Colts vs. Lions: A Midwest Matchup Preview for Week 13

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistNovember 30, 2012

The Colts' two-man show hits the road.
The Colts' two-man show hits the road.Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The 7-4 Indianapolis Colts are perhaps as little as one win away from a playoff berth.

The 4-7 Detroit Lions are just a loss away from oblivion.

The two teams meet in Week 13, and here's everything you need to know about the matchup.


What it Means

For the Colts, another unexpected road win would push their record to 8-4 and all but lock down a playoff spot.

Indy is in the cat-bird seat when it comes to the AFC wild cards, and they likely only need another win or two to make the postseason. Given that Houston has a three-game lead with five to play, they aren't likely to catch the Texans either.

This is a bonus game for the Colts. A win would signal that perhaps they are better than they have been given credit for.

Detroit is playing for pride at this point. After an embarrassing home loss on Thanksgiving, Jim Schwartz and company have little hope of making the postseason.


Matchup To Watch

Reggie Wayne vs. Calvin Johnson

What's this you say? Wayne and Johnson won't line up against each other?

While obviously each team will more than likely trot their own "defenders" out against the others' All-Pro wideout, the Colts and Lions will likely have their fate decided by the comparative production of the two men ranked one and two in the NFL in receiving yards.

Johnson is dominating the NFL with 1,257 receiving yards and is averaging a ridiculous 17.2 yards a catch.

Wayne has revitalized his career and leads the league in receptions and is second only to Johnson in yards.

What's interesting is that as prolific as the two men are, neither is finding the end zone with regularity. Wayne has just three scores and Johnson four.

Both the Colts and Lions play No. 1 wideouts respectably and struggle against other targets, so if either Johnson or Wayne go off, his team will likely come out on top.


Stat that Matters

In one-score games, the Colts are 6-1.

In one-score games, the Lions are 3-6.

While there's a lot of randomness in one-score games, in this case the record does accurately reflect something about how the two teams are run.

Detroit has been sloppy to the point stupid all season. They are an undisciplined club prone to big mistakes at the wrong time.

Indianapolis has one of the five best two-minute quarterbacks in the game, and they've stole points at the end of drives and halves that add up to wins.


Biggest Advantage for the Colts

The Colts can flip the field.

Indy has struggled to score points in 2012, thanks in part to the worst starting field position in the game. Still, they managed the third-most first downs in football, thanks to the incredible play of Andrew Luck on third down.

Detroit has a terrible special teams unit, prone to giving up big plays in the return game.

If the Colts actually get decent starting field position, there's a good chance they'll hang big points on the Lions.


Biggest Advantage for the Lions

The Lions' front four is very good at stopping the run.

Detroit has an odd run defense. They are great up front and make a lot of negative plays in the opposing backfield. However, when teams get past the line, the linebackers and secondary have been brutal.

The Lions have to make Indianapolis one-dimensional. When the Colts run effectively, their offense becomes unstoppable.

Detroit has the skill up front to abuse a raggedly Colts line and force more throws from Luck than what Indy wants.


Best Video Only Tangentially Related to the Game

I've made fun of Detroit too many times this season in this space. That's merely a function of every team in the AFC South playing the Lions.

Today, no more jokes about Detroit. It's time to bag on another city.


Indianapolis Will Win If...

...they can contain Matt Stafford and Johnson.

Ultimately, this game will come down to the Indy defense and their ability to put up a credible effort against the elite passing attack the Lions present.

If the Colts' D can keep the game close at all, Indy will win.


Detroit Will Win If...

...Stafford has a big day.

You can't out-execute the Colts, but you can overwhelm them. Detroit has the kind of offense capable of hanging 40 on Indy.

The Lions have scored 24 or more points seven times in 2012.

The Colts have scored 24 or more points three times.

In other words, if it turns into a shootout, the Lions are better equipped to win.



The Lions and Colts are like the weird doppelgangers from Twin Peaks. It's like someone grabbed the Lions and pulled them into a mystic lodge and spit out the Colts in their place.

If this game is close, the Colts will find a way to win it.

The only question is if the Colts can manage to keep the game close enough to have a shot.

Until Indianapolis fixes the defense, however, it's just too difficult to take them.

Lions 35 Colts 17


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