Lions vs. Eagles: Top Storylines for Week 14 NFC Clash

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 8, 2013

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 17: Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions celebrates a second quarter touchdown with Matthew Stafford #9 and Jeremy Ross #12 while playing the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on November 17, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

With quite a few big games on the docket this weekend, the matchup between the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles has gotten lost in the shuffle.

The game won't be without excitement, however.

Both teams are 7-5 and boast strong offensives. The Lions ranked second in the NFL in yards per game (424.5), while the Eagles are right behind in third (403.6). With neither possessing a strong defense, fans should be treated to plenty of yards and plenty of points.

Detroit is leading the NFC North, with Philadelphia knocking on the door in the NFC East, so this is a game with playoff implications as well.

Looking ahead to what should be a fun game, here are three of the bigger storylines on which you should be focusing.


Will Philadelphia's Defense Bend or Break?

Nov 17, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin (98) and defensive tackle Bennie Logan (96) combine to tackle Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris (46) during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Manda
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

While the Eagles still rank among the worst teams in the league in a few defensive categories, they have shown improvement on that side of the ball as the season has progressed. Plus, with the nature of their offense, they're bound to give up a boatload of yards. It doesn't always mean the other team is successful.

The Oakland Raiders got 560 yards and lost to Philadelphia by 29 points. The Arizona Cardinals had 350 and lost, while the Washington Redskins racked up 427 yards and lost as well.

Philadelphia has done a great job of shutting down teams inside the red zone. According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles rank fifth in points-per-red-zone appearance.

Among Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Joique Bell and Reggie Bush, the Lions showcase an arsenal of offensive firepower that will be hard for Philly to keep from mustering at least 375 yards.

In the grand scheme of things, that's not all that important. The bigger key will be stopping Detroit inside the red zone and keeping the Lions off the scoreboard.


Who Wins the Turnover Battle?

Dec 1, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles (9) scrambles during the fourth quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles defeated the Cardinals 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TO
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

One of the things that's made Nick Foles so successful has been his ability to protect the football. A 19-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio is absurd, even in an NFL where it's getting easier and easier to throw the football.

It also makes Stafford's ratio of 27-14 pedestrian by comparison.

Following a bye in Week 9, the Lions have turned the ball over 13 times while getting four takeaways, three of which came against the Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers.

The Eagles, on the other hand, have forced nine turnovers while coughing up the ball just once.

It's no secret that the team that wins the turnover battle generally wins the game. Looking at both teams' recent performances, it's hard not to give Philadelphia the edge here.


How Will Both Teams' Playoff Standing Be Affected?

Nov 10, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) scores the winning touchdown against Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman (33) and strong safety Major Wright (21)during the second half at Soldier Field. Detroit defeats
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Win or lose the Lions will remain first in the NFC North by virtue of their two wins over the Chicago Bears. While a loss isn't the end of the world, it's important for Detroit to maintain at least a one-game lead over its division rivals.

The Lions get the Baltimore Ravens next week, which will be a tough game. After that they have the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings, both of which may relish the chance to play spoiler.

If you're Detroit, you want to have some wiggle room late into the season.

The Eagles still have work to do. They're tied with the Dallas Cowboys but lose the tiebreaker. Philadelphia has another game with the Cowboys left on the schedule, but it's important not to lose any ground to Dallas.

Winning on the road in Week 17 will be tough to do.

Whose playoff picture will look a little blurrier come Monday?