Know Your Enemy: Detroit Lions Q&A


It’s Saturday! and that means that it’s almost time for another big game for the Seattle Seahawks. This week, the Seahawks go on the road to Detroit to take on the Lions.

I figure, the best way to get started looking at exactly who the Lions are, is to ask an expert of the team. So joining me this week for a quick Q&A is Zac Snyder, editor for the Side Lion Report.

1. After an amazing 2011, Matthew Stafford is putting up more yards per game in 2012 than he did in 2011*, but no one is talking about him. Instead, most of the talk I hear is about him regressing. What gives? Is there something about his game that simply isn’t showing up on the stat sheet?

He’s actually averaging about 22 yards per game less than last year but the effective difference is actually a lot more as the stat sheet ends up looking better than his actual performance. The Lions offense has generally struggled to move the ball through three quarters. They have faced second half deficits in each of their first six games and have needed to start throwing the ball more aggressively in hopes of mounting a comeback. That has pumped up Matthew Stafford’s stats but he isn’t performing anywhere near the level we saw last year.

(*editor’s note: This was my mistake. I looked at the team’s passing yards, and not the player’s. Team passing yards include sacks, which as count negative and screw up the numbers)

2. The Lions were a trendy pick to make the playoffs before the season, but currently sit at 2-4 and are in last place in their division. What has gone wrong so far this year, and do you think the Lions can make a push for a playoff spot down the stretch?

The problems start with the offense’s inability to do much in the first three quarters. When they do mount scoring drives it seems like they always end in field goals. As a result they haven’t been able to take control of a game early. The defense has played better than expected for the most part but the offensive struggles have been surprising and the special teams has had some historically bad breakdowns. At this point I’m not putting much faith in their ability to make a playoff push, mostly due to the strength of the NFC. There are just too many teams the Lions will have to jump to get back in it. I still like their long-term outlook but this season is not likely to end well.

3. Mikel Leshoure has carried the load as the primary back in recent weeks. Is he the long term answer at the position for the Lions?

For the most part although they could definitely use the speed dimension that Jahvid Best was supposed to bring. Leshoure looks like he can carry the load but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lions try drafting another speedster next April. That’s the new hotness in the NFL anyway.

4. I can’t let a chance to ask you questions go by without asking about Ndamukong Suh. He’s one of my favorite pre-draft players ever, and had as much physical ability as anyone I’ve ever seen at the position. The problem is that he’s always in the headlines for wrong reasons. Is this just a case of the national media deciding he’s going to be portrayed in the villain roll, or is he really the dirty player he’s made out to be. 

I think it is a combination of both factors. Ndamukong Suh hasn’t done anything to help his on-field image and as a result it has spilled into the way off-field matters are portrayed. The latest example is from just a couple weeks ago when Suh was involved in a traffic matter. The other driver went public almost immediately with allegations that made it sound like Suh was completely at fault and handled the situation incorrectly by driving away. Given Suh’s other traffic-related incidents  it seemed like another “here we go again” moment and he wasn’t given the benefit of the doubt in the media. As it turns out after the release of 9-1-1 tapes, Suh’s called in the accident before the other driver and made it clear that he would like to speak with an officer and would be pulling into the Lions training facility that was within sight of the scene of the accident. Fault could not be determined and neither driver was ticketed. On the field, Suh is always going to toe the line and fairly or unfairly it has given him a reputation as a dirty player. I think sometime it’s fair and sometimes it isn’t fair.

5. What do the Seahawks need to do to win this game?

The Seahawks need to keep Matthew Stafford in the funk he’s been in, mainly by keeping Calvin Johnson from making big plays down the field. As discussed earlier, Stafford’s stats don’t need to be different but changing how he gets his passing total will be key for the Lions offense to find their stride. If the Seahawks can keep the Lions off balance, they’ll have a shot at picking up the win.