Friday, December 30, 2011

Time to Cut the Cheese and Seeding Myths

I'm not talking about silent but deadly in the headline -- I am of course referring to the Green Bay Packers!  Despite those calling for rest, I think the Lions need to go all out to beat the Pack at Lambeau for the first time in 20 years for a variety of reasons. 

1. The Fifth seed is preferrable to the Sixth seed at this point (though I'll explain below how I don't think its as big a deal as everyone is stating)
2. The team, already on a year of breaking records (in a good way for once) would do well to take this opportunity to end the Lambeau curse.  As long as Aaron Rodgers is doing the discount double check, Green Bay at Green Bay is never going to be an easier game than this week.
3. Momentum.  All of the low seeds that have made Superbowl runs have one thing in common: they played all out their final few games of the regular season and rode their hot streak into and through the playoffs. The Packers did it last year, and the Giants did it even through losing to New England to cap the end of the perfect regular season in one of the most epic games I've ever watched. 
4. MOMENTUM yes it deserves two mentions.  The Lions have been playing on fire since about the end of the third quarter at Okaland on all three facets of the game -- when they play like they did against San Diego, they can beat any team any time any place. They are not even close to a point where they can "rest up" and then just turn it on like a light switch.

Playoff Seeding:  I see a lot of people, even sports writers, screwing up the way the NFL playoff seeding works.  Lets assume it goes like this (you can sub the giants in for the cowboys whereever they appear)

1st Seed: Green Bay
2nd Seed: San Fran
3rd Seed: Saints
4th Seed: Cowboys
5th Seed: Lions
6th Seed: Falcons

Seeds one and two have a first round bye.  So on wildcard weekend we have:

Falcons at Saints and Lions at Cowboys. 

Looks pretty good - Lions have already beaten Dallas at Dallas, so that is preferrable to playing in the Superdome again against a red-hot Brees.  But remember, the highest remaining seed plays the 49ers while the lowest remaining seed plays the Green Bay Packers.  So assuming Saints and Lions win, the following weekend is:

Saints at 49ers and Lions at Packers. 

Yuck.  Unfortunately, getting the 6th seed doesn't help -- it guarantees that any win means playing the Packers in round 2.  As a matter of fact there is only on scenario in which the Lions would NOT have to play the Packers in round 2:   Detroit as the 5th seed needs Atlanta to win the upset over the 3rd Seed team assumed to be New Orleans.  Then, the Lions as 5th seed would play the 49ers and the Falcons as the 6th seed would play at Green Bay.  Of course, unless someone beats the Packers in round 2, then the road to the playoffs leads through Green Bay.  Since we are rooting for Atlanta to get the upset in wildcard weekend, we might as well root for them to upset the Packers as well -- that way, Detroit can host a home game against the Falcons for the NFC Championship.

Sound impossible?  The Detroit Lions are locked into a playoff berth with one game yet to playjust 3 seasons after losing every single game.  Anything is possible!  Maybe that apocalypse is going to occur in 2012 after all....

Have a safe and happy New Year everyone!!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Lions Fans More Loyal

The packed house and huge home field advantage that was Ford Field were beyond importance as the Lions trounced the Chargers giving the Lions their first playoff berth in over a decade.  The loyalty of the fans of the Detroit Lions is nothing short of astounding.  Remember looking at the news stories every week of a home game, trying to see if you would be watching the game on TV or some shaky internet feed? (for those of us in the blackout zone)

Even in the 0-16 season, there were still games that sold out Ford Field.  The average attendance still topped 45,000.  During an 0-16 season!!  Winless! -- And despite not having a winning record since Bill Clinton was playing the blues on his sax and chasing interns around the white house.

As the Lions kept showing improvement over the last 3 years, tickets went from easy and cheap, to easy to get, to you could get them early in the season, but you were going to pay more than you were used to as a playoff run became more and more apparent.  I'm sure no matter how they do, next season is going to be a surefire sellout of the home games.

Imagine my shock and downright stunned surprise when I read that the Bengals are having trouble getting fans to show up to their games.  During a push for the playoffs where if they win their final home game against a struggling Baltimore team they are in!

The attendance as they played a meaningful game to eliminate Arizona? Just over 41,000.  More Lions Fans showed up to see if the team could avoid infamy (or be part of it) for the final meaningless games of 2008.  Bengals fans, that is just plain pathetic.

The article blames 20 years of mediocre play and no postseason wins since 1990.  At least they have been to the postseason AT ALL since the Millennium changed and years start with "20" instead of "19"!  They had a few years where Carson Palmer was on fire and tossing long bombs to Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson and TJ Howeverthehellyaspellit.  Lions fans had Matt Millen that whole time.  At least the Bengals got a couple high draft picks for Palmer - and a young quarterback with potential (Andy Dalton) to replace him.  Lions fans got Barry retiring and being replaced by guys like Sedrick Irvin.

