Lions vs. Broncos: 9 Predictions for Detroit on Sunday

Dean HoldenAnalyst IOctober 27, 2011

Lions vs. Broncos: 9 Predictions for Detroit on Sunday

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    It only takes two weeks for a winning streak to turn into a losing streak.

    This is something the Detroit Lions have learned well, as a statement-making homestand turned into a nightmare of disappointing losses and bad press.

    Suddenly, the Lions have fallen from one of the league's two undefeated teams to the only 5-2 team on a two-game losing streak.

    Luckily, the Detroit Lions have Tim Tebow awkwardly trying to stand on water at the end of this streak (whoops, spoiled my first prediction).

    Regardless of what happens, this is going to be a fun game to watch, especially if you happen to be a Lions fan. 

    And since we're talking about predictions, let me just point out that somebody knew what the pregame storyline would be in this game four months ago, and I can prove it.

    So while we're looking at predictions I was right about, click forward and see if I can get nine more.

Matthew Stafford Will Play Through the Pain and Come Up Big

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    Yeah, they're being all coy about it, because that's what Jim Schwartz and the Lions do.

    But Matthew Stafford's MRI came back negative, and with all the "injury-prone" talk that has circulated around the guy, you have to believe it's going to take some kind of knockout drug to keep Stafford off the field this week.

    It's Wednesday and the kid is already back on the practice field, so what does that tell you?

    And maybe it's because the Broncos are a terrible team, and maybe it's just sheer hunch. But I have a feeling, with the type of gritty, blue-collar guy Stafford is as a quarterback, that playing through the injury will put his season back on track.

    Stafford needs to get back to basics and stop overthinking things when he's in the game. The offensive line play has been awful, but even when it hasn't, Stafford is much too willing to flush out of the pocket and hope the play develops (see: the play he was injured on).

    Having a mobility-limiting injury will force him to get the ball out faster and trust his receivers more. That sounds like a recipe for success. The Lions have talented receivers, and it's time they get the targets to prove it.

Mile High Will Be Loud (for a While)

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    The fans in Denver have been clamoring for Tebow Time for weeks (months, if you count back to last season).

    This week, they're finally going to get it, and expect a sold-out crowd to sound their appreciation.

    Of course, this is where the old "be careful what you wish for" adage comes in. Once Tebow comes in and starts doing his thing, there's a good chance the Denver faithful will quiet down. A lot.

    Depending on how Tebow-y he is, he might actually make some of them physically ill. You'll know by the number of empty seats there are in the fourth quarter.

    Regardless, there is one thing I have to say about the guy...

Tim Tebow Will Be Fun to Watch

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    Pictured: Tim Tebow, showing off his textbook passing mechanics.

    And we can expect a bunch more of this on Sunday. The jump pass. The 360 spin in the pocket. The screen pass overthrown by 10 yards. The "I don't need no stinking receiver progression" scramble.

    Tebow does things that no other quarterback does in the NFL (mostly because they learned how to play the quarterback position), and it's going to be fun to watch. Lots of fun.

    I don't know if it will be, necessarily, for the Denver Broncos. But I know I'll be getting my popcorn ready for the Tim Tebow Comedy Hour.

Calvin Johnson Will Return to Being a Red Zone Target (and Score Twice)

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    I just don't understand. We spend the first month of the season salivating over how unstoppable Calvin Johnson is in the red zone.

    It doesn't matter how he's covered; single, double, triple, bump-and-run, man, zone, whatever. Throw it up to Megatron, and watch him come down with it. This is what we've determined.

    Calvin Johnson might be the only guy in the NFL who actually calls for a Hail Mary jump ball, gets it and actually comes down with it.

    But now it almost looks like the Lions are trying to prove a point. Like, "Hey guys, look! We have other weapons besides No. 81 in the red zone!" The result is, of course, a whole lot of field goals in places where there should be touchdowns.

    If Scott Linehan has an ounce of sense (he has a lot of them), he'll recognize that Stafford-Johnson in the end zone was working, never stopped working and should be revisited. Don't be surprised if he gets most or all of the red zone targets this week.

Knowshon Moreno (Or Some Denver Running Back) Will Have a Big Day

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    It's not all doom and gloom for Denver. The Lions did a decent job of bottling up Michael Turner last week (though he still had over 100 yards because of his 52-yard explosion), but the Lions still field a run defense that is average at best.

