2011 Detroit Lions: Predictions For a 16 Game Season
6-10 sounds pretty good to Lions fans every and anywhere but unfortunately it is not good enough to land the steadily improving team in the playoffs. But, how will they fair next season? That is if the National Football League finds a way to come to terms with the National Football League Players Association. Until then, all I can do is speculate.
So here goes.
Chicago Bears (Lions Home Game)
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2010 NFL Season L 24 – 20
This game had something major different about it in the Lions favor—Drew Stanton. As looked over as he is as a quarterback, in times where he has taken the place of Stafford and Hill, he has pulled off some decent looking statistics. He was able to pull off a few scrambles for gain and key short yardage to extend the Lions’ drive. A piece of the Chicago pie that made things quite difficult for Detroit was Lance Briggs and the always effective Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers had a small hand in things as well.
For this game, Detroit played well. They led for a majority of the quarters and only had one problem staring them in the face—finishing the game.
When Manumaleuna created a four point lead in the fourth quarter off a short pass from Jay Cutler, there was an adequate amount of time left in the game to score. Urlacher was not prepared to let them utilize the time so he made probably the game winning sack that pushed Stanton back nine yards creating a 2nd and long situation. Stanton is 50+percent in 2nd downs with 11+ yards until a first down, but drops to 44.4 percent in 3rd and 11+ yards. All the Bears had to do was consistently contest the pass and create a drive of their own to finish out the game.
This time around I think the Lions will have a renewed sense of self. This meaning that they will be able to gauge when to put their trust in the running game to throw the defense off track. The offensive line needs to be able to put the brakes on defensive gurus Urlacher and Peppers in order to turn the game in their favor.
Lions 11, Bears 19
Green Bay Packers (Home Game)
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2010 NFL Season W 7 – 3
The game went scoreless until the third quarter when Green Bay’s kicker Mason Crosby landed a 42 yd field goal to give the Packers a 3 – 0 lead. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind after the first half that each team’s defense would be the driving force in a win or loss for either side. When Rodgers went out of the game after suffering a concussion from a hit by Ndamukong Suh, things begin looking more like gloom for Green Bay. Even though he had not been able to score up until that point, Rodgers is the most important player on that team next to Clay Matthews, and a team that averages 257.8 passing yards per game was held to only 192 passing yard with Matt Flynn subbing as quarterback at the end of the 2nd quarter.
Levy showed his face once again in this game making a key interception with a little over half of the 3rd quarter left that did not necessarily result in points gained but put a stop to a drive that only included one 3rd down situation and a probable touchdown if the plays had been extended. This is the key for the Detroit Lions defense. Even though you may not make the early stops, continue to put yourselves in a position on the field where you can come between the ball and the receiver over and over again. That way there is a momentum shift and confidence booster and adrenaline can play a huge role in offensive speed and scoring.
Lions 21, Packers 20
Minnesota Vikings (Home Game)
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2010 NFL Season W 20 – 13
This gave the Lions a little preview of what to expect next season, a Vikings team with no Favre, which may be good or bad for the league in general. It proved to be a valiant effort from the Lions’ defense, including Louis Delmas first tackles for loss in the season, 2 tackles with a total 11 yards lost. They made Adrian Peterson virtually invisible. He rushed for his 2nd lowest total for the season with 31 yards, averaging only 2.2 yards per carry. Only one other team was able to hold him to under 50 yards rushing and that was the Washington Redskins where he only rushed 26 yards averaging 1.9 yards per carry. For a team ranked 10th in the league in rushing, the Lions put a stop the running offense and running defense, which seemed close to impossible for a team that used to have a black shadow over them.
It is not surprising at all that Hill did not really produce much in the second half because he statistically does better in the 1st and 2nd quarters of his games, but the ability of the Lions’ defense to hold the Vikings to only field goal scoring in the last quarter was immaculate. They were able to exploit Joe Webb’s youth and immaturity on the field by putting pressure on the pass or simply sacking him. If they meet again, with the same makeup as before the Lions should not do anything differently than they did in this game. If it’s not broken, why fix it?
Lions 35, Vikings 21
Atlanta Falcons (Home Game)
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2010 NFL Season DNP
Last season the Detroit Lions were able to sleep well knowing that they did not have to face the Gillette Young Gun Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons. 3,705 yards and 28 touchdowns, let’s not leave out the 104.1 QB rating in third down situations and 97.6 rating when the Falcons are behind. This quarterback is any defense’s nightmare. There is no way of knowing exactly how to attack. You can rush the passer and leave yourself vulnerable for exposure in rushing defense by Michael Turner, the human bulldozer.
