In Praise of the Wide Nine, Lions D-Line, & Back Seven

>> 10.14.2011

Back when Nick Fairley suddenly showed up to training camp in a walking boot, I wrote a piece called “Nick Injured? It’s Fairley Insignificant.” In it I said not to PANIC:

The Lions’ defensive line must keep rolling waves, so they’ll need Fairley back—but not the way they needed Ndamukong Suh last season. Suh played a thousand snaps, nearly every single down the defense was on the field last season. Fairley was never going to carry that big of a load even if he showed up to camp in the best shape of his life, dominated every rep, and didn’t suffer so much as a paper cut. He’s an extremely talented player and he seems like a nice, fun-loving guy—but he doesn’t need to be an All-Pro for the Lions to have a good defense this year.

After five games, the Lions’ defense is fourth-best in the NFL, allowing just 17.8 points per game. The talent, skill, and depth of the defensive line has allowed the Lions to contain the run and snuff out the pass. They have 12 sacks, tied for 11th-best in the league—with  nearly zero blitzing. The Lions’ Pro Football Focus team Pass Rush grade is +18.9, fifth-best. Clearly, the line has been fine with or without the #13 overall pick.

Early  during the Monday Night game, Commenter Matt nudged me and said, “Dude, Fairley’s in.” I looked and saw that indeed, #98 was out there, rotating in for a snap or two. It continued throughout the night; Fairley seamlessly blended with Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams and Sammie Hill and Andre Fluellen.

Fairley got great penetration, fought off blocks, got in on some piles, and per Pro Football Focus had three quarterback pressures. He received a +2.4 overall PFF grade (+1.0 run defense, +1.3 pass rush, +0.1 penalty), amazing work for an 18-snap workload. The impact wasn’t seen but it was felt, as the Lions defensive line constantly rotated players in and out, staying fresh and keeping the pressure at a rolling boil for sixty minutes.

As I'm sure you saw earlier in the week, ESPN Stats & Information found that Cutler was under duress for 42.1% of his throws Monday Night, the highest for any single quarterback in any single game so far this year. Cutler performed incredibly well considering the pressure; any other quarterback might have gone down seven or eight times—or at least, thrown a lot more incompletions or interceptions.

But it’s more than just the defensive line.

Philadelphia fans and media alike are screaming for the Eagles to scrap the “wide nine,” a defensive system wherein the blindside pass-rushing defensive end lines up far outside their opposing offensive tackle, and the rest of the line shifts around to obtain maximum penetration and pass rush without blitzing. Adam Caplan of Scout.com explains:

Does all this sound familiar? It should, because it’s the exact same system the Lions use.

There’s a problem inherent in widening out that defensive line, then coaching them to aggressively penetrate. Trap blocks, counters, and end-arounds become extremely effective. Teams intent on running the ball will succeed. In a recent Detroit News article, Jim Schwartz explained how the Lions deal with this:

"We're vulnerable to trap blocks," Schwartz said. "You tell guys to get up field and rush the passer, they're going to be susceptible to the trap. But our linebackers are expected to play that. We don't want our guys slowing down and playing traps. Suh is an instinctive guy. He's seen those things before. If we are getting off the line the way we are supposed to, our linebackers should fill those (gaps) up."

Stephen Tulloch, Justin Durant, DeAndre Levy, and Bobby Carpenter have combined to do just that. Though opposing running backs are shredding the Lions’ defensive line for 4.78 YpC, the Lions have allowed only one rushing touchdown. Opposing running backs are getting through t the second level, but no further.

On the passing side of the ball, the Lions are one of the best defenses in the NFL. According to one of my favorite pass-defense metrics, Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, the Lions’ pass defense is tied with the New York Jets for second-best in the NFL. Pro Football Focus grades the Lions pass rush fifth,  and pass coverage No. 1.

