I’d like to start this article off by saying thank you to all the heroes who risked their lives on that horrific morning just ten years ago. Thank you to the American soldiers who risked their lives in attempts to bring those responsible to justice. Many died, and millions were impacted by what occurred on September 11th, but out of the horror came a stronger nation. It may be easy to forget all the suffering our nation endured in our excitement for the start of our regular season, but let’s not forget what September 11th is really about.
Today the Buccaneers face their former NFC Central Division rivals. I’m sure all of you remember the last time these two teams met. The Buccaneers where within reach of making the playoffs as the Wild Card team for the NFC, but after a terrible call made on a TD catch by Kellen Winslow, the Bucs where robbed of their dreams and handed the Green Bay Packers the keys to enter the playoffs. Imagine if the Bucs had won that game? The entire outcome of the Super bowl would have been different, and NFL history would tell a different story.
Although this may seem like a rematch, both teams bring drastically different elements to this game. Lions starting quarterback, Matthew Stafford did not play due to injury. When healthy,Staffordcan cripple a defensive secondary. This will be the first snapStaffordtakes in a regular season exhibition since suffering injury on Nov. 7 of last year. He may have had a fantastic preseason, but there still may be some rust to shake off before he can find himself comfortable. I’m sure the Lions returning all of their offensive starters from last season will aid inStaffordproving he is back to full form.
The Lions upgraded their running game when they drafted Jahvid Best last year. Although Best has struggled running up the middle, he has provided the offense with huge yardage when used in screen passes. In the most recent draft just several months ago,Detroitdrafted Mikel Leshoure to potentially be their starting back and have Best spell him. Unfortunately, Leshoure tore his Achilles tendon and has been sidelined for the entire season. The Lions signed Jerome Harrison and Keiland Williams to aid the Lions in their running game, but it appears that none of the three backs will be able to carry the load of being a starting running back. However, they could find success in a rotation.
The primary threat the Buccaneers will face in the Lions is their receivers and tight ends. Calvin Johnson is easily one of the best and biggest wide receivers in the entire NFL. He is gifted with amazing catching ability, balance, and athleticism. In the last game against the Buccaneers, the Bucs failed to stop the receiver from recording 10 catches for 152 yards. With Talib out, the only success the Bucs had was removing Barber and Biggers from covering him, and putting Myron Lewis in their place. Although Lewis wasn’t prepared to face one of the NFL’s finest, he matched up better against the big receiver. Nate Burleson is another huge concern. With all the focus going to Calvin Johnson, Burleson was able to provide a reliable target forStafford. Not only is he an amazing receiver, but does well in rushing forDetroitin reverse pitches. Then you have Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler who are remarkable tight ends. Pettigrew was a monster last season, and only seems to be getter better every game. He is a great route runner and does well in run blocking.
Everybody has heard of Ndamukong Suh by now. The rookie has developed a reputation of being a nightmare for the offensive line and quarterback. However, he is just a small piece of a great defensive front for the Lions. Detroithas Kyle Vanden Bosch, Cliff Avril, and Corey Williams paired with the rookie and have found a great deal of success in attacking the backfield. If they aren’t stopping the run, they are always disrupting the passer. The Lions managed to record 44 sacks last season and came in 6th in the league. Ten of those sacks came from rookie Ndamukong Suh, who also was nominated Rookie of the Year. The Buc’s offensive line definitely has a lot on their plates today.
Detroithas struggled in stopping the running game. They’ve signed Stephen Tulloch in attempt to remedy that flaw, and that’s something Tulloch specializes in. DeAndre Levy returns as a linebacker for the Lions, but faced several injury concerns last season. Although a solid linebacker, he isn’t something to focus a great deal of attention on. The same could be said for Justin Durant, who was signed from the Jaguars. Outside of Tulloch, both linebackers don’t really aid in stopping the run.
The Secondary is another area of concern. The Lion’s struggled against defending the pass last season, which greatly contributed to their losing record. Their offense would keep them in the game, but their secondary would fail in stopping their opposition from getting to the endzone. Chris Houston returns as a starting corner, and has had some great games, but lacks consistency. The Lions signed Eric Wright from the Browns to upgrade their secondary. Wright is another solid cornerback, and could grow within the Lion’s defensive schemes. I loved watching Alphonso Smith get an interception in almost every game, and am happy to see that he will not be playing against the Bucs today. Safeties Louis Delmas and Amari Spievey, are similar to the cornerbacks in the sense that they aren’t too big of a deal as well. Spievey has only played one season as a pro and has plenty of room to grow.
The Lions have made some improvements to their defense, but it may not be enough to stop the explosive Buccaneer’s offense. If Freeman shows up at one hundred percent, I don’t see how the Lions secondary will keep up. The Lion’s also don’t have remarkable cornerbacks. They Buc’s could find great success in playing in three and four wide receiver sets. Although they have signed some new players like Tullock, Tullock is terrible in coverage which could allow the Buccaneers tight ends to gets some good yards.
The Lion’s also struggle against the run. Sure, they have an amazing defensive line, but let’s not forget that Suh participated in the last game where Blount ran for 110 yards. Another huge factor is that this time, Aqib Talib will be matched up against Calvin Johnson, which really levels the playing field. Although Talib has not seen the field in some time, I still think he will at least provide a reliable obstacle for the Lion’s offense. Last but not least, McCoy will be playing as well. That’s right, McCoy was injured for the last game. The leader of the defense will be here today, and we should see the Buc’s play well in their rematch.