I'm ecstatic the Lions are in the playoffs - but even if they were in a situation like the Bengals are I have NO DOUBT that the house would be sold out and rocking.  Detroit Lions fans have supported their team in the worst of times, and sure aren't about to miss out on the best of times!

As I picked up some Biggby Coffee for my wife and myself Christmas Eve morn, I was wearing my Lions leather jacket (of course).   The barista was telling everyone that came in the Lions were going to win by 20+ over the Chargers -- just wait and see.  (Even I thought that was a long shot, but I stuck by my 8-8 season til they were over 9-5 and I was the one decked out in Lions gear)  That is the type of fans that the Detroit Lions have -- Proud and Loyal, just like a real Lion.

Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas!! With the Saints beating the Falcons (barring a late 22 point comeback in the next 9 minutes as of this writing) the Lions can earn the #5 seed and a chance to face either Dallas/New York Giants in round one, and likely the 49ers to get to the NFC championship game -- a much preferred route than Saints round 1 and through the Packers at Lambeau to get to the NFC Championship game.  If the Lions beat the Packers week 17, there is a better than decent chance the NFC Championship game could once again feature two teams from the NFC North.

Friday, December 23, 2011

All I want for Christmas is the Playoffs?

Christmas is coming, and I must say up until today I just wasn't really in the full Christmas spirit. Usually I'm putting up loads of decorations, humming Christmas carols and songs, hoping for piles of crisp white snow so that on Christmas morning, I will get a cup of hot cocoa and enjoy the morning as the little pink lions see what Santa has brought them as the monorails glide around the tree and the chimneys drift light colored smoke into the cool winter air.

We have red and green monorails gliding around our tree.  Notice the Lions Santa hat in the background

Not sure what it was, but it seems to have struck me today  -- and even as it did I realize one thing that has never really been on my mind in a very long time at this point in the year is the NFL playoffs.  Most of the time, the Christmas weekend games I would tape the Lions, and then watch it later.  After all, it usually had no meaning in the grand scheme.  All of a sudden, this year I could get an extra present on Christmas -- The Lions clinching a playoff spot!

I'm not really great at the prediction business -- and I feel this game against the Chargers could fall anywhere from a solid loss to a solid win.  I just don't see either team getting blown out -- but then again, I said the same thing about the Lions at Chicago game and look what happened. 

Win or Lose, the Lions have already exceeded my expecatations for accomplishment, but more importantly, they have provided spectacular games to watch all season!! I expect no less Saturday night. 

Keep in mind that even though the Lions are on TV it is Christmas eve and be sure to keep what is most important -- family, friends -- in the forefront and even if the Lions lose, don't let it ruin your holiday spirit.  After all, there are two games left to get one win -- and after breaking every other bad record that has been overshadowing them for years, maybe the Lambeau curse is next...

Merry Christmas everyone!!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lions O vs Oakland D

The Detroit Lions are a vertical passing team.  Quite often, short passes act as a kind of extended handoff.  The Philadelphia Eagles used to constantly do this with Brian Westbrook, and now Lesean McCoy.  It stems from the fact that Philadelphia has a pass-blocking offensive line.

Contrary to what many commenters on sports articles believe, there are typically two pretty distinct ways to build an offensive line -- Pass-block first, or Power-Run first.  It is very rare and would be quite difficult to find players that excel at both of these skills equally.  The nature of the beast is that as an offense you have to choose your identity.  The Lions are a passing team, and have a pass blocking line.

Essentially, the short throws force teams to roll coverage short/inside, allowing Detroit to take some long shots down the field.  If they keep multiple guys up top to cover Calvin Johnson, then they are leaving Titus Young, Nate Burleson, Tony Scheffler, or Brandon Pettigrew with a favorable matchup. (and also whatever back is coming out of the backfield)

Oakland for years has run a straight up man coverage with lots of pressure on the opposing QB.  Without Nmandi Asmogouha in the defensive backfield, I'm not so sure that was the best of ideas.  The Raiders essentially manned up on the WR and then sold out run blitzed (essentially if not in fact by where they were positioning players) to bring the heat on the Lions.  In essence, they wanted to force Matthew Stafford into making a long series of short throws to get down the field with players in his face.  While they knew their secondary wouldn't really be able to cover Calvin Johnson downnfield, they tried to make sure Stafford didn't have time for any long plays to develop. 

For the most part, it worked well for the Raiders. The Lions really had no running game, but still managed to put up two TD's up to midway through the 4th quarter.  The pressure was getting there just enough to keep the Lions off balance.  However, they misjudged a couple of factors that went against them on the last two drives. 

