Detroit Lions: 3 Key Focal Points/Prediction vs. Miami Dolphins

Eric Vincent@@IAmEricVincentCorrespondent INovember 9, 2014

Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson catches a ball during warmups before a NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins in Detroit Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014.  (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Paul Sancya/Associated Press

Fresh off a bye week with plenty of rest, it's make or break time in Detroit.

In a wide-open NFC, the 6-2 Lions have a run of contending competition in the next few weeks. Starting with the surprising 5-3 Miami Dolphins this Sunday at Ford Field.

Miami has been red hot out the AFC East, riding a three-game winning streak. The run could have reached five straight, except for the Dolphins collapse in the final seconds against the Green Bay Packers in Week 6, after thumping the Oakland Raiders the week before in London.

For Detroit, road games against Cardinals and the Patriots await after hosting the Dolphins. There's plenty of attention on this matchup, and the Lions need to leave home with a victory under their belt.

Here are the biggest focal points to this week's meeting.

 

1. Megatron Returns

It's no secret the Lions offense has been inconsistent and not as great as advertised since losing their star wide receiver. After being banged up all season and injuring his ankle against the Buffalo Bills, superstar Calvin Johnson is near 100% and finally ready to return.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford has struggled to find open receivers since losing Megatron, along with his three starting tight ends (Brandon Pettigrew, Eric Ebron, Joseph Fauria), who have all returned to practice. He's keyed in on Golden Tate, who's having a breakout season. Johnson's return will open up some more looks for Tate and other options.

Miami boasts a top-tier defense, ranking third in overall defense (304.6 yards allowed) and second against the pass (201.1 yards allowed). However, having Megatron on the field is always an advantage for Detroit's offense. The Lions also will have running back Reggie Bush returning healthy against his former team.

 

2. Defensive Line Minus Fairley

Detroit's top ranked NFL defense has suffered a boatload of losses due to injuries in their secondary and linebacker corps. However, the consistent pressure applied by a deep defensive line has helped trigger their success.

Now, the front four might face its biggest adversity this year. Defensive tackle Nick Fairley will miss his first game of the season because of a sprained right knee. 

Individually, Fairley was putting together one of his best seasons in the pros. After dealing with plenty of other injuries in his career, along with playing in a contract season, this is a major setback for the stud defensive tackle, especially as there is yet no set return date.

Veteran C.J. Mosley is returning from his suspension and will fill in as the starter in Fairley's position. The Lions defensive line will need a stellar performance against Miami's fourth-best rushing attack in the NFL and a red-hot quarterback in Ryan Tannehill. The young quarterback can be forced into some turnovers if pressured.

 

3. Another Lions collapse?

The 6-2 start is too reminiscent of recent seasons in Detroit. The Lions start off hot only to shoot themselves in the foot, missing the playoffs in the second half of the season.

I know, it's a depressing discussion but let's revisit some recent collapses, shall we?

2007, the Lions also started with 6-2 record, only to finish the season 7-9. And just last season, Detroit, after busting out to a 6-3 start, fumbled the NFC North away to the an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers team.

Under new management and a new coaching staff, plus a bolstered roster, you would hope the Lions have learned a thing or two about letting history repeat itself. A Week 10 win will swing momentum in a great way for this team learning to win football games.

 

Prediction 

Miami is red hot after thumping San Diego, 37-0, but winning four games in a row in the NFL is extremely hard to do, especially at a place like Ford Field. Fresh off a bye week with Megatron back, the Lions should be in perfect place to crunch out a close victory this week.

Miami 20 Detroit 27

 

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