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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Game 3 Lions at Minnesota Vikings

Unexpected.

The Detroit Lions beat the Minnesota Vikings in the twin cities in overtime 26-23. The Lions are now 3-0 on the year, and have 11 straight wins going back to last year (counting preseason). The last time the Lions won in Minnesota it was 1997. The last time the Lions were 3-0 to start the season it was 1980. 76% of the teams who start 3-0 make the playoffs. Even with all those "records" the Lions were favored to win this game (first time since 1991 the Lions were favored to win in Minnesota). The thing is, they were behind 0-20 at half time. Unexpectedly, they fought back and won it in overtime thanks to Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford and of course, Jason Hanson.

There were a number of other unexpected items of note in this game as well. 20 net yards rushing on 19 attempts by the Lions for example. 4 receptions for 51 yards by Titus Young (and 4th best on the team today). 11 receptions and 112 yards by Pettigrew to lead the team. No INTs by McNabb OR Stafford. Just to name a few.

Some things weren't so unexpected. 2 TDs and 108 yards on 7 receptions by Calvin Johnson. Jason Hanson making a 50 yard field goal plus making 3 others, including the game winner. The refs making some questionable calls. Jeff Backus playing poorly against J. Allen when not 100% healthy (but he won't sit it out, no sir).

One of the best new things to expect of the Lions these days is the half time adjustments. For years there weren't any, now there are. They are not only making half time adjustments, but those adjustments are actually working. I applaud the coaching staff for this, big time.

I also congratulate Linehan and Gunther Cunningham for beating their previous teams in back to back weeks.

Next week the Lions head to Dallas to play the Cowboys. I'd hate to feel Romo's ribs after Suh and company get done with him. It will be a challenge for the Lions Linebackers though, playing against Witten, who always plays the Lions tough. Will the Lions be favored for that game? Will they win back to back road games? Can they find a way to win once again? It will likely be another tough match but I do think the Lions could take it.

Let's just say, it wouldn't be unexpected.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Game 2 Kansas City Chiefs @ Home

Impressive.

The 2-0 Lions establish that they will play tough on their home field this year by pounding the Chiefs 48-3; breaking their own point spread record set with a 44-0 win over the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars in 1995.

The starters didn't even play half the 4th quarter and one of the touchdowns was scored by Kieland Williams, the number 4 RB on their depth chart. Stafford threw for 294 yards, 4 TDs and had one INT. Burleson led the WRs with 93 yards followed by the rookie, Titus Young, with 89. CJ had only 3 completions for 29 yards, but two of them were TDs. Jahvid Best also had 2 TDs, one rushing and one receiving with 123 all purpose yards. The Lions defense had 6 turnovers on the Chiefs to the Lions giving up 1.

It's also believed that Roary (the Lions mascot) took out Jamaal Charles for the season (ACL) but an MRI will be needed Monday to determine if he is indeed lost for the season. Okay, so Roary didn't actually cause the injury, it occurred as Charles was shoved out of bounds in the middle of the first quarter by a Lions defender, causing Jamaal to fall into Roary, but I'm not sure if that cushioned his fall all that much. The injury appeared to occur on his first step towards the sideline long before the "collision". Still, Roary will make the highlight film for his role.

Next week the Lions play the Minnesota Vikings who lost today to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-24, the team the Lions beat last week. I'm 2-0 in my preseason Lions prediction so far, let's hope I'm wrong about next week's outcome.

Today's 48 points by the Lions were the most by any team this week (barring the outcome of the Sunday night and Monday night games).

It wasn't a perfect game, the Lions still have things to work on, but it was an impressive performance none-the-less.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Game 1 Lions at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Oh so close.

The Lions win their first game of the season, a road game no less, with a score of 27-20, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With the win the Lions don't have to worry about a repeat of 2008 (the last time the Lions won all 4 preseason games they went 0-16 in the regular season). This win makes it the 9th game in a row the Lions have won (4 to end last season, all 4 preseason this year, and then today's game). Of course the score makes it look like it was a close game... but was it?

No, it wasn't. At the end of the first quarter the Lions were losing 6-10, but that's only because of special teams and Tampa's defense. There was exactly 4 yards of offense by Tampa in the first quarter. That's total offense. Had Talib not intercepted Stafford's intended throw to Heller the Lions would've appeared to dominate on the scoreboard as much as they did in the stats... until the Lions went into prevent.

Did I ever mention how much I hate the prevent defense?

It was while being in prevent that the Bucs offense scored their first TD, with less then 2 minutes to go in the game. It was also in prevent that the Bucs could've tied it up and took the game to overtime. Luckily, that did not happen.

Stafford threw for 305 yards, 3 TDs, 1 Int and was 24 of 33. http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2011091106/2011/REG1/lions@buccaneers#menu=highlights&tab=recap

Those kinds of numbers will keep the team in any game. If the defense can keep playing like they did in the first 3 quarters of the Tampa game, the team will win most of those games... depending on how often they go to prevent.

