Lions QB Matthew Stafford
The opening weekend of the NFL is upon us and we are hearing about the New England Patriots versus the Cincinnati Bengals, the Green Bay Packers versus the Philadelphia Eagles, the Dallas Cowboys versus the Washington Redskins and the Indianapolis Colts versus the Houston Texans.
The Packers are being picked by many to go to the Super Bowl from the NFC. The Cowboys are another early favorite in the NFC. The TOcho show, or for those of you that have been hiding under a rock that is the new fancy combination of Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco in Cincinnati. All the talk about Tom Brady in New England, his recent car crash, and whether he can once again lead his team to the Super Bowl.
You have heard more than enough about those teams, so let's look at a couple teams that haven't gotten a whole lot of coverage so far this week.
The big game this weekend that is being overlooked is the Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears game. The Lions haven't had a winning season since 2000 when they were 9-7. Over the past decade they are an abysmal 42-118. Last year Matthew Stafford gave Lions fans a reason to have some hope.
In wide receivers Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson give Stafford two very good guys to throw the ball to.
Jahvid Best is a very explosive and dangerous rookie out of California, bringing yet another threatening element to an offense that looks very potent.
On the defensive side of the ball the Lions look much improved as well, starting with a very solid line backing core that is also very young. Unfortunately it looks like DeAndre Levy will be out this weekend at middle linebacker, but even with Landon Johnson poised to get the start in his place the linebackers will be just fine.
Rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is another big reason Lions fans are excited to watch what this team can do. He is a big, strong play making down line man that can control a game at the line. Suh is accompanied by Corey Williams in the middle of this defensive line, a massive mountain of a man who is extremely strong and very talented at controlling the line of scrimmage. Add to that Kyle Vanden Bosh at right defensive end and Cliff Avril at left end and it gives you two guys that can get to a quarterback and force bad plays to be made.
Right now the Lions have three defensive backs listed on the injury report, safeties Louis Delmas and C.C. Brown, both of whom are expected to play. Delmas has a groin pull and Brown has a hairline fracture in his right forearm. Also listed on the injury report is corner back Jonathan Wade, also expected to play this weekend with an injured finger. Opposite Wade at corner is Chris Houston.
All four of those defensive backs are very competent defenders and can cause problems for opposing receivers and tight ends.
The other team involved in this contest however has some questions, most notably about Jay Cutler at quarterback and their receiving corps.
Is Cutler going to turn the ball over so much this year (26 interceptions and one fumble for a loss, nine total fumbles)?
Are return men Johnny Knox and Devin Hester really capable of being a teams number one and two wide receiver?
Matt Forte will probably be expected to carry a lot of this teams offense, and while he is capable the question is can he with teams crowding the box to stuff the run. He did average just 3.6 yards per carry last season.
Chester Taylor was added as the back-up to Forte and you can also expect Taylor to get the majority of the third down snaps.
Moving to the Bears defense the only real question is Brian Urlacher. Can he come back from the wrist surgery he needed last season to regain his form as one of the games most dominant middle linebackers? Joining Urlacher at linebacker at Lance Briggs and Nick Roach, who combined for 192 tackles and 3 sacks least season. That is one impressive group of linebackers.
The defensive line for this Bears team has been improved with the addition of pass rushing defensive end Julius Peppers. Last year he had 1-.5 sacks and the year before 14.5. He can be a nightmare for any quarterback.
Mark Anderson is playing opposite Peppers at the left end position and he has shown improvement in each of his three seasons in the NFL. Bears fans are hoping he continues that trend.
Sandwiched between Peppers and Anderson at defensive tackle are Tommie Harris and Anthony Adams. At a combined 605 pounds they really do form a wall in the middle of the line of scrimmage, but they also have the ability to get to the quarterback on the pass rush.
A defensive backfield boasting Danieal Manning and Chris Harris at the two safety positions with Zackary Bowman and Charles Tillman playing the corners. Those four combined for only 12 interceptions and that will need to improve this season.
This match-up is going to show us if the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers are going to have any other challengers this season for the NFC North title and it will also show if the Lions are making strides away from being a perennial cellar dweller.