The first problem with Oakland's strategy was that the Lions really don't care if they do have success on the ground as long as the passing game is clicking.  This meant that often Kevin Smith was held in to block -- especially on the last two drives.  While Jahvid Best is a more dynamic runner, Kevin Smith is the best blocking back on the roster.  He excels at blitz pickup and keeping the QB clean when the opposing defense brings extra rushers.  The Lions also have Brandon Pettigrew and Will Heller on the roster -- two more excellent blockers that you still have to account for if they break off for a short pass play. 

The second miscalculation was the ability of Calvin Johnson to beat multiple guys in coverage.  It really does take more than one person working together very well to keep CJ under wraps.  Oakland just didn't have that. 

When you put those together, you end up with Megatron having some huge plays on the Megadrive.  Oakland sends sends extra rushers at extra blockers -- only the fact that Stafford is forced to sidearm the throw to get it down the field stops CJ from getting a TD on that throw. (its a good thing too -- it would have left too much time for the Raiders to get into FG range)  So while the Raiders strategy allowed them to hold down the Lions for a while, they adjusted and were able to show that when this offense is clicking, they can knife down the field in a hurry and a half. 

What Oakland learned is something teams should have been well aware of at this point: after now 4 times coming back form 13 or more down this season, the Lions can score so quickly that no lead is safe.  As this team matures and becomes more consistent, it is just mind boggling to think they are just scratching the surface of what they can do. 

Can you imagine if the Lions offense can come out in the first quarter like it has been in the 4th?  And to keep it up over a whole game?  Look at the feared offenses of the Saints and Packers -- in a year or two the Lions are set to be that good -- or possibly even better.

In the end, while Oakland tried it's best to contain the Lions all they really ended up doing was providing an abject lesson in how not to defend Calvin Johnson -- the number of which seem to grow longer each week. 

These Lions can play against any team in the league, and have a good chance to beat them any given Sunday.  So watch out Chargers -- you may have a lightning bolt but the Lions are playing electric right now too!

Oakland Raiders Sunk by Lions

I had a chance to re-watch most of the game, and the added perspective was interesting.  I'm not going to do a play by play breakdown (I do have a full time job and three little pink lions ya know) but I sure do wish I had the time to do it.  That would be awesome!  If any of you know a place/person who does that let me know -- I'd be there reading every week.


I'll save the numerous thoughts on the offense for second.  First, I want to focus on the matchup between the Oakland offense and the Detroit defense.  I know the big press coming into this week was how badly the Raiders played in their last two games, but there was much more than meets the eye in that equation -- after all, the Raiders were 7-6 and looking to get back into the playoff hunt with a win over the Lions.  Say what you will about there recent egg-laying, the Raiders have been far from a joke all year and a tough, competitive team.

Despite the headlines surrounding (QB)Carson Palmer, and the injury to (RB)Darren McFadden the real story of the Raiders offense has been the wide receivers and the offensive line.

Al Davis was almost as obsessed with speedy wideouts as one Matt Millen.  A big difference is that his picks A. were not all in the first round, B. were not overweight, lazy, or drug addicts, and C. can actually catch the ball.  The result is an offense stacked 4 deep with very fast WR on the field -- none of them a CJ caliber (who is?) but they don't have to be.  They are more a bunch of faster Titus Young clones.  The Raiders' problem the two weeks before?  3 of them were injured.  Two made it back against the Lions and the difference was noticeable.  YAC is a very underrated statistic, and an area where Oakland's group will make you pay.  (as they did to Chris Houston on the long TD when he bounced off the WR instead of wrapping him up)  Carson Palmer (and Jason Campbell before he got injured) rely on lots of quick hits to the open man, depending on yards after the catch to get then the gains they need.  Screens especially mixed in with their strong run game make this tactic especially deadly.

To make matters worse for the Lions, on top of Delmas being out (and losing Harris) at Safety, their CB's were banged up.  Both Wright and Houston were having speed and cutting issues as they recover from injury.  This meant they were limited in their type of play they could use to defend.  No matter what Jim Schwartz blathers about the health of the secondary played a big role in the big cushion look the Lions gave the Raiders.  The intent was almost a man-up version of the Tampa 2, keeping everything in front of them to limit any big plays.  They also were selling out on the rush and the pressure to keep the Raiders in their short game only and counting on the Lions defenders to limit YAC. 

The result was that despite a long TD on a missed tackle, the Lions defense held the Raiders to just 20 offensive points scored in what on paper should have been a bad matchup for them on that given Sunday.  Even though Palmer was taking 2-3 step drops and runing smoke routes, the Lions still got to him for three sacks. 

