Five Questions Surrounding the Detroit Lions Going into Week 7 vs. Atlanta
Last week against the San Francisco 49ers, the Detroit Lions were defeated 25-19 to end their hopes of a perfect season. The first loss of the 2011 season came as a result of sloppy offensive play that, for the first time this season, the Lions were unable to correct in the second half of football.
Since the loss last week, the Detroit Lions have been in the middle of several media controversies, including an admitted referee mistake that gave the 49ers five extra yards, a postgame scuffle between Jim Schwartz and Jim Harbaugh and a failed trade that revealed Jerome Harrison has a brain tumor.
This week, the Detroit Lions have the chance to put everything behind them and prove that they are still a top contender in the NFL.
To do this, they must first get through a very tough Atlanta Falcons team who have had a disappointing start to the 2011 season. With a record of 3-3, the Falcons are ranked third in the NFC South and, like the Lions, are looking to make a statement this week.
Here are five questions surrounding the Detroit Lions this week, which will ultimately decide if they can rebound after last week's game with a win this weekend over the Atlanta Falcons.
Will Detroit Get Any Help from Their Rushing Game?
The already struggling Detroit Lions rushing game took a huge hit last week when it was announced that running back Jahvid Best suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter. Best, who has had a history with concussion problems both in college and in the NFL, will most likely not be on the field Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.
In addition, the Detroit Lions were unable to improve their depth at running back after an attempt to get Ronnie Brown from the Philadelphia Eagles failed to go through due to health issues with Jerome Harrison.
This leaves the Lions with Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams to fill the running back position. Neither of these players have shown a strong potential to improve Detroit's ability to run the ball.
The Detroit Lions have been able to overcome their lack of rushing attack all season long with their outstanding passing performances from Matt Stafford. Last week, however, an obvious weakness was shown as the Lions were unable to run a ball control offense in attempt to run down the clock.
The Detroit Lions will still struggle to run the ball, but it will not matter. A strong passing attack and defensive performance will carry the Lions to victory.
Will Matt Stafford Be Able to Get the Ball to Megatron?
After a historic five game streak to start the season that included nine touchdown receptions, Calvin Johnson was kept out of the end zone by San Francisco last week. Calvin Johnson was not even targeted for a single pass in the end zone after being thrown to nine times in the end zone over the first five games of the season.
One of the biggest reasons for the Detroit Lions success through the first game has been the ability of Calvin Johnson to dominate defenses in the red zone. The Stafford-Johnson connection was an automatic way to put points on the board.
If the Detroit Lions want to win Sunday, they will need to take advantage of an Atlanta defense that has given up nine touchdowns and 1,700 yards receiving (5th most in NFL).
The best way for the Detroit Lions to recover is to put the ball in the best player's hands.
Calvin Johnson catches for over a hundred yards and continues to chase Randy Moss's record with a touchdown reception.
Can the Lions Defense Shutdown Michael Turner and the Atlanta Rushing Attack?
The loss last week to San Francisco was largely a result of the inability to stop running back Frank Gore on the ground. Gore has a season high 141 yards rushing and a touchdown.
The Detroit Lions have struggled all season stopping the run, giving up 129.5 yards per game (26th in the NFL).
Atlanta, though not a strong of a rushing team as San Francisco, is averaging 110 rushing yards per game and has recorded seven rushing touchdowns with Michael Turner anchoring the rushing attack.
The Detroit Lions defense needs to come out on Sunday fired up and ready to shut down a highly talented but underperforming Atlanta Falcons offense.
The Detroit Lions continue their struggles against the run, giving up at least 100 yards on the ground. However, the Atlanta Falcons will be unable to turn their success rushing into touchdowns.
How Will Jim Schwartz Respond to Last Week's Events?
Coach Jim Schwartz has always been a very emotional head coach, but his fiery passion hit a new extreme last weekend, resulting in an ugly shouting match between Schwartz and San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh. Thankfully, the scene was contained and no physical attacks resulted, but both coaches still faced a large amount of criticism from the media.
The NFL decided not to take action against Schwartz or Harbaugh, but issued a strong warning regarding their behavior on the field.
Sunday will determine how last week's events will affect Jim Schwartz's leadership and coaching. Schwartz's energy and determination have always been strong motivators for the Detroit Lions and may be exactly what they need to continue their fantastic season. However, if Schwartz lets these events affect him to much, it may alter some of his coaching decisions.
The same old Jim Schwartz will take the field on Sunday screaming and yelling the whole game. When the final seconds tick off the clock, he will leave the field with his signature fist pump.
Will the Detroit Lions Fans Bring the Same Passion Shown in the Past Home Games?
One of the biggest differences between this season and the past seasons for the Detroit Lions has been the home field advantage provided by Ford Field. Fans have flocked into the stadium with energy and excitement that has been carried out by loud cheering and yelling throughout the game. These fans distractions have played a part in causing 14 false start penalties for opposing teams the past two weeks.
It has been clear this season that Detroit Lions fans believe their team has turned around and is becoming an elite NFL football team.
Following the loss to San Francisco, has some of the passion died out?
Detroit Lions fans need to arrive to Sunday's game more fired up than ever. Turning Ford Field into the hostile environment it has been for the past two weeks will be a huge motivation for the Lions and a huge distraction for the Falcons.
Detroit Lions fans once again create a rowdy atmosphere that sets the scene for a 24-13 Detroit Lions victory.
Best wishes to Jerome Harrison and his family as he begins treatment. My prayers go out to you.
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