Detroit Lions 2010 Schedule Preview: 16 Games, 16 Headlines (Part Three)

June 2, 2010 by

By the midpoint of the Detroit Lions’ 2010 schedule, we’ll know a lot of things.

Chief among them is whether it’s going to be any fun to say “Lions” and
“playoffs” in the same breath. Not that the Lions are actually going to the playoffs this year, but it would be nice, for once, not to be out of the hunt by the first week of November.

That will have a major impact on the presentation of Weeks 10-13… although I think we all know what kinds of corny storylines we’ll see for the Thanksgiving game against the Patriots.

Oh, you don’t? Then read on.

Week 10: Detroit Lions at Buffalo Bills

“Lions’ Defense, Bills’ Offense Collide in Battle of Futility”

First and foremost, this headline could turn out to be worthless, if either of these units pick up their act in the first half of 2010.

If the units pick up this year, it will change the nature of the game’s coverage, but it won’t change the fact that both units have been sub-par for the better part of the last decade, and both teams lost a lot of games because of it.

For reference, the Bills have not ranked higher than 23rd in the NFL in points scored per game since 2004. By the same token, the Lions ranked 21st in points allowed in 2005,  30th in 2006, and dead last ever since.

Even now, the Lions still lack talent in the secondary, and the Bills might trot out a ball-launcher and tackling dummies covered in glue as their passing attack.

However, where those areas have faltered,  the Bills’ running game and the Lions’ front seven have been considerably strengthened.

Because of this, it’s possible that when the Bills’ offense is on the field with the Lions’ defense, we could see a strength vs. strength matchup on running plays, and weakness vs. weakness on passing plays.

The player to watch in this one, however, is Matthew Stafford. Assuming he’s still upright by Week 10, this should be the former Georgia Bulldog’s first cold-weather game (November 14 in Buffalo).

Playing the Bills should be a good way for Stafford to start strong in the elements and avoid something stupid like a cold weather jinx.

But hey, even if he struggles in the weather, at least he only has warm-weather games remaining (at Dallas, at Miami, at Tampa Bay).

Week 11: Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys

“Williams, Kitna to Play Former Team for First Time Since Being Traded”

Chances are, Jon Kitna doesn’t play this game (though you never know when Tony Romo’s pinky finger will start acting up and put him down for a couple months), but he’s a former Lion, nonetheless. He’s part of this story.

The real story, however, is exactly to what extent Martin Mayhew bent Jerry Jones over a barrel with the Roy Williams trade. It’s no longer an issue of “if.”  When a team trades away half a draft for a wide receiver who ends up being (maybe) the third-best receiver on his own team, it’s a win for the other guys.

That, however, sets up an interesting scenario. Williams will surely play with a chip on his shoulder, wanting to prove himself against the team that traded him. At the same time, he could very possibly be outplayed by one of the draft picks he was exchanged for.

Brandon Pettigrew, Derrick Williams and Aaron Brown were the result of Roy Williams to Dallas, and any or all of them have a real shot to eclipse the two or three catches per game Roy Williams averaged for Dallas in 2009.

If the Lions draftees outplay Williams, Jerry Jones looks like a moron. If they don’t, he looks slightly less like one.

This effect will be dampened/intensified by whether the Lions lose/win the game.

On a side note, anybody taking bets on whether or not Nick Harris will clip the Jerry-Vision screen in his first trip to the new Cowboys Stadium?

Week 12: New England Patriots at Detroit Lions (Thanksgiving)

“Patriots Make Pilgrimage to Detroit for Thanksgiving”

Or something.

I have a really bad feeling that, beyond the dread that comes with playing the Patriots, this week of football is going to be soggy with mainstream media outlets milking the New England Patriots/Thanksgiving connection.

What I don’t know is whether they’ll do it on account of the team being from Massachusetts, or because the team is named the Patriots. Probably both.

Ultimately, there won’t be a whole lot of analysis surrounding this game, for a couple of reasons. One, the media will be too busy selling patriotism to bother.

And two, it’s the Lions and the Patriots. Does anybody not already know what’s going to happen? Sure, the Patriots might not be quite the same well-oiled machine that they were a few years ago, and the Lions might not be quite the same hapless organization they were a few years ago.

Still, on a good day, the Patriots’ offense can burn an average NFL defense with about six guys on the field.

Lions fans have to hope that doesn’t happen, and that has nothing to do with losing the football game. It’s because we can’t be sure how many more times the Lions can forget to show up on Thanksgiving before the NFL reacts to floundering ratings and takes the game away from us.

Try not to be too harsh to the stupid fans of other teams shouting down the Lions for sucking and claiming that their team should get the game instead (this year, probably Patriots fans). They’re really just jealous.

Week 13: Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions (Thanksgiving)

“Former Lions OC Mike Martz Returns to Ford Field “

Though the Lions will have technically played against a Mike Martz system twice since the Lions fired him in 2007 (San Francisco in 2008, and the 2010 opener against the Bears), this marks the first trip for Martz back to Ford Field.

The reception he gets will be based on whether or not he has success in Chicago. If he somehow turns Jay Cutler into a secondary-killing machine, everybody at Ford Field is going to know Martz is there, and he’ll hear about it.

Of course, if Jay Cutler remains Jay Cutler, but in a Mike Martz offense… well, with the Bears’ offensive line, that could be a fun day for the Lions. But Martz’s impact on the game’s coverage will be understated if the offense is not notably more successful than its 2009 iteration.

This is really just a lower-impact update on last year, when Rod “Pick and Shovel” Marinelli was seen on the opposite sideline less than a year after misleading the Lions through the Season Which Shall Not Be Named.

Also, if the Lions’ conference losing streak is still active (i.e. if they fail to beat the Bears, Packers or Vikings on the road earlier in the year), then that streak, which will stand at 18, will come into play.

Indeed, the Lions have not won a game against an NFC North opponent since Oct. 28, 2007, against the Bears at Soldier Field. In that game, former Bears running back Kevin Jones had 105 yards and a touchdown.

For the Lions.

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