5 Players Who Need to Step Up for the Lions to Beat the Niners

Chris Madden@@christomaddenAnalyst IISeptember 16, 2012

5 Players Who Need to Step Up for the Lions to Beat the Niners

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    It's less than 24 hours away and anticipation for the Detroit Lions' Sunday night rematch against the San Francisco 49ers is growing by the minute.

    It's no surprise that these two teams have quickly developed a heated rivalry.

    The Niners defeated the Lions last season, and it left a bitter taste in their mouth. Actually that's an understatement. Detroit had a chance to win but failed, Jahvid Best was lost for the year and Jim Schwartz and Jim Harbaugh had their now-famous handshake.

    Both teams can be as politically correct as they want; fans know the truth. They both want to kill each other.

    The Niners are clearly the favorite. They dismantled the Green Bay Packers in Week 1, and their defense looks even better than last year.

    The Lions shouldn't be overlooked though. Their offense can score on anybody and any time, and their defense isn't too bad either.

    In order for the Lions to win, several players have to come through with big games though. Here are the players that will impact the Lions chances of beating the Niners the most.

    * All stats in this article courtesy of ESPN.com

5. Stefan Logan

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    Logan had a decent day returning punts and kickoffs last week—not great, but decent. He only got one chance to return a kickoff, and he ran it back 18 yards.

    He returned five punts and averaged 10.6 yards per return, including a 21-yarder.

    Obviously, his handiwork helped the Lions have consistent field position. Against the Rams, that edge was needed.

    Against the Niners and their stifling defense, field position might actually determine the game.

    As good as the Lions' offense is, the Niners have the ability to stop them. However, if they are consistently on the Niners' side of the field, they'll have a much better chance of putting points on the board.

    It all starts with Logan and his ability to advance the ball. Obviously, he must get help from his teammates with downfield blocking and no penalties, but he's got the ball. He has to get every possible yard he can.

    If he can pull off a couple returns of the 20-plus yard variety, the Lions will have a big advantage.

4. Ndamukong Suh

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    Last season, fans were disappointed with Ndamukong Suh's performance. They were undoubtedly expecting another Pro Bowl-caliber year.

    It didn't happen, and there are a multitude of theories why. It doesn't matter though, because last season is done, and Suh has moved on. His only focus is showing everyone that his rookie year of 2010 was no fluke.

    This season, he's off to a great start. He had a solid performance against the Rams with a sack, a QB knockdown and two tackles for losses.

    He'll need to have a similar performance against the Niners. It won't be easy, though. They held Suh in check during their match up last season. His stat line read: two tackles. That's it.

    The Lions need him to clog up the running lanes and slow Frank Gore down, so their linebackers have time to finish him off.

    They also need him to put pressure on the Niner's quarterback, Alex Smith. If Suh can make a big play early, it might impact the Niners' passing attack the rest of the game. We've all seen Smith get rattled before.

    Ultimately, if he performs at a high level, he will give the Lions a great chance to win, and he'll move even closer to achieving the personal redemption that he seeks.

3. Kevin Smith

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    It is possible that the Lions could beat the Niners by simply slinging the ball down the field all day. It's possible but not likely.

    The Lions need some semblance of a running game against the Niners. They're at their best when their elite passing attack is complimented by an efficient, if not always greatly effective, running game.

    In other words, Lions rushers don't have to gain 200 yards on the ground and score two touchdowns to help them win.

    Gaining 80 to 90 yards on the ground and another 20 to 30 yards receiving and a touchdown would greatly increase the Lions chances of victory.

    That's exactly the kind of game Kevin Smith had against the Rams. Not coincidentally, it was a big reason the Lions won.

    Smith needs to repeat his success from last week, both rushing and receiving, and eliminate the drops (he had two big ones in Week 1).

    If Keiland Williams and Joique Bell can add anything, that's icing on the cake, but Smith is the key.

2. Jacob Lacey

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    When Jacob Lacey joined the Lions this offseason, he wanted to start, and he was given the opportunity to compete for the starting cornerback job opposite Chris Houston.

    However, rookie Bill Bentley won that competition.

    Unfortunately, both Bentley and Houston are questionable and won't play.

    That's where Lacey comes in. The Lions signed him as a free agent to add depth to the secondary, and here's his opportunity to earn his money.

    Fans might be rueing Martin Mayhew's decision to cut veteran Alphonso Smith right about now, but Lacey is the best the Lions have, and he needs to have a good game.

    He was part of a secondary that gave up 121 yards to Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson last week. Needless to say, Randy Moss and Mario Manningham should at least put up comparable numbers.

    No one is expecting Lacey to turn into Darrelle Revis. The Lions just don't want him to give up big plays. Yardage means nothing if the Niners don't score.

    If he can minimize the big plays—bend but don't break—the Lions will consider it a success.

1. Titus Young

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    Well, he started off good in Week 1.

    In the first quarter, he made a nice catch across the middle of the field and also ran a reverse. Both plays resulted in first downs.

    Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there. The Rams intentionally targeted Young and finally got in his head. His emotions got the best of him and he head-butted rookie-cornerback Janoris Jenkins.

    Their game plan might seem bush-league, but it's understandable. Every team in the NFL looks for an edge. It's kill-or-be-killed, and the weakest links are targeted.

    Young fits the bill because of his temperament.

    For that reason, every team the Lions face from here on out is going to try and do exactly what the Rams did. That includes San Francisco.

    Young needs to step up by keeping his emotions in check and staying on the field. The Lions need his field-stretching talents the entire game to have their best chance at victory.

    Besides that, another stupid penalty and Young might find his punishment significantly worse than a benching.