Three to Focus on – Lions @ Broncos

| October 28, 2011

Perhaps in years past, Tim Tebow would have loved to face the Detroit Lions in his second start of the season, but not in 2011. The fact that the Lions have lost two straight games doesn’t change the fact that if a comeback effort was needed to beat Miami, Detroit is going to pose quite the challenge. The Tebow infatuation is stronger than ever and has allowed the Broncos to taste relevancy despite their mediocre play to this point, so everybody on the team will be feeling the pressure to win and keep Tebow in the headlines for the right reasons.

The Lions face some unfamiliar pressure themselves, which must be a welcoming feeling after years of irrelevancy. Whereas a two-game losing streak would hardly be considered cause for concern in the past, after a 5-0 start the Lions don’t want to derail their own hype. Losing to a poor team after two straight losses could do a lot of harm to their self-esteem, not to mention the inexperienced Lions’ own confidence in their ability to contend for a championship. What any good team knows is that to get to that championship, you have to win the games you’re supposed to first and by all means this is a game the Lions should win. Will they get the job done or will Tebow mania take hold of the sports world for another week? Here are three points of interest you should pay attention to in this one.

.

1) Disturbing development in Detroit

One recent development that has likely contributed to the Lions losing their last two games is the deterioration of their run defense. Each of the past three weeks has seen the Lions allow a running back to rush for at least 100 yards against their defense, and while Knowshon Moreno (-2.9) isn’t as effective as Matt Forte, Frank Gore or Michael Turner, the Broncos’ offensive game plan figures to be run-heavy. Lance Ball (+2.9) will likely have an opportunity to carry the ball a few times as well, and he’ll be looking to prove that he deserves more of a role in the offense while Willis McGahee is out with an injury.

Middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch (+14.8) is our second-rated inside linebacker overall, and sixth against the run, but he’s far from the Lions only player capable of making plays in the running game. We’ve called out Ndamukong Suh for some shoddy work against the run in weeks past, so credit is due for his well-rounded performance last week in which he picked up a sack and two pressures while still playing the run well (+1.7). The pieces are there to prevent opponents from finding success on the ground and the Lions defense knows they’ll have a chance to make some big plays if they shut down the Broncos running game and force Tebow to try to beat them through the air.

.

2) Champ Bailey vs. Calvin Johnson

As far as individual matchups go, this is one of the more promising ones this season. As many teams don’t move cornerbacks, a lot of potentially great matchups never occur simply because the opposing offense can just move the receiver they want from the other team’s top cornerback. With that being said, the Broncos aren’t one of those teams and they have had no qualms deploying Champ Bailey against the opposing team’s best receiver at all times. Just last week, he shadowed Brandon Marshall and held the physical receiver mostly in check. Age is certainly catching up him, but his play hasn’t quite slipped to the point where this matchup doesn’t intrigue and whatever Bailey is losing in speed, he’s gaining in physicality.

If Marshall warranted a specific defensive assignment, it’s a safe bet Bailey will be given the task of trying to stop Calvin Johnson (+12.8) from grading in the green for what would be only the second time this season. Bailey was very active around the line of scrimmage, within the legal 5-yard range allowing for contact, and managed to disrupt a very physical presence in Marshall last week, so we’ll be watching closely to see if he tries to give Johnson the same treatment this week. If we get a chance to watch these two fight for a jump ball or two, it’s just icing on the cake.

.

3) Broncos offensive line vs. Lions defensive line

Few, if any, quarterbacks give up on a passing play and scramble for yardage rather than to extend the pass play quicker than Tebow. Will he be as willing to do so with Suh looking for every opportunity to get a piece of him? You can bet Suh’s eyes will be lighting up whenever Tebow decides to make himself a runner rather than passer and takes that invisible layer of officiating protection that quarterbacks receive in the pocket out of the equation. The Broncos’ offensive line will absolutely need to be at their best if they want to get their quarterback out of this game in one piece, and it starts with right tackle Orlando Franklin.  Cameron Wake abused Franklin all game long last week and a rebound effort won’t come easily this week as Franklin will have less help than usual in protection as Cliff Avril isn’t exactly the first player you choose to double-team on the Lions defensive line. The Lions’ defensive front is athletic and tenacious, and Tebow’s elusiveness in the pocket can only go so far with a guy like Suh bearing down on him. If the Broncos can’t keep Suh, Avril, and the others out of their backfield, it’s going to be a long day for Denver.

.

.

Be sure to follow our main Twitter feed: @ProFootbalFocus

.

.

.

 

 

Comments are closed.