As we do each week, here's our Q&A with the SBN editor for the Pride of Detroit, Sean Yuille.
Hogs Haven: First, no one is sleeping on the Lions this week. They've gotten robbed of some games and have played some good teams close (not to mention they beat us last year). Shaun Hill actually has a better QB Rating than McNabb right now...what's your expectations for Matt Stafford this week?
Sean: I think it would be unfair to expect him to come out and start rolling as if he hadn't been hurt, especially since he's played less than a half this season anyway. Shaun Hill took some time to get rolling as the starting QB, and once he did he played extremely well. With Stafford, he has had a couple weeks to prepare for this game, but I expect there to be some growing pains before he starts playing as if this injury never happened.
The Redskins have been strong the last couple games on the run and getting WRs open with misdirection plays, how do you see the Lions D matching up against the Redskins OLine?
The Lions haven't done a great job of defending the run this year, but I think that's more on the Lions' linebacker corps than the defensive line. The Lions' D-line has been quite good this season, with Kyle Vanden Bosch, Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams and Cliff Avril all playing at a pretty high level. In that regard, I think Detroit can match up quite well with the Redskins in the trenches, but the back seven is much shakier for the Lions.
The Redskins OLine has been shaky all year, what has worked best on stopping Suh and Van De Bosch?
The best thing Washington can do to effectively run the ball is get to the second level. I don't think you can shut down Suh or Vanden Bosch, but if you get to the second level, there isn't as much support in the run game. As mentioned in the answer to question No. 2, the Lions' linebackers haven't been great against the run, and on Sunday they will be down at least one starter at the position. Then in the secondary, Louis Delmas is really the only reliable one against the run, so getting to the second level and avoiding Suh and Vanden Bosch will be key.
In the passing game, Donovan McNabb will have to make sure he doesn't hold on to the ball for too long. If given even a little bit of time, the Lions' defensive line can collapse the pocket and take McNabb down for a sack. In that regard, I wouldn't be surprised if we see a lot of slants or other quick routes that sort of negate the Lions' pass rush.
The Lions D statistically seems to be worse than their passing D? Is that what opposing teams have been focusing on?
The Lions have done a good job of defending the pass this year compared to past seasons. The secondary was once the Lions' biggest weak point on defense, but they haven't been absolutely torched by any means, which is a good step in the right direction. What's more, they are forcing a lot of turnovers, especially interceptions. They have almost matched their INT total from last season, and guys like Chris Houston and Alphonso Smith have been stepping it up.
To answer your question, I don't know if I'd say that teams are focusing on one particular area when attacking the Lions' defense. In the past there was definitely a reliance on passing the ball since Detroit was so weak when it came to defending it, but I don't think that has been the case this year. I don't think teams have been necessarily focusing on the run either. To me there hasn't been one area of the defense that teams go after; the Lions' run defense just has struggled at times against some good running backs like Adrian Peterson, Ahmad Bradshaw and LeSean McCoy.
Who do you see as the key matchups for this game?
I think the biggest matchup for the Lions will be how Matthew Stafford does against Washington's secondary. If he comes out and struggles then it could be a long day for Detroit, as the run game hasn't been particularly good this season. Passing the ball effectively will be important, so if the Redskins shut that down, they should be well on their way to victory.
What's your prediction and why?
I have the Redskins winning a close game. I think this game is winnable for Detroit, but I think some of the growing pains of Stafford returning will be too much to overcome. By the end of the game I think everybody will be on the same page, but I see Washington jumping out to an early lead and then hanging on for a victory when all is said and done.