In Detroit, the “wide nine” system is working perfectly. The strength, speed, depth and alignment of the Lions’ defensive line is putting heat on quarterbacks with almost no blitzing. The burden of stopping the run is almost entirely on the linebackers’ shoulders—and they’re getting the job done. The Eagles’ linebackers aren’t, and Nnamdi Asomugha is having to explain to reporters that contrary to appearances they do know how to tackle.

The back seven is also working in concert to take away quarterbacks’ safety blankets underneath, prevent being burned deep, jumping the medium routes to pick passes off and get the ball back to the offense. Where the Eagles gazillion-dollar “dream team” secondary is getting gashed on the ground and through the air, the Lions hand-picked cast of role players and reclamation projects is the best back seven in the NFL.

Read more...

What’s on Tap for today

Normally I keep a firewall between my Lions stuff and MSU stuff, but it’s Michigan - Michigan State week. Over at my Michigan State football blog, A Beautiful Day for Football:

  • Wal-Mart Wolverines, Juggalo Spartans, Privilege, and Class

    I explore the seedy underbelly of the two schools' fanbases, and the elitism inherent in the discussion. I'm very proud of this one.

  • Little Brother No More?

    Jim takes a good hard look at what it means to be Little Brother, and if Michigan State has really moved on from that mindset.

  • Michigan State - Michigan Game Preview

    A good old-fashioned preview of tomorrow's matchup.

  • Friday Mornin' YouTubin'!

    Your weekly dose of motivational YouTube clips of cherished rivalry lore.

That's not even counting the usual "five questions" post still in the works.

Here at TLiW I'll have a piece on the D-line up shortly, then I'll try and get the Watchtower out before it gets too terribly late (nobody seems to like gameday Watchtowers).

Read more...

Tinderbox: Displaced Fan Contest, Ford Field Review

>> 10.13.2011

One of the amazing things about this blog is meeting Lions fans from all over the world. Fans who can’t attend games, watch local TV, or listen to local radio can use the same Internet that everyone in southern Michigan can! Displaced Lions fans can follow all the news and analysis like they never left—and new fans from around the world can get up to speed like a local.

DirecTV is holding an Ultimate Displaced Fan contest. Entries can be an essay, photo, or (ideally) a video explaining why they are the ultimate displaced fan. There are some ridiculous prizes: a trip to the super bowl, a media tour with one of your favorite Lions, and a chance to play in the nationally-televised celebrity Beach Bowl.

I know this blog’s readership contains some ridiculously creative people. The last time I held a contest, I asked people to write about their greatest moment of Lions pride. Here’s the intro paragraph of the contest winner:

There I was, in the body of a Lions fan at 18,000 feet. Oil covered my windscreen -- my lifeless Merlin engine on fire. My canopy could not be budged - I was locked inside an aerial coffin. I watched, transfixed, as my altitude evaporated like rubbing alcohol in the noon-day sun. Paralyzed by fear and anxiety, suffocating under the weight of knowing I would be obliterated in a matter of moments when my stricken Spitfire met the hard, dusty surface of the Libyan desert below. The trim, sand-colored little Messerschmitt, my destroyer, spiraled away to celebrate his kill. A life snuffed out in a flash. A momentary blip on a radar screen only the gods will ever see. Oh, the humanity!

He eventually got around to the Lions thing.

Last year’s winner made a little tutorial video on how to win this thing, and I’d LOVE one of you to go out and win it. So, if you’re a huge Lions fan and you need at least a hotel and probably airfare to see a game in person, enter the Ultimate Displaced Fan contest—and win it for all of us.

What’s the opposite of a raving, team-color-bleeding homer who can’t ever go to the stadium? One guy who goes to all of the stadiums. Paul Swaney of StadiumJourney.com goes to—and reviews—basically every stadium in every sport. He recently attended the Chiefs game and reviewed Ford Field.

The review was fair and accurate, giving top marks for the food, and above-average ratings for everything else. The “fans” rating was especially intriguing:

It is certainly human nature for a fan base that has endured what Lions fans have endured to be down on their team. There is no doubt though, that a new aura of hope is almost tangible as you walk through Ford Field, and sit in the stands amongst the loyal supporters.

