Detroit Lions vs. Tennessee Titans: Where Sunday's Game Will Be Won or Lost

Eric Wagenmaker@theREALewagsContributor IISeptember 20, 2012

Detroit Lions all-world wide receiver, Calvin Johnson
Detroit Lions all-world wide receiver, Calvin JohnsonRonald Martinez/Getty Images

When the 2012 NFL schedule came out in April, most Lions fans noticed Week 3 vs. the Tennessee Titans and yawned, subconsciously chalking up a “W” upon immediate glance.

Detroit has yet to defeat the franchise known as the Titans (last victory: 1995 vs. the Houston Oilers), coming up short on all three matchups dating back to 2001, including the Thanksgiving Day massacre in 2008.

Yes, we are already four seasons removed from the 47-10 drubbing the Titans placed on the would be 0-16 Lions, which was the last time these two franchises have met.

But that was then and this is now.     

While no game in the NFL is ever a given victory, Tennessee is simply overmatched and will likely also be “overwhelmed” and “overtaken” by a Lions squad tired of hearing about their “underwhelming” start to the season.

The game plan for Detroit should be simple: Stop the run and execute on offense. While this strategy could be useful for any given game vs. any given opponent, facing a second-year quarterback in Jake Locker and a defense that has no answer for Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson will significantly magnify its effectiveness.

There is a reason that Titans RB Chris Johnson has been held to 21 total yards rushing in two games. No other team is going to allow Johnson to see any freedom in the running game until Locker can prove that he’s a capable pocket passer.

Locker has completed 61 percent of his passes, but that statistic is inflated due to teams locking in on Johnson, and Detroit should do the same.

If Locker can cause trouble for the Lions secondary, who have left much to be desired lately—mostly due to injuries—this game could be closer than we all initially thought.

Detroit is still missing starters Chris Houston and Louis Delmas in their defensive backfield while CB Bill Bentley is still recovering from a Week 1 concussion and veteran CB Drayton Florence has been placed on IR with a broken forearm.

The Lions did make a waiver claim on CB Jerome Murphy, but had to release CB Kevin Barnes in the process, who they gave up a conditional late-round draft pick for late in the preseason. Detroit may be able to sneak by lowly teams like the Titans with a patchwork secondary, but once the likes of Chicago and Green Bay come calling, it will likely be a different story.

Matthew Stafford has also yet to find the magic he stumbled upon last season when he racked up over 5,000 passing yards and 41 touchdowns, but Lions fans need not be dismayed.

Name me one elite quarterback who hasn’t struggled out of the gate in 2012. Along with Stafford, names like Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Jay Cutler, Tony Romo and Peyton Manning have all shown big signs of inconsistency. No matter what the reasons may be for this trend, coincidence or not, Stafford is still in good company.

Stafford is also attempting to complete only his second full season as a starting quarterback. I would say he is far ahead of the curve.

The Tennessee Titans are exactly what the Lions need at this point of the young season—a chance for turkey day redemption and a reason to feel good about themselves. The Titans ought to provide exactly that