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San Diego Chargers vs. Detroit Lions: Five Things To Watch

December 24th, 2011 at 9:02 AM
By Max DeMara

A few golden opportunities exist for the Detroit Lions this Christmas Eve day. With a win, the Lions would officially clinch a playoff birth for the first time since 1999. While the prospects of that certainly excite the home folks, many people also forget that a victory would also assure the Lions of a 10 win season for the first time since 1995. This would loom large as far as building blocks go for a once moribund franchise. Standing in the way are the San Diego Chargers, the kings of December. The Chargers are locked in tight race in the AFC West, so the game is no less important for them. These factors should combine to set this contest up as one of the must see games of the late season. 

Here's five things to keep your eye on before you get ready to celebrate the holiday season.

Two High Scoring Offenses Collide. Which Defense Will Hold Up The Best? The Lions' offense was incredibly potent last week while putting up 28 points on the road. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson connected multiple times, and Stafford himself threw for over 300 yards. The Chargers were no slouches either, overpowering a tough Baltimore defense to the tune of 34 points. In this week's matchup, something is going to have to give. Either defense is going to have to force turnovers and stop the other offense, or a wild shootout will certainly be in order.

Ryan Matthews And Mike Tolbert Against Lions' Run Defense. For seemingly the fifteenth week in a row, the Lions will get no breaks when it comes to a powerful rushing attack. Last week, they did well to keep Michael Bush out of the end zone and limit his damage. This time around, the task gets even tougher as the tandem of the quick Ryan Matthews and the bruising Mike Tolbert hit Ford Field. San Diego's ground game often sets up bigger things with Phillip Rivers and his fantastic wide receivers, so the defense will have to key up on the two headed monster and be very careful not to let them dictate the game. If these two cannot be contained, San Diego will pound the Lions into submission.

Can The Gutsy Defense Do It Again? The last two weeks, the Lions defense has seen everything from injuries to key turnovers and huge mistakes in between. Somehow, through it all, they have persevered and made the plays needed to pull out two important games late. Will there be a repeat of this in order? If the ragtag, beaten down defense can pull out all the stops and clinch a playoff birth with another late stop against a good team, their effort will be something that football heroes are made of.

What Will Calvin Johnson Do For An Encore? Last week, the physical wide receiver transformed into  "Megatron" again in a dominating, 11 catch, 211 yard and two touchdown performance against Oakland. Johnson made a handful of improbable and amazing catches to help lead the Lions to victory late in the fourth quarter. The Chargers had to be concerned watching the Raiders lose control of the most important player to contain on the field, and if Johnson busts loose again, San Diego will have a tough time containing Detroit's offense. If the game is close late and Matthew Stafford has the ball, fireworks could be in order again.

The Ford Field Environment. For the first time in a long time, the Lions can clinch a trip to the playoffs at home. Knowing this, the atmosphere at Ford Field prior to Christmas Eve and during the game should top a Thanksgiving Day game. Will the crowd be as much of a factor as they were in this season's other highly anticipated game against the Chicago Bears? That day, the Bears' offense looked scattered and intimidated under intense noise, which caused several false start penalties. If the Lions come out behind a revved up and rowdy crowd, their early momentum could be hard to stop.

Tags: Calvin Johnson, Detroit, Detroit Lions, Football, Matthew Stafford, NFL

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