The Indianapolis Colts have been nothing short of inspiring in 2012 playing for Chuck Pagano while the Detroit Lions have gone completely in the opposite direction. When these two converging forces meet, there will be an interesting dynamic. This game will almost have a "good versus evil" feel to the nation, which means the Lions will probably find little support outside of Michigan on Sunday.
How can the Lions finally right the ship and steal a win? What must the young Colts do to make enough plays on the road? Here's five thoughts which might determine that by Sunday afternoon.
1. Andrew Luck Against Detroit's Pass Rush. The Lions are going to turn loose the dogs on young Luck this week, and going against Detroit, he will face the best pass rush he's seen perhaps this entire season. How will he do? Will Luck be able to manage the game as confidently as he has at times this season? Most important, will his offensive line be up to the challenge? Nick Fairley, Ndamukong Suh and Cliff Avril have each been active in recent weeks, and will need to make big plays in order to help the struggling secondary and slow down the Colts' offense. If Luck isn't able to deal with the bevy of fearsome pass rushers up front, the Lions could make his afternoon a very painful one statistically as well as physically.
2. How Will The Colts Fare Against A Good Team? Three this season, the Colts have played teams with high powered offenses and capable defenses and been slaughtered. It started in the season's first week against Chicago, then happened again when facing the Patriots and New York Jets. Another common thread is each of those games were also on the road. The desperate Lions won't be a pushover this week despite their very average 4-7 record. Indianapolis's young players must be more poised this time in a tough environment and make enough big plays to hang around and give them a chance to win. In this instance, we'll see if the youth is starting to become a bit more experienced as the season's gone on.
3. Ndamukong Suh. Once again, there has been plenty of hype surrounding Suh this week after another big incident stole national headlines. There was no suspension, so Suh will be in the lineup Sunday, but there was a hefty $30,000 fine imposed on him. Will the latest round of criticism and consternation slow Suh's game, or will he continue to play aggressive and attack no matter what? The Lions need Suh to put heat on Luck up the middle, and they need him to remain a feared defender despite the scores of national outrage over every single one of his actions. What will happen this week?
4. The Little Things. Whether it's been executing on third down, getting a touchdown instead of a field goal, simply flipping field position or even being aware of the rule book, Lions' players and coaches haven't done a great job of doing the little things well in the last two weeks. That, more than any error of officiating, has cost them the most in getting two very important victories. In order to rebound well, the Lions will need to do those little things very well this week against a generally poised young team. If they're able to clean up a handful of simple mistakes, they might be able to turn the season around a bit down the stretch. On the whole, the Lions have nobody to blame but themselves for some recent struggles.
5. Jason Hanson. In overtime, Hanson missed a 47 yard field goal which would have given the Lions a victory. He hasn't shown many signs of age or rust this season, but as we noted this week at Lions 101 in an Inside the Numbers segment, the more field goals the Lions ask Hanson to make from 40-49 yards, the more he tends to miss when compared with his more automatic 30-39 yard distance. Can Detroit's offense cash in more touchdowns, or at the very least, get Hanson a bit closer to ensure his success? Will Hanson be the difference this week that he couldn't be last week? The Lions need him to make whatever field goals he's given to help the offense excel against Indianapolis.
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