Fans don Lions jerseys more often than not, and they can get very, very loud when they want to. Still, this is a group that seems to responsive to the noise meter on the scoreboard than any instinctual reaction to the play on the field. The Lions still have trouble selling out many games. Again, this is understandable given the lack of success year after year.

It will be interesting to see if the Lions can begin to produce consistent winners with the young core of talent they have assembled. You can certainly feel the optimism in the air, but for now, this fan base seems so-so compared to many others.

Now if he'd come on Monday Night . . .

Honestly though, I think Paul was spot-on with the feeling and atmosphere. In my very first post, I called Ford Field a “hollow jewel” because of the lifeless, shrink-wrapped, sterile feel of the stadium. I don’t think that’s the case now—but remember that at the Chiefs game (when Paul attended), many still weren’t sure how “for real” this year’s Lions team was, so the quick Chiefs start sucked some of the life out of the building—and the sudden blowout flipped the switch to the other extreme: having a blast without necessarily paying rapt attention to the game. Still, Paul could sense what’s building within the fanbase:

Time will tell if the Lions can become contenders, and if they do, then this could easily become a raucous stadium to watch the NFL. Do yourself a favor and visit Ford Field in the near future. Better yet, sped your Thanksgiving at Ford Field, an NFL tradition going back to 1934 when the Lions moved from Portsmouth, Ohio to the Motor City.

So do yourself a favor and read the official Stadium Journey review of Ford Field. Many thanks to Paul for coming to Detroit and checking our team.

Read more...

Watchtower Review: Bears vs. Lions

>> 10.12.2011

Reviewing the Watchtower after wins is always fun; reviewing The Watchtower after THIS win is going to be especially delicious. Let’s look at what we came up with for the Bears offense:

I project the Bears to score 20-23 points, passing for 5.75-6.25 YpA, and rushing for 4.85-5.15 YpC. I have high confidence in this projection.

If there’s anything we learned from the dirty cheating Vikings, it’s that crowd noise can give a huge advantage to a pass rush. The Bears have struggled to protect Cutler this year, allowing 15 sacks—more than any other team except the Rams. As I wrote for Bleacher Report, the Lions have played much, much better at home than on the road in 2011, and if that trend continues the Bears won’t score anywhere near this many. Unless Forte rolls for 200 yards again, I don’t see a situation where the Bears score significantly more than 23 points on the Lions.

What the Bears actually did was score 13 points, pass for 6.55 YpA, and run for 4.88 YpC. Jay Cutler—who, as I said in Three Cups Deep, was phenomenal—was a little be better at moving the ball than I’d projected, but the Lions held Forte’s effectiveness to the bottom end of my expectations.

The crowd noise and pass rush did the trick, preventing the Bears from converting 371 yards of offense into any more than 13 points. The “Mitigating/Aggravating Factors” paragraph explained that I saw 23 as a hard cap, but if everything broke the Lions’ way, 20 was far above the floor. Commenter Imperical Evidence was bold enough to predict the Bears wouldn’t top 14, and I doff my cap to him.

Besides the ridiculous amount of penalties on both sides, which slowed the pace of the game to a crawl, the Bears managed to string together a lot of long drives. The time of possession favored Chicago by a nearly two-to-one margin. Forte and Cutler kept magically converting third downs—but the defensive backs kept all the Bears well in front of them. Fleeing the relentless front four, into the smothering horde of the back seven, Chicago’s offense was trapped. Slate’s Tom Scocca said it best:

Cutler had crossed over into the same waking nightmare state that Donovan McNabb was in during Super Bowl XXXIX, as the Eagles offense dawdled away any hopes of a comeback. Cutler's intentions no longer had anything to do with winning, or even scoring—his world had shrunk down to the space between finding the next dumpoff receiver and getting clobbered by the Lions again. Checkdown, crawl to his feet, checkdown once more. That was the only thing he could do, so he did it.

The Lions’ offense fared a little better against Chicago’s defense.