But not all hope is lost. Green Bay pulled out all the stops to make the Falcons lose their balance and everyone in the world was watching, hopefully the Lions were as well. The key in Green Bay’s game was not Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson or Aaron Rodgers. It was Tramon Williams. He was underestimated because of his size but his agility makes the Packers that much more unpredictable. Chris Houston has the ability to be that guy. He needs to learn how to put himself between the receiver and ball as stated before. That is what makes Williams such a great defensive player. He can read the quarterbacks body language as well as the receivers and positions himself in the perfect spot in the path of the ball for the interception and a sizable gain in return yards.
This draft the Detroit Lions need to make sure they acquire a nice addition to a poor secondary, because without it this game will be a blowout.
Lions 10, Falcons 27
Carolina Panthers (Home Game)
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2010 NFL Season DNP
If the Panthers decide to sit back and wait around for Andrew Luck to final enter the NFL draft then this game will be a cake walk for the Detroit Lions. Everyone with a brain and a color television set knows that Jimmy Clausen will not be the lasting option for the starting quarterback, including Clausen himself. Three touchdowns and nine interceptions for the season does not provide job security in any way, shape or form.
Now, if they decide to go with another quarterback for the draft and pick up Cam Newton, who is a better all around athlete than Blaine Gabbert, the Detroit Lions may have a few worries in life. First of all, Cam Newton is huge, without putting big words in to sugar coat the facts. The guy looks like a defensive lineman, throws like an elite quarterback and scrambles like a power running back. There is no true defense other than one, sack him. Find that opening and push through it like you’re running for your life. Make sure you get him down. Like Ben Roethlisberger, it takes more than a pull or tug to get him off of his feet and even then you have to hope and pray that he didn’t get the ball off for a 1st down.
Ndamukong Suh would be the Lions’ best asset in this game. With his sure fire ability to pierce the offensive line and bounce off the blocks, he would have to be the one to tackle the task of getting Newton down, if he is a Carolina Panther come the 2011 season.
If not, Detroit must just play the game and wait for the clock to run down.
W/ Cam Newton Lions 23, Panthers 30
W/O Cam Newton Lions 42, Panthers 10
San Francisco 49ers (Home Game)
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2010 NFL Season DNP
The best things that the 49ers have going for them is a good rushing defense and a great head coach. The 49ers join a growing list of teams with a shaky quarterback situation and a sacked head coach, Mike Singletary. Singletary declared a while ago that he wanted winners but unfortunately San Francisco was following the same mantra. They brought in the exaggerated and defensive minded John Harbaugh, as he joined his brother Jim Harbaugh (coach of the Baltimore Ravens) in the NFL. Hopefully, he will have the defensive heart that Singletary did, but also the offensive strategy and effort that the ex-coach lacked.
If this change had not happened I would suggest that the Detroit Lions needed to expose the 49ers lack of emphasis on the physicality of the game be it on the offensive or defensive side of the ball. No one expects every team to have a Hines Ward that will smash in the head of a defender because he likes the contact, but any of the top offenses exhibit the ability and execution of a physical smash mouth line. Maybe the 49ers will jump on the bandwagon, maybe not.
With Troy Smith as the quarterback, only so much explosiveness can be expected. He performs better in the American Football Conference than the National Football Conference and there can be a number of reasons for that. He doesn’t have the picture perfect numbers like a Tom Brady or the die hard mentality of a Ben Roethlisberger, so they should attack the offense as they would any run of the mill offense. He will shift into his own, as last year was his first in the San Francisco spotlight, but he does not have the footwork or stability to compete first class.
Lions 20, 49ers 7
Kansas City Chiefs (Home Game)
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2010 NFL Season DNP
Now, the Kansas City Chiefs will be the furthest from a cake walk. The Chiefs may have been ranked 30th in passing offense but they were ranked No.1 in rushing offense. This means that even though teams knew that this was their game plan, they could not stop it. It’s like a train coming at you full speed but you can’t start your car to get off the tracks. But, it didn’t work all the time because they went 10-6.
