Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Lions should be 4-0 entering the Monday night game against the Bears - this is why

What appeared to be a daunting four games to open the season suddenly don't seem as ominous for the Lions.
They beat Tampa Bay, one of the NFC swing games that could help them enormously down the road should tiebreakers come into play to determine the NFC wild card teams.
Kansas City, which was 10-6 last year and made the playoffs, lost all its preseason games and was blown out at home by hapless Buffalo in the season opener. On top of it, the Chiefs have lost Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry, their top defensive player, for the season because of injury.
The Chiefs were totally out of sync in the preseason and in their opener. They have responded poorly to the landscape following the lockout. Obviously, they weren't ready to go when football started again. They still have some good players - quarterback Matt Cassel, wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and running back Jamaal Charles - but the 9-point spread going into the game isn't out of line. Ford Field is going to be a tough place for the Chiefs Sunday. It'll be as charged as it has ever been for a Lions home game.
At Minnesota the following week will be trickier. Charles is a version of what the Lions hope Jahvid Best will become some day - a runner they use in limited situations, but provides big chucks of yardage per touch. The Vikings still have Adrian Peterson. The Lions' run defense, which seems so improved, will get a strong test in that game. The Lions can load up on Peterson. Donovan McNabb just doesn't seem like the same player. And defensively, the Vikings struggled more than it seemed in their 24-17 season-opening loss to the Chargers, who had 31 first downs compared to just 10 for the Vikings. A long kickoff return by Percy Harvin is what kept that game reasonably close in a sense, allowing Minnesota to shorten the clock a bit.
The Cowboys got typically overhyped in the preseason. They couldn't hold a lead at the Jets. Tony Romo was a turnover machine when it mattered.
The Minnesota and Dallas games are on the road, but the road isn't nearly as precarious as it used to be for the Lions. They played better on the road last season, and have won three straight road games overall.
Part of it is the margin for error goes down on the road when you have a defensive line which is stout against the run and takes a quarterback out of his comfort zone. Also, this a better coached team. Not as many penalties or turnovers. The kicking game is pretty good - a sign the Lions have better depth because their coverage units are solid.
After the Monday night game against the Bears, they Lions have home games vs. San Francisco and Atlanta, and a road game at Denver.
It looks more like the sea is parting for the Lions than their is any sort of ominous cloud hanging over them because of the schedule.
The first half of a season can be misleading; the Lions were 6-2 in 2007 and their world fell apart after that.
But this is different. It isn't built on a house of cards. This is a more complete team, that is only going to get better.
There are going to unexpected losses. When they happen, how the Lions react will be the key litmus test. Yet, they appear better prepared to handle those situations, don't they?


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