So while the Lions were playing with 3/4 backups in the secondary, they still played a solid game and did their part to help the Lions win, and to get the ball back to set up the Megadrive. 

Tonight I'll look at how the Detroit Offense and Oakland Defense matched up.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Great Scott!

Still in a frame of refernce in regards to Back to the Future (I need to watch the DVD's with the Pink Lions again) I couldn't help but think of a fun line from Back to the Future 3. 

Doc Brown has just passed out in the Saloon.  Mad Dog Tannen is going to be waiting outside in 10 minutes to kill Marty.  They need to leave to catch the train in fifteen minutes to get back to the future.  How long is the "wake up juice" going to take?  10 minutes. 

Marty looks out the window, looks at the doc, and then says "why do we always have to cut these things so close?!"

That's how I've felt about...oh, every game but Denver and Kansas City this season. 

The Lions have easily generated 1.21 Giggawatts in electrifying games so far in 2011
 The big difference from year's past?  The Lions are winning these close games most of the time.  Sure, you can question a lot of things about the Lions.  You can point to how some teams "lose X number of games by a touchdown or less" as to how they are so close to good.  That, however, has always been a hopeful misdirection.  A major Red Herring so to speak.  A large number of NFL games are decided by a touchdown or less every week.  The difference between playoff teams and teams going home is whether you can win more of those games than you lose.


The win-loss record speaks for itself.  The Lions have managed to win more of those close games (Tampa Bay, Dallas, Minnesota (twice), Panthers, Oakland) than they lost (49ers, Falcons).  That in and of itself is the major sign of a playoff team.   So too is that ability to come from behind while maintaining composure.  On the last two drives in Oakland, the Lions looked more like the preseason/5-0 start Lions than the mid-season Lions struggling to find a rhytm.

I will have a more detailed analysis of the game tomorrow, but suffice it to say as a fan this is the most exciting season of Lions football since Barry Sanders retired, hands down.   I'm not sure if any of them in recent memory have featured so many electrifying games. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

C'mon McFly, U Chicken?

Most everyone has heard the phrase "egging you on" in reference to goading someone into doing something -- typically something stupid, silly, dangerous, or all three.  Websters defines it as:

2 [eg] Show IPA
verb (used with object)
to incite or urge; encourage (usually followed by on ).

1150–1200; Middle English < Old Norse eggja  to incite, derivative of egg edge

As I watched Suh throw a hissy fit on National Television as I chonked on Turkey I could only wonder why the bigger Turkey was on TV.  I had an image of my youngest little pink lion throwing a temper tantrum screaming "she started it!" Then, the following week against the Saints I again wondered if this other word from Websters was in the vocabulary of the Detroit Lions:


[self-kuhn-trohl, self-] Show IPA
control or restraint of oneself or one's actions, feelings, etc.


self-con·trolled, adjective
self-con·trol·ling, adjective

self-discipline, self-restraint, willpower, levelheadedness.
It certainly wasn't being emitted from Jim "Meet me outside to see who the bigger Jimmy really is" Schwartz.  As a matter of fact, against both the Packers and Saints one would be hard pressed to find it being exhibited by the Lions anywhere on the field.
I know, I know.  The officiating was horrible you say -- it was.  But they were untying his shoes! you say.  Apparently they were.  Of course as soon as I read that, I instantly pictured good 'ol Biff Tannen. 

Your Shoe's Untied McFly.

The interesting thing is the Lions have been like two totally different teams.  Against the 49ers and the Falcons they pretty much George McFly'd their way through the entire game -- I just got the feeling they were waiting for that next nuggie, next jab.  In the meantime, they stammered their way through "putting on the second coat of wax right now" excuses that no one was buying.  They were playing timid, not the bold swaggering group from the first 5 games. 
Is making the playoffs their density, I mean destiny?
After building a Tebow proof lead against Denver, and then once again coming back against Carolina sandwiched around another timid game loss versus the Bears it became clear the Lions were playing alternating stretches of bravado mixed in with bouts of low self esteem like timidity.  Sticking with my Back to the Future analogy here they were acting more like Marty McFly than his pop.  Unfortunately, I didn't realize how much like Marty they were until the Green Bay and New Orleans debacles...
Let me start with this basic thought: If you think New Orleans and especially Green Bay went through 8 quarters against the Lions without a single holding penalty I have this great property in Montana with a beautiful view of the Caspian Sea and magical fairies that tend the gorgeous gardens to perfection producing amazing fruit all year round to sell you.  Really.  That is still no excuse; The Packers, soon followed by the Saints, were basically calling out to the Lions "whatsa matter, you chicken?"

