Lions management has committed itself to rebuilding the defense from the ground up and drafted lots of young talent.
There are several veterans on defense that are probably going to be in charge of teaching these young kids. Guys like Larry Foote and Anthony Henry come in with experience and from teams that have a recent history of winning. Some of the older guys on this defense can still play
A steady diet of Forte between the tackles should be more than enough to wear them out and put points on the board.
Foot injury aside, I don’t see Daunte Culpepper being the opening day starter. He can be more valuable mentoring Matthew Stafford from the sidelines.
They have a talented young running back in Kevin Smith and a big tall receiver in Calvin Johnson, so they’re not without weapons.
They drafted a big tight end in Brandon Pettigrew and if he can stay healthy (apparently he’s had ankle problems in college) he’ll be a big contributor in the blocking schemes.
I’m not exactly sure what kind of pressure is on this new coaching staff and players. Certainly expectations can’t be too high for them, and this may be the best thing they have going for them. With no real strength on offense it can be difficult to game plan against them.
Player To Contain
Matthew Stafford: When facing a rookie QB it’s important to shake his confidence early and force him to second guess his decisions. The NFC North will be a tough place for this guy to mature.
Matt Forte vs. Second Level of Lions Defense: If the offensive line can open up holes, Forte should have big games against Detroit.
Green Bay Packers
The switch to the 3-4 defense could pose some problems with some of the older members of the offensive line. Protecting the edges of the pocket is going to be paramount to keep the pressure off Cutler. Orlando Pace was a little exposed in the preseason game against the Broncos and I’m sure the Packers defense was taking notice.
The strength of the Packers is the physical play of their cornerbacks, Al Harris and Charles Woodson. They will jam, press, and disrupt receivers with little regard to being flagged. Over the years the risk has justified the reward.
Pump fakes and double moves are the way to beat the Packers secondary. Make them over-commit and bite on the first move and catch them out of position. The inexperience of the Bears receiving corps could be exposed if they can’t handle being jammed off the line.
The offense will succeed or fail based on the performance/health of Aaron Rodgers. There’s a reason he replaced Favre and since taking over the starting he hasn’t really started rolling with the offense.
Last season Rodgers never had the chance to let his sprained shoulder heal, which hurt his productivity in close games. There were several games last season, including the second game against the Bears, where the Pack were close to sealing victory. Getting pressure on Rodgers is the key to keeping them out of the end zone.
Player To Contain
Rodgers is a given but keeping Aaron Kampan out of the pocket and running lanes should be priority No. 1 for the Bears.
Greg Olsen vs. the DBs: They play physical but that’s hard to do against Olsen.
The Viking front four is probably tops in the league. They are big, strong, and surprisingly fast. Trying to run against them is an uphill battle. Anchored by the Williams twins, they plug up the gaps and have ends physical and fast enough to pursue after the initial push.
The Bears will have to be creative with their play calling to create misdirection if they hope to have any success running against this team. Reverses, draws, screens—whatever it takes to get passed their defensive line.
Their weakness on defense is in the secondary. They ranked 18th against the pass last season and spent their early draft picks upgrading their offense. The departure of Darren Sharper is a leadership and experience gap they’ll need to fill to stop teams from throwing on them.
The Vikings are loaded with tons of talented players from receivers (Berrian, Harvin), tight ends (Shiancoe), and of course from running backs (Peterson, Taylor). Stack up against the run, and they can stretch the field with the pass. Drop back in coverage, and they’ll run downhill on you.
Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin, to me, are similar receivers; they’re fast and can run the post. Shiancoe is the guy to keep an eye on as he runs crossing routes well and also line up wide.
What impresses me about the Vikings offense is their ability to line up two running backs behind the quarterback. The obvious choice to run the ball is Peterson, but Chester Taylor is a very good back in his own right and could be the starting back on quite a few NFL teams.
Finally, Brett Favre. Can he still play? Yes. Is he as durable as he once was? No. A few big hits should slow him down and maybe even take him out of the game. Tavaris Jackson has talent but also hasn’t been able to get over that hump and be a consistent quarterback.
Player To Contain
Like Barry Sanders in the '90s, no matter how hard the Bears work Adrian Peterson they can’t seem to limit his production. Doesn’t mean you stop trying.
Urlacher over the middle taking away Favre’s check downs.
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