If you read one of my earlier articles this week, you already know that I have given the Detroit Lions the nod this Sunday (Lions 24-Jets 17). While I provided a statistical rationale for my prediction earlier in the week, here are the 10 reasons I see the Detroit Lions rising to the occasion tomorrow afternoon.
1. The Locker Room Has Been Relatively Quiet This Week
While Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz did reply to Rex Ryan’s “The best defensive team in the National Football League will be in Detroit this week” comment, simply stating that the Lions were bringing something to the table as well; the normally vocal Detroit team has been unusually quiet.
Over the years I have come to realize that, in most cases, brazen braggadocio is normally a sign of serious uncertainty. Yes, it is true that back on January 12, 1969, the most famous Jet of all, “Willie” Joe Namath, boldly guaranteed a win; but I also remember that Rex Ryan guaranteed to Jets fans earlier this year that they would win the Super Bowl.
In short, Ryan has a bad habit of irritating fans, opposing players and the media with his bold, sometimes-outrageous comments. I think he knows exactly what his team is up against and a quiet Lions team tells me that player attention in Detroit is exactly where it needs to be this week: on the Jets.
2. A Gelling Defensive Front Four Will Stop Jets Running Game
Anyone who has ever played or coached a football team knows that it always takes time for the play of any collective line, offensive or defensive, to gel. The Detroit Lions defensive front four has made and continues to make significant strides each week.
Yes, they have already demonstrated their ability to pin back their ears and rush the passer—that is always the easy part.
Last week, with the exception of one long run by Donovan McNabb, they actually started to show signs that their run-stop capability is beginning to come together as well.
3. DeAndre Levy Is Back in the Middle for Detroit
Let’s face it—stopping the Jets running game is the focal point of a Lions victory. We all know that the Lions will attempt to make Mark Sanchez beat them and they will use a game plan similar to the Green Bay plan of a week ago to do so.
While the play of the defensive line has been improving week to week, the Detroit linebacker crew has been seriously weak and is the biggest hole on the Detroit team at this stage of the season. One must acknowledge, however, that the Detroit lions have also played most of their season without their starting middle linebacker.
Detroit stopped a credible rushing attack last week and with the addition of another capable 4-3 linebacker, Rob Carpenter, who has had an additional week to assimilate to the Detroit defensive scheme; I expect the Lions defensive front seven to provide a formidable impediment to the Jets running attack.
4. The Scheming of Gunther Cunningham
If anyone is capable of devising a scheme to thwart a running attack, it’s Gunther Cunningham. We all need to remember that as K.C.’s coordinator, Cunningham's defenses allowed an average of only 16.4 points per game (the best mark in the NFL) and had a turnover margin of plus-30, (tops in the AFC.)
The Detroit Lions aren't the Chiefs of 1995 and 1997, but they are certainly moving in the right direction.
I won’t be surprised to see Spievey and Delmas in the box throughout the game and I think Cunningham will figure out a way to keep the defense from getting burned on the deep long ball. Cunnigham is definitely a Detroit advantage.
5. Quarterback Advantage
Despite all of the hoopla about Mark Sanchez, everyone who lives in New York, Detroit, Des Moines and virtually every other location on the planet Earth knows that Matt Stafford wins this battle hands down. Better arm, better accuracy, better vision, better upside...BETTER EVERYTHING. The only comparison that Stafford doesn’t win is the record, but that will change with time.
6. Receiver Advantages
Calvin Johnson is a Man (that is spelled with a capital "M," thank you) and everyone inside and outside of Detroit knows that.
Brandon Pettigrew has suffered some untimely drops of late but he is a potential Pro Bowler who has a breakout game coming. The additions of Nate Burleson in the No. 2 slot and Tony Scheffler at the other tight end position provide one of—if not the most—prolific receiving corps of recent memory. Stefan Logan brings a serious return threat the likes of which has been missing from Detroit since Mel Gray.
Detroit wins this comparison hands down.
7. Big-Play Capability
A comparison between Detroit’s top five receivers and New York’s top five receivers shows Detroit with a nearly 400-yard advantage in YAC. The Lions' kick return and punt return capabilities are superior to the Jets' as well, having already demonstrated their big-play abilities with a 105-yard return.
While Detroit did let some big plays go last week, I am quite certain that if one of these teams is going to break a big play or two, it will be the Detroit Lions.
8. Kicking Game
As I mentioned earlier in the week, in an indoor stadium I will take Nick Harris and Jason Hanson against almost any other kicking duo in the league. This is certainly true at home and against Weatherford and Folk.
9. Detroit’s Record Against the Spread
The New York Jets have yet to lose to the spread on the road this season but six points on the road will be very tough to cover.
The Detroit Lions are 3-0 on their home field against the point spread. Meanwhile they have managed to win without the spread at home and they will be trouble for what many perceive to be a more talented New York Jets team.
Take the Detroit Lions +6 points over the New York Jets if you’re betting, but as I predicted earlier in the week the Detroit Lions will win straight up.
10. The Detroit Crowd
This game is sold out in Detroit and while that may be the norm in many other NFL cities, it has not been the norm for most Lions teams over the past several years. Last week against Washington a less-than-stellar turnout by Lions fans (nearly 25,000 short of Ford Field capacity) still provided a crowd noise and enthusiasm advantage for the Lions.
This team thrives on the vibes of their fanbase and you can expect this sell-out crowd to be a deciding factor. (One of 10…)
Let the games begin—Go Lions!