Oh do I hate prevent. I understand you are draining the clock, but all too often it allows an opposing team to get back into the game. Anyway... it worked, this time.

So why did I start this blog entry with the words "oh so close"?

Because, I predicted the Lions would win this game, 27 to 21. One point off. Oh so close.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Detroit Lions 2011 Win/Loss Prediction

The 2011 season is almost upon us, time to look at the Lions schedule and try in advance to determine what the Detroit Lions win/loss situation is like (and of course, to get it utterly wrong, but hey, got to try right?).

Week 1 at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Lions allowed Green Bay into the playoffs last year by beating the Bucs, had they lost last year, the Super Bowl champion Packers would've never made the playoffs... and Tampa would have. They are probably looking for some pay back. Unfortunately for them, the Lions are itching to hit someone in the mouth, and the Bucs get to be first up. Lions win 27-21.

Week 2 at home versus the Kansas City Chiefs. The first home game. The Lions and the fans are pumped. The defensive line can win (or lose) this game for the Lions... I think they have it in them to control the game just enough. Lions win 17-14.

Week 3 at the Minnesota Vikings. McNabb is starting to get comfortable and the Lions seem to have troubles winning in the twin cities... the refs help and the slightly overconfident Lions do a belly flop. Lions lose 23-28.

Week 4 at the Dallas Cowboys. The reeling Lions go on the road again to face the still ailing Cowboys. Nothing like a road win to get your confidence back. Lions win 34-20.

Week 5 at home versus the Chicago Bears. On one side you have the 2010 division champs with 2 previous Lions coaches and on the other you have the 3-1 Lions playing at home. Fans can make a difference. Lions win and look good doing it, 27-10.

Week 6 at home versus the San Francisco 49ers. Can the 4-1 Lions take care of their home turf against the 49ers? Yeah, I know, stupid question. Lions win 37-17.

Week 7 at home (again) versus the Atlanta Falcons. Time for another wakeup call. Hard to defend your home turf with that much fire power on the other side. Lions lose 17-28.

Week 8 at the Denver Broncos. The 5-2 Lions go a mile high to catch a buzz. Lions win in another shoot out 28-21.

Week 9 a much needed bye week to heal up.

Week 10 at the Chicago Bears. While the 6-2 Lions are riding confidence the Bears are still trying to figure out why things aren't going better... perhaps it's the coaching? Lions win this one despite the refs 17-14.

Week 11 at home versus the Carolina Panthers. It's the Panthers on the Lions turf... they never stood a chance. Lions win 34-17.

Week 12 at home versus the Green Bay Packers. Sometimes Rodgers just gets hot. Lions lose this one in a dog fight 24-31.

Week 13 at the New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees is just getting warmed up and their defense is really helping them this year. Lions lose 31-24.

Week 14 at home versus the Minnesota Vikings. The 8-4 Lions need to win to have a chance at the playoffs. Luckily, the Vikings are willing to help with turnovers. Lions win 26-17.

Week 15 at the Oakland Raiders. Both teams need to win this one, but a healthier Lions team and a few great special teams plays help a lot. Lions win 28-14.

Week 16 at home versus the San Diego Chargers. Rivers to Gates takes the show. lions lose 21-14.

Week 17 at the Green Bay Packers. The Packers sit a lot of their players, but man, it's COLD outside... Lions shiver all the way home with a score of 10-13.

The Lions take 2nd in the division with an 10-6 record. Is it enough for a wildcard spot? The late night game will determine that, it's no longer in the Lions hands.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

3 weeks ago, I set my estimated depth chart, got 6 wrong

No, the roster isn't done yet. But this is the day I see how my estimated depth chart that I set 3 weeks ago (tomorrow) looks compared to actual.... and this year I was off by 6. (My best is 5).

The obvious one: 3 weeks ago I didn't see Donahue beating out Harris for the punting job... I did see it a week ago but that doesn't count.

Instead of keeping Nathan Vasher they kept Aaron Berry. I kept tossing Aaron into and out of the estimates as I figured maybe they'd be tired of him being always injured and cut him... guess not.

At backup guard and center I had Niswanger and Thomas, they cut them and kept Gandy and Morris. 3 weeks ago I went with reputation... as of yesterday (and even still right now) I don't really see any decent backup guards or centers on the team (or cut from the team). I do not think they are done with this position yet.

They cut Jerome Felton. Saw this one coming a week or two ago when TE Heller was getting reps at FB but that hadn't happened 3 weeks ago when I set my estimated roster. They kept an extra RB in Jerome Harrison.

That's 5.

I really thought they might keep 6 WRs to start the season but Titus Young finally healed up and played... I knew there were a number of maybe's (they were in italics in my estimated depth chart). One of those italicized that I had put down as cut simply due to the numbers was Fluellen... that was the player they kept over WR Derrick Williams.