If we leave schematic interplay out of it, we’d expect the Lions to score quite a bit more than their season average on the year, throw a little better than usual, and have a nice game running the ball. However, if we apply what might be the most tried-and-true schematic effect I’ve ever identified, the scoring should be less high because of turnovers, but the passing and running games should have banner days.

Therefore, I project the Lions to score 33-36 points, while passing for 8.50—9.00 YpA, and rushing for 3.50—4.00 YpC. I have high confidence in this projection.

The Lions only scored 24 points, though they did pass for 8.43 YpA. Of course, Jahvid Best’s ridiculous night ballooned the rushing average to 9.05 YpC. On a night the Lions were moving the ball quite well, they beat themselves when trying to convert those yards into points.

Matthew Stafford killed the Lions chances to reclaim the lead before halftime with an interception that was entirely his fault. In the fourth quarter, a Willie Young sack ultimately forced the Bears to punt from their own 4. Stefan Logan got the ball to the Bears’ 44, but Keiland Williams got called for a block in the back on the return. On the ensuing 3rd-and-4, a Dominic Raiola penalty negated a brilliant Jahvid Best 14-yard reception, and the Lions had to punt away a great scoring opportunity.

The Lions also took their foot off the gas late in the fourth. Throughout the game, the Bears had shown a “cover one” look with safety Brandon Meriweather playing deep centerfield, with press man coverage on every Lions target. It looked like this:

The Chicago Bears showing a deep cover one look against the Detroit Lions. Calvin Johnson is single covered. Brandon Meriweather is off frame to the right. Trust me.

Meriweather is off-frame, playing that deep deep centerfield. The Bears showed this look several times throughout the game, and the Lions consistently fed it to Megatron. It’s true: if Johnson is single covered, it’s automatically going to him. In fact, Stafford took his only sack of the game on this play waiting for Johnson to get open. He stared Johnson down, reared back to throw, then felt heat and pulled it back down. Israel Idonije had pushed Cherilus back with a bullrush, and Stafford didn’t feel Johnson was open enough to let fly.

Once inside four minutes, though, the Lions went from hitting Johnson every time the Bears showed this look to running every time the Bears showed this look. They were indisputably trying to put it in the cooler. Now, they chewed two full minutes off the clock and made it a two-possession game at the end, but the opportunity for more points was there.

On the whole, the defense did an amazing job of containing the Bears offense on a day when Cutler did no wrong. The offense missed some opportunities, but made the plays the opponent couldn’t make. In the end, it was clear who the better team was—and as the stats projected, the better team won.

Next week might be a different story.

Read more...

Fireside Chat Postponed

>> 10.11.2011

I just realized that nobody, least of all me, wants to do the Fireside Chat during the Tigers game. No Fireside Chat tonight; I’ll announce a new day and time as soon as I get it firmed up.

Read more...

Three Cups Deep: Lions vs. Bears

coffeeAhhhhhhhhhhhh.

What a wonderful, beautiful day. I have no words for how incredible, indelible, and overwhelming last night was.

We did it. We, the Lions fans, came out in force. We filled every seat in the house and then some, and we were deafeningly loud from opening kick to closing gun. We forced the Bears into nine false starts. We provided energy that the Lions fed off of. We changed the balance of the play on the field.

But the players on the field won this game.

Credit first must go to the defensive line, who played an incredible four quarters of football. They kept the pressure on constant boil with very little help from blitzes. Cliff Avril had a monster three-sack game (two were called back on penalties), but nearly everyone on the Lions defensive line "ate" well last night.

Credit must next go to Jahvid Best, who finally connected on a couple of the home run balls he was drafted to hit. He also made several nifty plays at the first and second levels that made something out of nothing, and something into something more. It's that ability that makes him so valuable--and together with his speed, so dangerous.

Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson both did their thing, the offensive line performed admirably, and Andre Levy and the linebackers kept Forte contained.

That having been said, the Lions still weren't hitting on all cylinders. Stafford missed some connections at some critical early junctures. The Lions clearly shut down the engine with a few minutes out and coasted it home.