Of course, the Lions don’t have a hit’em high bang’em low defense that Baltimore Ravens have, as they held Kansas to only seven points in the postseason, but they can evaluate other ways in which teams have defeated the Chiefs. A switch up of offensive strengths. If you can’t beat them join them and that is exactly how the Houston Texans walked away with a 35-31 victory. Matt Schaub threw for 305 yards in that game with two touchdowns and the Texans threw in a collaborative effort from wide receiver Andre Johnson and running back Arian Foster. There is no way to completely put the brakes on Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones, so beat them at their own game. Put the pedal to the metal with backs Jahvid Best and Maurice Morris. Then when it seems like the defense is focused on stopping the run, put the ball in the air for Calvin Johnson’s amazing extension or Brandon Pettigrew to make a play.
Or take a page out Indianapolis’ book, because they took Thomas Jones out of the game and made the Chiefs rely solely on Charles for running plays.
Lions 22, Chiefs 24
San Diego Chargers (Home Game)
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2010 NFL Season DNP
Seven losses from a team that dominates statistical most of the games they play. There is a common factor in a majority of these losses however. They were won unconventionally. When I say unconventionally, I mean by special teams. As much as kickers are undervalued in the league, they were the keys to defending such a massive defense.
The Seattle Seahawks put up a 101 yd. kickoff return thanks to Leon Washington and Olindo Mare took care of the rest. The New England Patriots handed off three field goals in their win against the Chargers. Another deal breaker was the speed at which the opponent ran their offense. In every scoring drive that Kansas City put together, they held the ball for no longer than two minutes. The defense came out on the field and tried to make sure the Chargers did not hold on to the ball for long either.
The Lions do not have the speed on the current team to create a pretty picture like Kansas did but they do have a chance at stacking their special teams this upcoming draft. Even with the lockout looming, the Lions need to put themselves in the position to perform.
Lions 10, Chargers 30
Chicago Bears (Away)
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2010 NFL Season L 14 – 19
In this game, the Lions played both quarterbacks, Matthew Stafford and Shaun Hill but to no avail. Maybe this is attributed to the fact that after being taken out of the game, due to a shoulder injury, Stafford built an impressive average of six yards on 15 attempts and Hill could not follow suit. It was made painfully clear how important keeping the quarterback healthy would be in any Detroit victory and that it exactly what the offensive line needs to take into account for the upcoming season.
With the draft coming up and Detroit more than likely taking a look into building the QB protection, as well as stacking the defensive line alongside Rookie of the Year Ndamukong Suh, the Lions need to keep one major thing in mind. Keep the ball in the air. If Stafford is healthy going into the season, he needs to focus on using his arm against the Chicago Bears highly ranked rush defense. Utilize Calvin Johnson for every moment he is on the field and try to get the other receivers involved, such as Pettigrew. In the game against the Bears to make their way into the playoffs, Green Bay made mistakes at the receiver positions that could have cost them the game and if made, would have allowed them to pull away.
But, this game is at home and the Bears are less likely to be shown up on their own field. Let’s also take into consideration how difficult it is to compete on Soldier Field. I think the Lions will perform at a higher level than they did last season and will defeat the Bears.
Lions 24, Bears 21
Green Bay Packers (Away)
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2010 NFL Season L 28 – 26
Both wins and losses in games against the Packers last season were close with the point differential in the loss being two and the difference in the win being three. Unfortunately for the Lions, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers has began to allow Brett Favre’s shadow to slip away and is not distracted by all the comparisons, after all he did just win the Superbowl. One thing the Lions do have to look forward to is that this is the same team that you faced in the last couple of weeks of the 2010 season.
In their first meeting where Detroit lost on Lambeau Field, Shaun Hill threw two interceptions, one of which was returned by Charles Woodson for a touchdown for a 28–14 Green Bay lead early in the 3rd quarter. There was plenty of time left in the game for the Lions to come back and create something out of nothing but unfortunately with only three points scored in the 4th they watched Aaron Rodgers and the time run out on their chances.
Why did they lose this game? Why on their final drive were they not able to capitalize? In the last moments of their final drive Hill threw two incomplete passes to Calvin Johnson. Had he not learned his lesson when he threw the pick to Woodson? Woodson had been on Calvin Johnson’s tail the entire game and every team that is worth their weight in millions knows in the last moments, the best receiver on the Detroit Lions is going to try to find some space. Mix it up. They think they know what’s coming, well show them something they have not seen yet. Football is a game of strategy, speed and footwork. Play like it! If the offensive coordinator can stop being so conservative with his players we may be able to pull off a win against a legitimate team like the Packers.