Final count. 25 O, 25 D, 3 special teams

If they clear waivers, the practice squad will likely have some names on it like LB Cobrani Mixon, WR Nate Hughes, LB Caleb Campbell, TE Joe Jon Finley, QB Zac Robinson, FB Matt Clapp, DT Rob Calloway, S Paul Pratt, S Ricardo Silva and since he already cleared waivers, WR Demario Ballard (assuming all of them qualify to actually be on a practice squad).

That's 10, but they can only sign 8, so at least 2 don't make the practice squad either.

Noon Sunday is when players can be signed to the practice squad, but if we know who the Lions signed by 8pm I'd be surprised... used to be you'd have to wait until the next day so we shall see.

My estimated depth chart every year is at http://www.theNetRat.com/depthchart.html in case you didn't catch that in my previous blog entry.

Time to start working on my cap chart and then finish my estimated win/loss prediction for the Lions.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Preseason Game 4 Lions at Buffalo Bills

Can't wait for the regular season to start.

Unfortunately for 27 current players on the Lions roster, the good feeling ends very soon. Some of them will make the practice squad, a couple will find work on another football team, but the rest are done with NFL football as of now. It's too bad the new CBA didn't include a larger roster limit and an expanded practice squad.

That said, the team is actually shaping up pretty well. There are a number of positions up for grabs and at least 3 times that number of players vying for them. As I watched the 4th preseason game a few things jumped out at me that make me believe I'm not going to beat my final roster prediction record (that I made after preseason game 1, as I've done for years).

I do believe Ryan Donahue has won the punter job over Nick Harris. Matt Clapp has apparently won the fullback job since Jerome Felton has already been cut and I must say, he did pretty well in that 4 minute drill at the end of the game (even if it was against their 4s). I'm not too confident in my choices for backup guard and center and there are some other positions that are highly contested.

Some of those decisions won't be based on this one game, or on all the preseason games, but on the hours and hours of preseason practice and classroom study. So there is still a chance my initial impressions will be right... I'm just not very confident about them right now.

As for the game itself, here are some notes and comments on them....

I like that Stafford and most of the 1s played one series only in this game. I love that they all sat down without injury (as did most of the team in this game I do believe).

Shaun Merriman is good.

Lions O and D playing with confidence, wonder how they’ll respond to negativity... I don't think they'll just fall apart like they did in the 2000's.

Jerome Harrison appears to be learning about the O (finally).

Titus Young needs to learn the proper acting methods after being held (real or not), draw a flag man (he appeared to be interfered with).

Maurice Stovall is making the team (said that many times before), I'm less positive about Rashied Davis though. We shall see.

Wow, 3.5 minutes to go in 1st quarter and we're already seeing Stanton (and the other 3rd stringers). Nice.

I really like the Lions QB depth.

That’s a blow to the head? Wow.

Cameraman needs to work on his ball following skills.

Nice shake-n-bake by Jerome Harrison.

Hughes is like, medium rare… just not quite done, close, but not done enough yet.

Aaron Brown outplayed Jerome Harrison previously, but not this game.

That return by Hughes (fumbled) is the final nail I should think, at least as a return man anyway.

Willie Young showing his stuff… nice component of the team... great depth on the DLine.

Hughes protects that punt return very well, guess he can learn from his mistakes.

Pratt and Silva are almost ready, like Hughes. Years past, these three would automatically make the team… now, not so sure.

Fransisco made a great play defending that pass on 4th down.

QB Robinson starts with 10 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter.

Tim Toone, Caleb Campbell, JJ Finley, … guys one step behind Hughes, Pratt, Ian Johnson, Mixon and Silva. The former are probably goners, so are the latter, but they are making it interesting... and Silva might make the team while Alphonso Smith is unable to practice (if he qualifies for PUP which I think he does). But if he goes on PUP he can't come off of it until after week 6.

Haven’t seen the Lions players having fun like this in a long long long time.

D Williams hesitates, like he’s waiting to be hit… instead of going full speed ahead.

Clapp has more carries in this one game then Felton in a year I think.

If 1st string OL could block holes like those 4th stringers wow.

Great TACKLE by JASON HANSON!

Another nice pop by Fransisco, and then another back to back. Where's this guy been hiding out at?

Clapp loses the bandaid on his nose again, blood everywhere… but he’s getting those hard yards.

Nice tackle Caleb Campbell… though it may be your last as a Lion (sorry bud) unless the team keeps you over Hogue (numbers game now).

Lions win 16-6… and all 4 preseason games (gulp).

Well, I'm not sure who the final 53 players will be (or 54 if one goes on PUP) but I do know that not only are we fans ready for regular season, so are the Lions themselves. Since there was no OTAs, no nothing for 5 months this off season, I'm really impressed. All aspects of this team are ready to play and ready to win.

Next weeks' blog entry, my Lions win/loss prediction. Don't forget to enter yours in the win/loss prediction contest at http://www.theNetRat.com/contests.html.