That's right.  Just like poor Marty and his historical namesake, the Lions couldn't walk away from a fight and paid dearly for it.   Will they also end up getting fired from a dead end job because they are too "manly" to back down?  Just like Marty McFly and my temper tantrum throwing daughter, now the other 31 teams in the league know all you have to do is goad them enough, and the Lions players will lose it to the tune of 15 yard penalties, ejections and even suspension.

Against Minnesota, they finally managed to ignore these McFly Penalties -- but how long will it last?  Will Marty McSuh be able to keep it together once he hits the field again?  If not, just like in Back to The Future III it will be his name and the Lions playoff hopes on that tombstone...

The future can still be altered.  Will the Lions avoid this fate?

I'm thrilled the Lions are 8-5.  They are making a push for the playoffs and hold their destiny, like Marty above, in their hands.  The question now is can they hold it together, or will they give in to the shoelacing taunts of their opponents?   Oakland is the most penalized team in the league so there will be a parity of reputations - if the Lions can come out of that game relatively clean (and with a win) then that is a huge step in the right direction.  If not, I'll have to start a "Great Scott!" Marty McFly Chicken Penalty of the week.

For everyone with Christmas gathering this weekend, I hope that you take the time out to enjoy your families while you can.  DVR, VCR, or have the game on in the background but remember what is most important this holiday season. 


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Longest Time...

I take my first tentative steps back into blogging about the Lions and find myself wondering if maybe I'm still sitting in the hospital having delusions.  Lions?  In Control of their Playoff Destiny?  The Detroit Lions, Playoffs -- in the same sentence, seriously, in December? 

8 wins?  I can barely remember 6 months ago (okay a few days ago) much less the last time the Lions had 8 wins or more.  I was not yet a parent - the Little Pink Lions were merely a glimmer of the future.  If we go back to when the Lions were in the playoffs, I was still in college. I was not yet married. 

In a year fraught with trials and tribulations, the Lions have been a pleasant bright spot.  So where have I been, you ask, that I am just now weighing in on this already 8 win season?

I injured my shoulder in January.  It turned out to be pretty severe (torn labrum, torn rotator cuff, and a bone spur just to top it off).  I finally had surgery on it in May.  Prior to the surgery it was just too much pain to sit at the keyboard and type, so my blogging trailed off.  The surgery had a few complications, and despite early promise after the surgery our house flooded.  So post surgery my father and I were ripping out and rebuilding the basement/first floor while I was also doing physical therapy. Toss in some family needing help, trying to catch up at work and I was pushing myself harder than I should have been.  Too hard.  Too soon.  Major blood pressure and fatigue issues led to Minor heart issues. I nearly collapsed and work and was hospitalized briefly. - I only call them minor as I was supremely blessed not to suffer any real permanent damage.  That episode sidelined me completely for over a month.  In September I headed back to physical therapy in what has been my routine and will be through the end of the year: get up at 4am.  Physical Therapy for two hours, get ready for work, go to the office until about 6.  Supper, Family time, bed.  Repeat. 

I've just been too tired to blog.  Now things are finally improving! Most of the pain is gone. I'm doing better balancing things.  The Little Pink Lions now each have their own brand new bedroom in the walk out basement/first floor. (We took the opportunity that the disaster created to make things better).  I'm afraid I still can't promise consistency for a while, though I will try. I don't even know how many of you are still reading -- I appreciate all of you who are!  I'v really missed blogging about the Lions, and it's been building for quite a while that I feel a need to start writing again. 

This experience has definitely given me a great respect for how much time and effort -- and pain -- football players go through; even those who are not injured.  For those who are and are still playing through it I feel I have a better understanding - and more sympathy for how it can effect their game.  While I haven't been blogging, I have been watching.  It has been an enjoyable and entertaining ride - I am excited to see how it ends!

Real football is being played in Detroit, and from the looks of it will be for years to come.  My health is improving, and I can see "normal" not so far distant in the future.  Live every day your best - because you never know what will happen in the next. 

Its good to be back


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Once in a Lifetime -- Weekly

What was Barry Sanders?  He was a lot of things to a lot of people, players and fans.  His ability and his impact on the game on any given Sunday can't be described in a hundred words, or a thousand words, or more.  When you watched him you had to suspend belief because what you were seeing wasn't possible on a football field.

Expectedly Unexpected.  Commonly Unique.

What Barry did was make every game he was in a thrill to watch no matter what the score was.  Points, winners, losers -- it all seemed to fade when Barry touched the ball.  Breath held, we waited to see what was going to happen next.  One tackle behind the line.  Two.  Three.  Four.  Five - wait - Magic!

You knew you were going to see something special, and yet every time he slipped a tackle, spun two defenders around, leaped over one player while simultaneous ducking another tackler and somehow still staying on his feet and headed to the endzone we sat and stared, mouth agape and mind unable to believe what we were seeing even though we expected to see it.

