First off, I am beyond ready for the start of the season. We have endured an excruciating long offseason that was headlined by the lockout which was followed by preseason football (Don’t get me wrong, I was glued to the TV when the Lions were playing the Pats but it isn’t the same as the regular season). Now it is time. It is time to see how Matthew Stafford will perform now that he is healthy again. It is time to watch the defensive line aka the “Silver Crush” dominate the opposing team’s offensive line. It is time for Calvin Johnson to jump over the defender and make an acrobatic catch. It is time to see how our new linebackers will perform. It is time for some Detroit Lions football.
1. LaGarrette Blount versus Detroit’s front seven
Last year, RB LaGarrette Blount surprised a lot of people when he rushed for over a thousand yards for the Bucs. Blount was not selected in the 2010 Draft but was later picked up by the Titans. Then he was released and the Buccaneers claimed him off waivers. He went on to shock the NFL, becoming the second undrafted running back ever to rush for a thousand yards in his rookie season.
Against the Lions last year, Blount ran for 110 yards on only 15 carries. The Lions’ defensive line is great and the linebackers are much improved from last year. The front seven will really need to limit Blount. The Lions will find a lot of success if they can make the Bucs abandon the running game and force them to pass a majority of the time. Tampa’s receiving core isn’t the best the Honolulu Blue and Silver will face this year. Mike Williams is a solid, young receiver and Arrelious Benn is a speedster but I am confident our secondary, who will be better than a lot of people predict, will be able to handle them. The defensive line will help out the back of the defense if they can put a lot of pressure on big Josh Freeman and make him force or hurry passes. Forced and hurried passes equals turnovers and short possessions. Those equal wins.
2. Calvin Johnson versus Aqib Talib
Against the Bucs last year, “Megatron” went wild. He caught 10 passes for 152 yards. He may have been the biggest reason the Lions were able to snap their 26-game road losing streak and eliminate Tampa from the playoffs last year. However, Aqib Talib did not play in that game as he was dealing with a hip injury. Talib is supposed to be Tampa’s “shutdown corner”. If Talib can somehow shutdown the top playmaker for the Lions, it could spell trouble. I know the Lions still have many threats in Burleson, Pettigrew, and Young but nobody is more reliable or consistent than Mr. Johnson. We’ll have to wait and see if Talib is up for the challenge against one of the league’s premier receivers. This matchup will be very interesting to watch but I still think CJ will get the best of Talib.
3. Detroit’s Offensive Line versus Tampa Bay’s Offensive Line
I know these two units won’t be playing each other directly. However, whichever team does a better job protecting their quarterback will give their team the upper hand. Both Matthew Stafford and Josh Freeman are capable of making big plays when given time – something each defensive line will try to make sure doesn’t happen.