Detroit Lions vs. Oakland Raiders Key Matchups

Ndamukong Suh vs. Wisniewski & Carlisle

As every NFL fan is aware, Ndamukong Suh was reinstated to the Lions’ active roster earlier this week following his two game suspension. The Pro-Bowl ballot leading defensive tackle couldn’t return at a more urgent time considering the injury situation to the Lion front. Defensive tackle Nick Fairley is questionable after re-aggravating his foot injury against New Orleans two weeks ago, and Cliff Avril has a sore ankle. Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch was so drained following last week’s exhausting victory over the Minnesota Vikings that he need an IV in the locker room post game.

Sammie Hill filled in adequately over the past two weeks in Suh’s absence, but while his performance was acceptable, it was a far cry from the dominance that Suh is capable of. With two weeks to recover, rest, and stew in anger, the much maligned defensive tackle should be primed for one of his game changing dominant performances, and at a key time for his teammates. The Lions will be facing a strong rushing attack, even with the expected absence of Darren McFadden. Michael bush is a power runner, and the Lions have shown weakness in their run defense. Detroit also has a banged up defense on all three levels, so a refreshed Ndamukong Suh wreaking havoc in the opposing backfield should help to compensate for other areas of deficiency.

Raider guard Cooper Carlise, who is a twelve year veteran, is having a strong season thus far, and is one of the reasons that the Raiders have experienced so much success in the run game. At right guard, Carlise will be matched up with Suh for the majority of the game, and likely receive some help from center Samson Satele. Rookie Stefen Wisniewski plays the left side of the line for the Raiders, and will occasionally meet Suh as Gunther Cunningham moves him around, and rotates his defensive line to keep them fresh. The rookie is also having a strong season, but he has not seen a defensive tackle like Suh yet in his career.

Since being drafter a year ago, Suh has been the foundation for this defense, and this will never be truer than on Sunday afternoon in Oakland. With a depleted defense, Suh should be refreshed, re-motivated, and refocused on the task at hand; Causing chaos; killing the quarterback; and most importantly, helping his team win.

Carson Palmer vs. Detroit’s secondary

Carson Palmer was expected to bolster the Raider offense behind that powerful rushing attack. With McFadden down, and Palmer settling into much of the same pattern of play as in his Bengal days, the Raider offense has been left reeling the past two weeks. Palmer has thrown five interceptions in back to back shellackings at the hands of the Dolphins and Packers.

Palmer will hope to get back on track this week against an injury depleted Lion secondary that is hoping to get Chris Houston back after missing two weeks with a grade 2 MCL tear. Safety Chris Harris will fill in for Louis Delmas for a third straight game, as Delmas continues to recover from an injury similar to Houston’s. As the Lions are poised for the return of one starting cornerback, Eric Wright, who starts opposite Houston, is questionable for this Sunday’s contest. Detroit will also be without nickel back Aaron berry, who left last week’s game with a shoulder injury.

Another bright spot for the Lions, on top Houston’s return, is the play of Alphonso Smith, who has demonstrated a natural ball-hawking ability that the rest of Detroit’s secondary seems to be lacking. While not the fastest, or most consistent, Smith always seems to be near the ball, and in position to make a big play. Given Palmer’s tendency to throw interceptions, this could be a great combination for Detroit.

Other Matchups to watch

Although his numbers have been down as of late, the impact of Calvin Johnson is undeniable on the field. In recent weeks other playmakers have been stepping up and doing their part, but at some point the Lions will need to get creative and find ways to get the ball in the hands of the league’s best wide receiver. Teams have been bracketing Johnson with underneath coverage, as well as a safety over top, and Minnesota even triple covered him, using a cornerback with outside leverage at the line of scrimmage; a linebacker bracketing inside to take away the quick slant; and a safety over top to support the deep third of the field. Minnesota was able to do this because of the lack of a running threat from Detroit, which is why Kevin Smith is the biggest variable to the way in which teams can cover against Johnson. If Smith can play, and have some success early, triple coverage will be out of the question, and double coverage will not be as consistent. This will make it easier for offensive coordinator Scott Linehan to get Calvin open, and allow Stafford to take more chances forcing the ball to his stud receiver in tight situations. 

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