Matthew Stafford: Why You Should Start Lions QB with Confidence in Week 4

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer ISeptember 27, 2012

NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 23: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions throws a pass against the Tennessee Titans during the game at LP Field on September 23, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Based on what the Minnesota Vikings defense has done against opposing quarterbacks so far this season, it's fair to assume Matthew Stafford has a chore on his hands in Week 4.

But you know what they say when you assume something.

The Detroit Lions' fourth-year quarterback is currently dealing with a hip injury sustained in Week 3, but Chris McCosky of the Detroit News brought good news on Thursday.

McCosky tweeted:

Stafford, Scheffler were back at practice. Probably be limited but on pace for Sunday. Stafford looked comfortable. Moving well

— Chris McCosky (@cmccosky) September 27, 2012

 

Stafford's injury doesn't appear to be limiting him much now and he faces a secondary that has perhaps gotten too much credit three weeks into the season.

While the Vikings have held opposing quarterbacks to 6.6 yards per attempt (10th in the NFL) and a middle-of-the-pack five passing touchdowns, they also faced two young quarterbacks in Blaine Gabbert and Andrew Luck in the opening weeks.

San Francisco 49ers veteran Alex Smith actually fared the worst against the Vikings this season (204 yards, one touchdown, one interception), but those who saw Smith play before the 2011 season know he's prone to some bad games.

The reality is, the strength of the Vikings' pass defense is not in their secondary—it's in their pass rush. While Minnesota has notched a middle-of-the-pack seven sacks so far, that doesn't truly indicate how productive the pass rush has been. The defensive line continually got a push on the 49ers' offensive line last week, which saw Smith look scattered more than a few times.

Right defensive end Jared Allen continues to be a beast (one sack, one hit, one hurry, one forced fumble vs. SF) and outside linebacker Chad Greenway notched two sacks against the 49ers.

Why is this important as far as this game goes?

Well, the Lions have a better offensive line than the Vikings' opponents this season, San Francisco, Indianapolis and Jacksonville. They've also allowed fewer sacks than any of those teams (four).

With protection, quarterbacks are in a great position to succeed against Minnesota.

On top of that, Stafford had his best game of the season in Week 3 (278 yards, one touchdown), which (perhaps not coincidentally) saw second-year running back Mikel Leshoure break out in his first NFL start.

Leshoure racked up 100 yards and a touchdown on the ground and 34 receiving yards in Week 3. This is important because it opens up the passing lanes for Stafford and places less pressure on him throughout the game (as I highlighted here). 

On the surface, one has reason to worry about Stafford against the Vikings in Week 4, but a closer look shows he's actually favored to have a big game in Detroit.

 

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