Still, the Lions physically dominated the Bears from whistle to whistle; the only reason they didn't win 38-6 with a few turnovers and grip of sacks is Jay Cutler.

Say what you will about Cutler, but he was pitch-perfect last night. He escaped sack after sack by the skin of his teeth, and converted third down after third down with back-footed off-balance desperation heaves that always landed in the waiting arms of the only open man. With the Lions defensive line determined to put him on the ground after every throw, penalties be damned, Cutler absorbed all the abuse and kept the chains moving anyway.

The Bears owned the ball all game long (nearly 40 minutes of possession). Time after time we got the impression the Lions defense couldn't buy a stop. Yet, the Lions held Cutler, Forte, and the Bears to a measly 13 points. Mission accomplished.

In the end, that is the takeaway. Not the incredible bombast, not the significance of the night to the team or the city, nor any of the incredible numbers generated, nor any of the streaks broken or extended. The Lions faced their most stiffest challenge in a decade, and they rose up and passed it.

Read more...

The Morning After

Elated. Exhausted. Satisfied. Thrilled.

Chaperoning a kindergarten field trip to the apple orchard.

Three Cups Deep may be a bit late.

Fireside Chat late tonight, likely 10ish.

Read more...

The Watchtower: Lions vs. Bears

>> 10.10.2011

This is a bear climbing Devil's Tower. I guess I didn't know bear tails were that long.

Tonight, the Detroit Lions will host the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. It will be the most important regular season game the Lions have played since the loss that prompted the Fords to hire Matt Millen.

It’s almost impossible to enumerate all the different ways this game is crucial to the Lions’ success. In the most practical sense, a win makes the Lions 5-0, 2-0 at home, and 2-0 in division. A win would put the Bears three full games behind the Lions in the division race. It means the Lions would have to go a seemingly-impossible 4-7 afterwards to not win ten games. If the Lions win this game, the playoffs become a virtual certainty.

For many of the Lions, this will be the most important game of their career to date. They’ll never have played on Monday Night Football, in prime time, or in a game so meaningful to the division race. This will be their first professional “big game,” and we simply don’t know how they will respond.

If the Lions can bring their “A” game, their first 60-minute three-phase performance, they’ll get an enormous confidence boost that should last them the rest of the year. If they choke it away, it could burst the magic bubble the Lions have been riding to the top of the NFL standings; a free fall back to the bottom of the table could result.

This will also be a test of the strength of the blue fire. The stadium will be packed full, but how loud will it be? Can we push the Lions to play at their utmost? How long can we sustain the energy? Will we fall silent if things don’t go the Lions’ way early? Will we start heading for the exits if victory starts slipping away?

From a Detroit perspective, this game is both more and less important than the national observers would like it to be. Yes, Monday Night Football will be an outstanding showcase for Ford Field, the Detroit Lions, and their fans. Yes, it will be an incredibly important football game, both teams’ key to the playoffs. No, it will not be some kind of economic spirit totem that doubles the population overnight and supplies jobs and houses for everyone.

That having been said, a win would be really really cool.

As part of my constant tinkering with The Watchtower, I’ve decided that for division games, I’ll only use the data from the last three years. There are enough contests over the past few years that I’ll have good data—and with the same coaches on the same teams, it will be much more relevant to this week’s game than stuff that happened back in the 90s.

Mike Martz vs. Gunther Cunningham

Martz Ornk PgG YpA YpC Gun Drnk PpG DYpA DYpC PTS PTSΔ YpA YpAΔ YpC YpCΔ
CHI 21st 20.9 6.47 3.90 DET 19th 23.1 6.75 4.51 19 -9% 10.63 64% 3.26 -16%
CHI 21st 20.9 6.47 3.90 DET 19th 23.1 6.75 4.51 24 15% 6.50 0% 4.07 4%
CHI 13th 23.5 6.46 4.70 DET 8th 19.0 5.82 4.76            

In last seasons’s second Bears Watchtower, I concluded:

It looks as though the only statistical trend for these two coaches, when facing off against one another, is that both units will play to their means: the 20.2-ppg Bears scored 19 against the 22.4-ppg Lions. Note, however, that that included about thirty minutes of shutout play in between Matt Forte receiving touchdowns. Given the data at hand, I’m inclined to project a repeat performance: 17-21 points, 7.50-8.00 YpA, and 4.0-4.25 YpC. I have medium confidence in this projection.