Barry had more negative runs than anyone else.  He had more awe inspiring runs than any three other backs combined.  Emmitt ground out the rushing record over time.  Barry was the only back who could run about 100 mind numbing perplexing yards for a 20 yard touchdown.  Spinning, juking faking.

He knew what defenders were going to do before they did, and then he avoided it.  Jumping through holes that didn't exist, rolling away from hits that should have leveled a mac truck.  Lowering his shoulder like he was going to be tackled, and then jumping back as defenders fell to their knees in front of  him and taking off as those behind him did the same in an ironic type of homage as they grasped for that which couldn't be caught - couldn't be harnessed.

Barry Sanders was like an optical illusion on a football field.  He wasn't the biggest.  He wasn't the strongest.  He wasn't the fastest.  But when he touched the ball science stopped and Barry started.  Inertia no longer existed and we saw angles and cuts and moves that defied the laws of physics but somehow conformed to the rules of the Gridiron.  Barry's rules.  Rules no one else could comprehend, much less follow or duplicate.

Watching Barry play made being a Lions fan something special.  It wasn't about wins and losses -- it was about the mystical.  The enchantment.

It was about once in a lifetime -- weekly.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Game PreView: Tampa via Mlive Lions Forum

I was looking at trying to get together a preview for the season opener at Tampa Bay, when I saw that Thunderfoot on the Mlive Lions Forum had already posted a summary I essentially agreed with -- and felt would be good to share with you. 


Detroit's offense vs Tampa's defense...

by thunderfoot, 09/02/11 1:30 PM
When the Lions go into Tampa they will be facing a defensive line which they match up better against than a lot of the lines they’ll play this season. The Bucs line is young and quick, and they’ll rotate 7 or 8 guys like the Lions will. But they are not the overpowering type or line Detroit generally has problems with. The Bucs have seen film of Stafford and his arm, but they’ve never been on the field with this guy. Without Talib, Calvin Johnson caught 10 passes from Drew Stafford last season in a Lions win at Tampa. CJ may do the same this season with Talib in the lineup. On the other side for the Bucs is 36 year old Ronde Barber who has slowed done, but not enough so that any of the other young Bucs could take his job. There safeties are nothing to write home about. At linebacker the Bucs have a rookie, in Mason Foster, manning the middle after no OTA’s and 6 weeks of training camp. He may end up a great one but he’ll be taken advantage of early. The Bucs problem on defense, besides the fact that they are young, not stout and can be run on, is the fact that there are too many interchangeable parts. They don’t have enough great or even better-than-average defenders who grabbed their position and look ready to take their games to the next level.

The Lions will probably open up in shotgun formation passing against Tampa. The Bucs will play 2 deep and may even start in the nickel. Look for Detroit to make yards on the ground, this game, and we’ll see if Tampa’s safeties get tempted to peak in the backfield. If so, the Lions will probably get at least a couple of big plays. But Tampa will be coached not to do that. As we’ve seen last season, Stafford can play a patient game as well. The bottom line is Detroit has too many real offensive weapons for the Bucs to deal with. They have to try to slow down the Lions, limit touchdowns defensively, and try to limit Detroit’s possessions. A shootout is not good for the Bucs.


Tampa's offense vs Detroit's defense...

by thunderfoot, 09/02/11 1:31 PM
When Tampa has the ball, they need to run it and get positive yards on first downs. Last season, that strategy was somewhat successful, as LeGarrett Blount had a big game running and leaping over Lions’ safeties and LBs for big gains. We should look for a better effort from Detroit this season. Tampa’s offensive line should be the best part of that team. They may indeed be with some high draft picks, high priced players and Probowl performers. The problem? They play against the relentless front 4 of Detroit this week in front an improved LB unit. They will be pressured.

I like Josh Freeman—a lot. He has it all. He is a very efficient QB with a big arm. He’s a strong kin who reminds me of Rothlisberger in that he has muscle his way out of trouble, keep plays alive and complete passes. He’s going to be a really good one in this league. Freeman, however, doesn’t have enough tools to outscore a team like Detroit. The aforementioned Blount is a slugger in the backfield, but they don’t really have an explosive 3rd down type back. Mike Williams had a really good rookie season but he is really not a burner. Benn was injured most of last season. He IS the burner but his patterns are readable at this point. The multiple knee surgeried, Kellen Winslow still holds down the fort at TE.