Lions 17, Packers 24
Minnesota Vikings (Away)
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2010 NFL Season L 24 -10
Besides the fact that Detroit can take advantage of the fact that Brett Favre is not with the Minnesota Vikings anymore, well as far as we know for now, they can also take a token from their win against the struggling team at the end of the past season. In that game, Detroit made 100 percent use of star running back Jahvid Best and highly underrated receiver Nate Burleson. Burleson may not have the most startling and breathtaking numbers but he is good in reverse plays and simply to shake up the offense. Not to say that Calvin Johnson should not be intimately involved down the stretch, but defenders begin to catch on to that one man show and put pressure on the receiver.
Another thing that could help the Lions win in this away game is putting pressure on the passing plays. With a new quarterback in play, the Vikings will not mesh as well as they did last year and even then they were ranked 26th in passing yards. Adrian Peterson is like a semi, you can grab him all you like but there is a high percent chance that you will not bring him before he picks up key yards in order to secure a first down. Continue putting the pressure on the rushers but pay close attention to the passing game and do not give up pass interference penalties or small mistakes allowing them to gain yardage on a probable incomplete.
Lions 17, Vikings 13
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Away)
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2010 NFL Season W 23 – 20
The Bucs and the Lions played at the same level last season during this game at Raymond James Stadium. The differences in pass efficiency, number of first downs and countless other statistics did not vary greatly and it just came down to who would score last. Stanton also started in this game and pulled off 252 passing yards against the league’s 7th ranked defense against the passing game, only allowing an average of 201 passing yards.
Another fun fact to take into consideration in this matchup is that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were 5-4 in conference play, so they were not exactly outperforming everyone in their league. Then again, the Bucs had a winning record at home and the Lions had not achieved a win anywhere but home so subsequently the odds were in the Bucs favor. Somebody did not tell the six year veteran kicker Dave Rayner this as he was the team’s leading scorer with 11 points, including the 34 yard game winning field goal to put the Lions three up over the Bucs.
Detroit made a good move in the middle of the season acquiring Bobby Carpenter from the Miami Dolphins but he did not make much of a splash until the last three games against Tampa Bay Buccaneers, his former team Miami Dolphins and the Minnesota Vikings with a combined 21 tackles, 15 of which were solo. The pressure he put on Kellen Winslow on a 3rd and 2 play at Detroit’s second yard line allowed for a offensive pass interference penalty call on what was a touchdown drive. The Bucs had to settle for a field goal and that allowed the Lions to take over in the end. Carpenter is a nice addition to the defense and will prove to be much more effective after spending a longer amount of time with the team.
Lions 35, Buccaneers 20
Dallas Cowboys (Away)
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2010 NFL Season L 35 – 19
This loss may have proved to be a lot worse if Tony Romo was starting at the quarterback position, but they played against Jon Kitna and the average wide receiving capabilities of Miles Austin, who scored two touchdowns in the game by the way. But, what did Dallas do that threw Detroit off of their backs offensively? They switched things up. Austin had only two receptions for seven yards, but both of which resulted in touchdowns.
Detroit had the ball longer and if you look at the statistics from the game it seems as though a win should have been a sure thing. The Lions had more plays and yards than Dallas did by a long shot, but dropped the ball when it mattered most. The passes may have been more effective if completed against a team ranked 26th in passing yards allowed. This is also another place that Stafford would be very useful. Not taking away from Shaun Hill’s talents and ability to lead a team through the fiery pits of football hell, but Stafford is a better passer, if he could stop getting banged up like a porcelain doll.
As highly publicized as Ndamukong Suh’s rookie season was, the key parts of the Lions’ defense has been Kyle Vanden Bosch and a healthy Deandre Levy. These two guys are the ones that will come out of left field and make a play to turn the game around or at least get the ball back in their offense’s hands long enough to make a play or two on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
Lions 21, Cowboys 23
New Orleans, Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos.... Overall Win Record
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Oakland Raiders (away)
Lions 25, Raiders 20
Denver Broncos (away)
Lions 32, Broncos 26
New Orleans Saints (away)
Lions 14, Saints 31
Overall Lions 2011 Record : 9 - 7