The bye week is finally over, and the Detroit Lions are back on the road. Awaiting them are the Philadelphia Eagles, a tough NFC East opponent. The Eagles have had problems of their own early this season with turnovers, but are still a respectable 3-2. For the Lions to gain back some momentum and dignity, they'll have to play much better in a tough road environment, if not win.
Here's five things to watch as the Lions try to rebound and get their season back on the right track.
1. Will Detroit's Defense Find A Big Play? This year, the Lions haven't been able to intercept a single pass. They haven't gotten to the quarterback and forced a big mistake, such as a fumble or a sack for a touchdown return. This week, they play the Eagles and Michael Vick, who have combined to put a staggering eight fumbles on the ground thus far in 2012. If the Lions are to get a road win, they will need to find a way to make a few impact plays on defense. These will help them shift momentum and provide the offense with a jolt.
2. Can The Receivers Step Up Their Game? The receivers haven't been tough enough. They have dropped the easy passes and haven't helped out Matthew Stafford as much as they have in the past. This week, there has to be a rededication to focus out of the pass catchers. Much of last year, they were the only reason the Lions were able to win games. With the season in the balance, it's time for this group to turn things around and find a way to make big plays.
3. Special Teams. Was Anything Fixed? Danny Crossman made Detroit a promise that he would get things ironed out over the bye week. Fans had better hope that's the case, because Brandon Boykin comes calling this week, and he's a decent returner. Philadelphia also has DeSean Jackson at their disposal, so they don't lack for speed and play making ability. Though the Eagles haven't done well with returns this season, ranking 30th on kickoff returns and 28th in punt returns, the Lions need to make sure they don't give up needless touchdowns and yards.
4. The Offensive Line And Running Game. Against the Vikings, Stafford was running for his life far too often in the pocket. The line needs to pull together and protect much better against a good defensive front. If Stafford doesn't have time in the pocket when he throws, it won't matter how the receivers are playing. The running game, led by Mikel Leshoure, needs to grind out tough yardage as well. Jim Schwartz has said he wants the running game to drive the passing game forward. If that's able to happen, the line play will be much better as well.
5. Philadelphia's Turnover Issues. The Eagles do cough the ball up plenty, so the Lions have to be opportunistic and put helmets and hands around the ball. If they're able to create some turnovers, it will help them on the road. If the Eagles are sloppy with the ball and Detroit can make one or two big plays, that could help turn the season around.
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