This offense, though featuring a good young QB is not a high scoring type offense. They won a lot of close games last season by shortening the game with Blount behind that OL, and winning in the late stages. A couple of these games they really had no right winning at all. It’s going to be fun for Lions fans to look at the differences between this back 7 and last season’s back 7. We already know what to expect from the front 4 and they will have a time battling Tampa’s best unit. However, Suh, Williams, Avril, KVB and co. should win most of those battles this season and I see no reason week one will be different


How the game should play out...

by thunderfoot, 09/02/11 1:32 PM
Here’s the game…

This season’s Lions/Bucs game kind of reminds me last season’s game against the Rams. On paper there is no reason the Bucs should even be competitive against the Lions. Like the Rams, it is the team’s record that will scare the Lions fans instead of the players on that team.

What the Lions want to do is score quickly against Tampa, and force Tampa to try to keep up. Tampa in turn, wants to play a first down game and keep their offense on the field. That’s the chess match here. Look for the Lions to score, however. Though the Bucs have some young talent on the defensive line, they are very young, and will have a couple of rookie ends playing in their first NFL game. They also have a rookie MLB backer playing in his first game. Look for those players to be taken advantage of particularly in the passing game (Best, Pettigrew). Even if butterflies affect the Lions for a series or two, they will eventually score against this unit. Tampa is trying to build a front wall but they aren’t there yet. The Bucs need Detroit’s help. They need to create turnovers and may even score off of turnovers to keep it a game. If not, the game may be out of reach by the end of the 3rd quarter.

What the Lions want to do defensively is stop the run, first, then make Tampa play a fast game. If Tampa has to try and keep up the scoring they are playing Detroit’s hands. Not only do the Lions have a front 4 built for that, but they have a quick and veteran LB corps who can not only hit, but think on their feet. Also, Tampa doesn’t have the weapons for that kind of game.

The intangibles are the Florida heat and the Bucs penchant for ball security. But the overall talent of the opponent should more than make up for those intangibles

Lions 27- Bucs 13

Thanks to Thunderfoot for putting together such a well thought out piece!  Agree? Disagree? What are your thoughts readers?

Lions Organization has Class

In stark contrast to the tumultous, rancorous, often bungled situations we as Detroit Lions fans became accustomed to over the Millen Era (and even before) the new front office has turned a sharp about face.  The Lions, instead of dysfunctional, are now often shown to be organized and downright classy.

The perfect example of this is how they responded to the death of Tom "Killer" Kowalski -- honoring him at the first news conference after his passing & the Bills/Lions Preseason game.

But now, they have gone further -- renaming the Press Lounge at the Allen Park facility in his honor, as well as donating a portion of the home-opener concessions to Killer's two favorite charities.  On top of that, they are starting a sports journalism scholarship in his honor. 

That goes far enough beyond classy I'm not even sure which word to use.

I can be proud of the team I root for because when it came time to back up what could have been mere words of sympathy and loss with solid substance, they took up the gauntlet proudly, openly, and far exceeded any token gesture to leave no doubt about the sincerity of the organization's intent nor the pain of their loss.  While we fans lost a bridge to the Lions organization, they too acknowledge having lost a respected bridge to the fans. 

Awesome job Lions!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

First Fantasy Draft: Annual League

In a feature I did not follow up on that I plan to do this year is chronicle my misadventures in the DetFan1979 Fantasy Football Leagues.  There are two leagues -- the Annual League, where we draft a whole new league each year and the Dynasty League where we can keep up to 5 players.

Tonight was the Annual League draft.  This is the 4th year of the league, and I had an abysmal showing last season.  It is a 12 team League that starts 1-3 RB, 1-3 WR, and 1-2 TE along with a K, DST, and QB.

Mostly standard scoring, with some long TD bonuses thrown in.  DST is huge in this league as a defense will make or break your year.

here is my final roster:

1.Hasselbeck, Matt TEN QB 6
2.Sanchez, Mark NYJ QB 8
3.Stafford, Matthew DET QB 9
4.Jones, Felix DAL RB 5
5.Thomas, Pierre NOS RB 11
6.Tolbert, Mike SDC RB 6
7.Turner, Michael ATL RB 8
8.Ward, Derrick HOU RB 11
9.Wells, Chris ARI RB 6
10.Burleson, Nate DET WR 9
11.Ward, Hines PIT WR 11
12.Williams, Mike TBB WR 8
13.Williams, Roy CHI WR 8
14.Heap, Todd ARI TE 6
15.Shiancoe, Visanthe MIN TE 9
16.Gould, Robbie CHI PK 8
17.Lions, Detroit DET Def 9
Hint Below: Your league has 17 roster spots, and requires: 1QB 1-3RB 1-3WR 1-2TE 1PK 1Def starters.