    Willis McGahee is reported to be out with a broken finger, which hurts the Broncos a great deal, but I fully expect Knowshon Moreno to come in off the bench and notch at least 80 yards on the ground. He might average less than three yards per carry, but he'll get the yards, and at least one big play.

    Of course, this is the Broncos we're talking about. Don't rule out some third-string unknown churning out 100 yards and splitting carries with Moreno.

    And you can consider this a fantasy football alert, too. To lessen the run balance in McGahee's absence means to put the ball in Tim Tebow's hands more often. The Broncos have to know that's not the gameplan they want, so they'll ground and pound as much as they have to in order to minimize Tebow's effect on the game.

    I would say Tebow will lead the team in rushing, but the Lions have to know that Tebow is more dangerous on the ground than through the air, so I imagine Stephen Tulloch's job will be to spy him all day. And in either a footrace or a head-on collision, Tulloch wins.

Keiland Williams Will Lead the Lions in Rushing

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    Maybe I'm the only one, but I really liked what I saw out of Keiland Williams last week against Atlanta.

    He touched the ball and found gaps, moved piles and earned first downs. Maurice Morris was fine and should probably get an equal number of carries along with Williams, but I expect Williams to have the most yardage at the end of the day.

    Will he go over 100 yards? Most likely not. Denver has a solidly middle-of-the-road run defense, and I don't see them getting gashed by Williams and Morris. And Jahvid Best should probably be held out until at least after the bye week.

    But still, I thought I saw flashes of Williams as a potential answer to the big question mark that is the Lions' running game. I'm hoping to find out this week.

Tim Tebow Will Throw His First (and Second) Interception of the Season

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    This shouldn't be any huge surprise. Even if Tim Tebow was a respectable quarterback with the ability to read a defense, two interceptions wouldn't be unusual.

    The Lions' secondary is opportunistic, and if they can force two picks out of Matt Ryan, they can get two out of Tebow.

    The only reason I'm not predicting three or four is because I respect John Fox and don't think he'll turn Tebow loose. Tebow will likely play tight and conservative, because the more leeway he has, the more opportunity he has to make mistakes.

    Which leads me to my next prediction.

Tim Tebow Will Throw Less Than 25 Passes

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    This should come as a bit of a surprise, considering that the Broncos should be playing from behind in most of this game.

    But there are two things that will keep Tebow from throwing a lot of passes in this game. One is Denver's head coach/offensive coordinator combo of John Fox and Mike McCoy, who won't want to put the poor kid in harm's way.

    The other is Tim Tebow's legs.

    This is a criticism of all running quarterbacks, not just Tebow. I say the same thing about Mike Vick, Cam Newton and Denard Robinson.

    Run-first quarterbacks can't read defenses like pocket passers do. They go two or three reads into their progression, then trust their legs to do the rest.

    Because of that, Tebow might have 40 dropbacks, but between sacks and his propensity to run in passing situations, he shouldn't throw more than about 20-25 actual passes.

The Lions Will Take out Their Frustrations on the Broncos

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    What I mean here is that the Lions will win in a landslide after suffering a couple of frustrating losses, but there are a couple other things I hope it doesn't mean.

    The Lions have gotten a whole lot of bad press this season about some ethical issues surrounding the team.

    Is Ndamukong Suh dirty? Is the rest of the team? Did they taunt an injured player? Is Jim Schwartz a sore loser? And a sore winner?

    I don't like this kind of talk, and I don't like some of the chippy things the Lions do after the whistle, which may or may not be penalized.

    And if I don't like it, you can rest assured other teams don't.

    Of course, no team ever won a Super Bowl because of their likability, so that doesn't concern me too terribly. But this is a game I want they Lions to win clean, with no controversy. Because enough evidence is starting to pile up against this team that people are starting to believe anything anybody says about it.

    Can you imagine the kind of backlash the Lions will face if Tim Tebow comes out of this game saying Ndamukong Suh tried to break his arm?

    Of course it wouldn't be true (or at least not intentional), since the Lions have to know any injury to Tebow gives the Broncos a better chance to win. But with everything that has piled up against the Lions this season, more "dirty team" talk is the last thing they need going into their bye week.