Saturday Night, the preseason game that everyone cares the most about will take place in Ford Field as the Patriots take on the Detroit Lions in a nationally televised game. Against Tampa, the first team offense looked to be playing a different game than the Bucs as they were speeding up the tempo, even Gerald McCoy could not get them to stop. Now, the starters will be playing this game into the 3rd Quarter. However, I would not be surprised if coach Belichick plays his guys three full quarters to make sure they are ready for September 12th against the Miami Dolphins.
This Lions team has the chance to be a playoff team if their quarterback, Matthew Stafford, is able to stay healthy for 16 straight games. They can get after the quarterback with their franchise defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh wreaking havoc on the defensive line. Jim Schwartz has built this team from 0-16 a couple of years ago to a team that can compete in the tough NFC North division. Plus, they will have a sell-out crowd, which is good for that city. They did give the Patriots a run for their money back on Thanksgiving in New England’s 45-24 win.
Here are some keys to think about while you are watching the game:
Look Out for Suh: Since the starters will be in for most of this game, the guy that worries me most on the Lions in Suh. I look back to the preseason of 2009 when Albert Haynesworth laid out Tom Brady, causing him to injure his shoulder. These are the kind of things that can happen in preseason and Detroit will be a team that can put pressure on the quarterback. Detroit added some depth to their defense in the linebacking corps as well as the secondary, but their strength is Suh, Kyle VandenBosch and Cliff Avril on the defensive line. Look for pressure and tons of it.
Battle for the CB spot: With 2nd round pick Ras-I Dowling not doing much practice of late, the focus will be on two cornerbacks who could be vying for a roster spot. One of them is last year’s 2nd round pick Darius Butler. Butler didn’t see much time in 2010 with the emergence of Kyle Arrington and he has not looked very confident in the preseason particularly in defending downfield passes. His job is safer than Jonathan Wilhite, but if no injury occurs, the acquisition of James Ihedigbo from the Jets could mean Butler might be out by final cuts.
The Return of James Sanders: There are reports out that safety James Sanders will be back in the lineup for Saturday night’s game. He had a hamstring injury, so he did not participate in many practices during training camp. However, his experience will help him return much more smoothly then let’s say an Albert Haynesworth or a Shaun Ellis. He has now practice fully this week, so the 7th year safety will be key in forcing turnovers in the secondary (3 INT’s, 58 tackles in 2010)