Here are five things to watch as the Detroit Lions host the Kansas City Chiefs. They aren’t keys to the game, per se, but they are things that should help explain what ends up happening on the scoreboard.
1. Lions Pass Rush
The Lions got just one sack from their defensive line last week in Tampa but they were still able to have an impact on the passing game by applying heavy pressure and forcing Josh Freeman into throws he may not have wanted to make. It would be nice to come up with more sacks this week but the constant pressure will do just fine. The Bills sacked Matt Cassel twice a week ago and were able to turn the Chiefs passing game into little more than a series of check downs as Cassel averaged just 3.3 yards per attempt. There should be little to worry about if the Lions can keep Cassel from getting comfortable in the pocket.
2. Chiefs Running Backs
Jamaal Charles emerged last season as the Chiefs’ biggest playmaker on offense but touched the ball just 15 times last week. He was an effective on the ground against the Bills but had just ten carries as the Chiefs went away from their running game. Will they commit to keeping the ball in his hands this week, even if the Lions start to build a lead? The Lions will also have to look out for speedster Dexter McCluster, especially in the passing game. The Lions did a nice job of covering screen passes last week and need to continue their swarming style of tackling. Containing Charles and McCluster early will be a good sign.
3. Lions Offensive Gameplan
The Lions aren’t a team that makes it a goal to have a balanced offensive attack but playing the Chiefs might be an opportunity to put together that kind of a gameplan. The Chiefs allowed big offensive days to Buffalo Bills players up and down the box score. The Lions were effective, yet mostly unremarkable, on the ground a week ago but could find more success against the Chiefs while Matthew Stafford should struggle against virtually no team. Don’t be surprised to see that the Lions are once again dictating the pace of the game with what they want to do offensively.
Part of the reason the Lions game in Tampa was closer than it seemed like it should have been was because of Aqib Talib’s interception return for a touchdown. With seemingly everyone predicting a big Lions win, it will be important for Stafford and company to protect the football to keep this game from being needlessly competitive. Likewise, the Chiefs struggled with turnovers in their blowout loss to the Bills. Cassel was intercepted once and Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster each lost fumbles. The minus-three in the turnover battle helped lead to the route last week.
5. Home Field Advantage
In what is the most anticipated Detroit Lions season in quite some time, the fact that the team started on the road sort of feels like we have a one week delay to deal with. The Lions start the home portion of their schedule with a 1-0 record that passed the eye test and will have a sold out Ford Field behind them. If they looked that impressive on the road last week, there is no telling what might happen with a raucous home field advantage.