Game Preview: Detroit Lions (7-6) vs Baltimore Ravens (7-6)
Well, the Browns and the Cowboys did no favors for the Lions this week, which means that Monday’s game is an absolute must win. Not only is it the last home game of the season and a self-proclaimed “blue-out”, but it is an opportunity to reclaim first place in the division. This emotional combination bodes well for a team which unfortunately has needed extra motivation in the form of smack talk or big moments to raise their level to what they are capable of. Luckily, Matt Elam of the Baltimore Ravens was able to provide the Lions with that extra motivation. Matt Elam decided that the best strategy going into this week’s game was to call out Calvin Johnson, the league’s best wide out. Uncharacteristically, Johnson responded, claiming that he was going to show Matt Elam “Old man strength”. This does not look good for the Ravens (but does look good for my fantasy team), since the last time Johnson was called out in the media, he went off with 14 receptions for 329 yards and a touchdown.
Keys for this Week
#1-For the love of God, don’t turn the ball over
Was the #1 key going to be anything else? The Lions have been terrible at protecting the football, with 14 fumbles and 14 interceptions so far this season. You want to be playing your best football coming into the playoffs, but since the Bears game after the bye week, the Lions have been plagued by turnovers. We saw on Thanksgiving what happens when the lions don’t turn the ball over, the score a ton of points. But even in that game there were three turnovers, one of which was their only touchdown. Protecting the ball will lead to sustained drives and allow the Lions to assert their will.
#2-Get Pressure on Joe Flacco
I fully expect last week’s putrid run defense to be a fluke. Before the Eagles game, the Lions had one of the best run defenses in the league, holding teams to under 60 rushing YPG in the last 3 contests. At home with a tremendous crowd on Monday night and facing a poor rushing offense, I think that the run defense will return. However, the loss of Chris Houston and Darius Slay makes it all the more important that the front seven of the Lions gets consistent pressure on Joe Flacco. Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones are receivers who can take the top off, which is something the Lions secondary, even when healthy, has struggled mightily with. By getting pressure on Flacco, the defensive line will take some pressure off the secondary.
#3-Establish Calvin Johnson early and often
The big fella has been due for a breakout game after a slowish month, by his lofty standards. Especially with the extra motivation, he is going to want to come out like gangbusters. Why not feed the beast? Look for Scott Linehan to draw up some quick slants and play action to get him free into space to make plays after the catch. The return of Reggie Bush should help Calvin get more single coverage opportunities as well. If Stafford can capitalize on these opportunities, the offense should be much more fluid and uncontainable on Monday night.
Prediction- Lions 31, Ravens 17