz has played Matthew Stafford into the third quarter, with the exception of one game where they put up over 20 points in the first half.
For Detroit, we won't have to worry about Kellen Moore playing extensive minutes unless Schwartz decides to sit Shaun Hill instead. I expect to see Stafford and Hill to get most of the action, which is certainly an advantage over the Raiders' rotation.
Who covers the spread?
On the flip side, we have Carson Palmer. The Oakland brass want you to believe that he's still "learning the offense," and some of that might be true, but that's not what I took away after seeing him in the two games so far.
Palmer is simply a bad quarterback. He continues to be erratic with his decision-making and doesn't have the kind of accuracy and zip to compensate for his shortcomings anymore.
Compounding his problems is the fact that Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jacoby Ford, and Denarius Moore are all banged up and questionable for the game. Through two contests, Palmer has yet to lead them to a touchdown.
Matt Leinart has fared better thanks to his familiarity with Greg Knapp's system, but even he is banged up after cutting his finger. He is expected to play on Saturday, and it might even be an upgrade over what Palmer can offer.
If the Raiders are going to make a game of this, they'll be relying on their defense and the wheels of Darren McFadden. They certainly have the pass-rush to pose some problems for Stafford and Company, but their biggest concern is in their secondary.
The back-end has no one that can come close to slowing down Calvin Johnson, and if they put too many bodies on him it will open up the field for guys like Brandon Pettigrew, Titus Young, Nate Bureleson, and Ryan Broyles. This is a passing-dominated game at the moment and the Raiders are lacking in that area on both sides of the ball.
Oakland will be hoping the Lions continue to take penalties and tackle poorly in the second half—something Detroit has done in each of the first two games. The first half has been a different story as the first- and second-team defense has yet to allow a touchdown.
Very simply, the Raiders are still trying to figure out all the puzzle pieces.The Lions have a lot of continuity both on the coaching staff and throughout the lineup.
The starters won't play the whole game, but they will play enough to exploit the mismatches in the air. As long as they enter the fourth quarter with a lead, I don't see Leinart outscoring Hill—and it would be an added bonus if Terrelle Pryor got some extra action.
NFL Pick: DET -3.