This is a statement game in many respects, and turnovers will likely make the difference. Last time, there were five fumbles (three lost), two picks, and 6 sacks for -42 yards. I see a similarly messy game this time around; how those turnovers and sacks are distributed will be the difference in the outcome

The statistical effect I thought I’d identified—that the Martz offense will pass more effectively than expected but score a typical amount of points due to sacks and turnovers—didn’t quite play out. I projected Cutler to pass for 7.50-8.00 YpA, and instead he passed for almost exactly his season average (6.50 YpA, 6.47 avg.). I projected the Bears to run for 4.0-4.25 YpC, and that’s exactly what they did (4.07 YpC).

Throughout last season, the Bears modified their approach from Martz’s classic Sid Gillman-style offense to a more traditional attack. Throughout the season, the Bears’ sacks allowed went down as their scoring effectiveness went up.

The Bears seem more capable of executing it the classic Martz offense this year, as they’re back to more 4-wide looks, long dropbacks, and allowed sacks—but they’re averaging 23.5 points per game, ranked 13th in the NFL. They’re passing for 6.46 YpA, just as they passed for 6.47 last year—but they’re running for 4.60 YpC, nearly a full yard better than last season. Matt Forte is having a fantastic season so far, and it shows in the stats.

After four games, Lions are the 8th-ranked scoring defense in the NFL. They’re allowing 19.0 points per game, a stingy 5.82 YpA, and a much more generous 4.76 YpC. To an extent, this plays into the Bears’ hands. Matt Forte will likely have another great game, taking pressure off Cutler and the offensive line. However, Jaws always tells us that points come out of the passing game . . .

During that last Watchtower, I said the following:

It looks as though the only statistical trend for these two coaches, when facing off against one another, is that both units will play to their means.

I’m going to stick with that trend. I project the Bears to score 20-23 points, passing for 5.75-6.25 YpA, and rushing for 4.85--5.15 YpC. I have high confidence in this projection.

Mitigating/Aggravating Factors

If there’s anything we learned from the dirty cheating Vikings, it’s that crowd noise can give a huge advantage to a pass rush. The Bears have struggled to protect Cutler this year, allowing 15 sacks—more than any other team except the Rams.  As I wrote for Bleacher Report, the Lions have played much, much better at home than on the road in 2011, and if that trend continues the Bears won’t score anywhere near this many. Unless Forte rolls for 200 yards again, I don’t see a situation where the Bears score significantly more than 23 points on the Lions.

Scott Linehan vs. Lovie Smith

Lin Ornk PgG YpA YpC Lovie Drnk PpG DYpA DYpC PTS PTS? YpA YpA? YpC YpC?
DET 27th 16.4 5.42 3.95 CHI 21st 23.4 6.36 4.33 24 46% 7.45 37% 2.46 -38%
DET 27th 16.4 5.42 3.95 CHI 21st 23.4 6.36 4.33 23 40% 7.70 42% 4.00 1%
DET 15th 22.6 6.02 3.99 CHI 4th 17.9 6.17 3.73 14 -38% 5.03 -16% 0.95 -76%
DET 15th 22.6 6.02 3.99 CHI 4th 17.9 6.17 3.73 20 -12% 7.42 23% 4.96 24%
DET 2nd 33.8 7.44 2.95 CHI 20th 24.5 7.18 5.07            

Over the first two years, I developed what I thought was a pretty solid description of the interaction between Linehan’s offense and Smith’s defense:

Given greater or equal talent, Lovie Smith's relatively aggressive Tampa 2 will surrender a disproportionate amount of yards to Linehan's balanced offense, but also generate high numbers of sacks and turnovers, disproportionately disrupting scoring. Given mediocre or poor talent, Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 surrenders disproportionately high yardage and points, respective to the Linehan offense’s talent level.

It was confounded by the result of last season’s opening contest—which, of course, was a little unusual thanks to the Chicago Screwjob and the in-game loss of Matthew Stafford. What I didn’t—couldn’t have—predicted is that last year’s Bears defense would actually be the fourth-best in football last year. In light of the 17.9 points per game the Bears surrendered, the above description is still exactly what happens when Linehan’s Lion offenses meet Smith’s Bear defenses. It showed in the second contest, when the Drew Stanton-led Lions passed for 7.42 YpA and ran for 4.96 YpC, but only scored 20 points.

This season, the Lions have the second-most potent scoring offense in the NFL. They’re averaging 33.8 points per game. The Lions are averaging an impressive 7.44 yard gain with every pass attempt, though mustering just 2.98 yards per carry. On the defensive side, the Bears are the 20th-ranked defense in the NFL, allowing 24.5 points per game. They’re letting up 7.18 YpA and 5.07 YpC.

If we leave schematic interplay out of it, we’d expect the Lions to score quite a bit more than their season average on the year, throw a little better than usual, and have a nice game running the ball. However, if we apply what might be the most tried-and-true schematic effect I’ve ever identified, the scoring should be less high because of turnovers, but the passing and running games should have banner days.

Therefore, I project the Lions to score 33-36 points, while passing for 8.50—9.00 YpA, and rushing for 3.50—4.00 YpC. I have high confidence in this projection.

Mitigating/Aggravating Factors

The worst-case scenario here is Matthew Stafford’s first-quarter jitters leading to another turnover, and the Bears getting an early lead. I don’t think anything short of a 40-point blowout will actually take the crowd out of this game, but if the Bears can get an early turnover and capitalize on it, that might take the edge off enough for them to get rolling.

Aw, who am I kidding? The worst-case scenario is that Julius Peppers kills Stafford dead while we all look on in horror. Barring that, the Lions have proven themselves more than able to score points in bunches when called upon, and the Bears have surrendered them in bunches to anyone with the talent to do so. The Lions’ proverbial “best game” that they haven’t played yet could see an even higher point total, but I think this is a solid projection.

Conclusion

There’s a long paper trail backing the effects of the systemic interplay up. The two teams are playing on two different skill and execution levels right now. Given the stakes, given how badly I want to be right, I don’t want to go overboard on the hubris. However, there’s no other conclusion I can reasonably reach, given the data. The most likely outcome of the game is a 35-23 Lions win.

Today is the day where all of the effort of keeping the flame alive pays off. Today is our day, tonight is our night, and this year is our year. Lions fans, whether you’re there with me in person, out at a bar with friends, or sitting on the edge of your couch by yourself, I want to hear you roar from coin toss to gun. The whole world is about to find out just what kind of football team the Detroit Lions are, and what kind of fans Detroit Lions fans are.

Read more...

What’s up for tonight

>> 10.09.2011

Here are the two B/R pieces:

  • Ranking Every NFL Team as Contender or Pretender
  • The Absolutely Worst of the NFL, Week 5 Edition

Read more...

Watchtower waitin’

Hey all, still working on the Watchtower for this week. Here’s a couple links to get you through the day:

  • Per Mlive.com, Scott Linehan insists the offensive line is "doing a great job." Sounds familiar!
  • Holy Schwartz does an amazing job of breaking down the Lions' possible touchdown celebrations for this week.
  • You simply must read the excellent feature on Calvin Johnson that John Lynch wrote for FOX.
  • I wrote about Al Davis's ‘commitment to excellence’--regardless of race or gender--over at Bleacher Report.

Read more...

  © Blogger template Simple n' Sweet by Ourblogtemplates.com 2009

Find us on Google+

Back to TOP