As you can see, I am running back heavy so, and more than a little light on wideouts.  Detroit is my only defense, so I'll have to pick up a bye-week replacement.  Overall, I feel like I did pretty decent.  Jones, Turner and Wells are all "feature backs" and Tolbert and Thomas work in shared backfields, so should be good bye week fill ins, or injury fill ins.  I'm not thrilled with my WR position, but Ward and Mike Williams will be my starters.  Hopefully I can upgrade over Roy, or he suddenly shows up ala 2006 (not likely).  At TE, I'm hoping Heap can find synergy with Kevin Kolb.  In his Philly games, Kolb favored the TE Celek who had great numbers when Kolb played.  Whenever Vick played, they dropped off dramatically.  I'm hoping that Kolb will have that effect for Heap in Arizona.

Yes I know I'm a homer.  My team will only go as far as Stafford and the Lions Defense takes them.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tribute to "Killer"

It was with heavy heart and a shock that has still not worn off that I learned of the death of Lions beat writer Tom "Killer" Kowalski. I must have sat at my desk just dumbfounded for more than a few minutes as the shock set in.  I've had my won brushes with heart issues this year, and it really hit home.  It could happen any time.  Celebrity deaths are things that have never really struck me to tears.  But I was close to breaking out tears yesterday afternoon, as they stood unsehd in my eyes.  Tom was just a local celebrity, national figure, he was someone who had been a part of my life the whole time I was a Lions fan.  My whole life.

 Back in the early 2000's, I found the Mlive Lions Forum -- back in those days Tom would log in between practices sometimes, and hang out with us answering questions.  A true insider showing true class.  It was like he was just one of the fans -- only with behind the scenes info that we on the outside could only dream of. 

He had a way of analyzing and adding his thoughts to the news coming out of Allen Park that made it so much more than the standard cut and paste AP articles and regurgitated blather that you get from most outlets.  His Film Breakdowns after each game - even preseason - were priceless for those of us who wanted to watch the film but didn't have the time, knowledge, or experience to do so.  Nor could we ask players and coaches - as he did - what the heck happened on that play fellas?

It was Tom Kowalski who replied to my email encouraging me when I decided to start this blog - and also encouraged me to stay away being just another set of news links.  "Lots of Hot Dogs, not very many toppings" is how he described the basic reporting that we often see of a few facts repeated and thats it. Lots of writers are afraid or unable to really put that stamp on their writing while reporting at the same time.   Despite being fair -- both in praise and criticism --  he was still a fan like the rest of us, rooting for the team.  And that dichotmy led him to delve into his own thoughts and share them with us -- as well as debate, argue, and chat about them with us. 

He was one of us, and made us feel like we were in Allen Park right there with him - that we were all insiders, part of the team. 

Without his great insight, hard work, and dedication none of the vibrant lions blogging community would or will be the same.  You're going to be very missed Killer - not just Mlive -- but all of the fans of the Lions will never feel the same. 

what time is it....?  Theres a 100% chance you know... it's time to say goodbye Tom. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Doing my best Al?

In the spirit of longtime fellow Lions blogger Al at The Wayne Fontes Experience, I decided to follow up a declaration of blogging regularly again with a brand new major health issue.  While he certainly has me beat overall in the category of "Lions Blogger with Most Health Issues" (Ty leads "Best Beard Award") I spent a good chunk of the past week either in the ER or in bed.  Often both.  Or getting my blood drawn.  Or having yet another test.

I'm sure you get the picture.  The Lions' preseason performance was by far a high point in a week I would like to otherwise forget. (which included nearly collapsing at work) I have one final test Tuesday, at least, final if it comes out all clear.  If not... well, I'm doing my best not to worry about "If not" unless it gets here.  Needless to say, I am at least halfway semi on my feet.  Kinda.

On another note, there is at least two, possibly three openings in the DetFan1979 Dynasty (Keeper) League.  They are some good teams, and have some good keeper potential. Please email me as soon as possible if you are interested.  If you are already in the league, and haven't let me know if you're coming back please do so ASAP.  I'm having trouble getting this to come together this year, and would hate to have to close down the Dynasty League after 3 great years.

As for now, I will continue to intermittently blog as I get slowly back to my feet yet again.  I also plan to get the band back together for the Lions Congregation at least in time for the regular season.  Hopefully.

Thanks again for reading!


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"Leshoure"ly not likely to be the same player

I hope I'm wrong.  I'd love to be wrong.  It would be great to be wrong, as I have been on many occasions in the past. (Remeber my "great things" feeling after that 4-0 Preseason champs in 2008? Yeah.  I try to forget about that too.)

In this case, I'm going to have to agree and disagree with a good friend and fellow blogger, Ty over at The Lions in Winter.  I'm sure if you haven't read this piece I've seen too many places to properly credit the original finder in regards to recovery rates from ACL ruptures, you will now.  The thing with any injury is that you are never the same - period.  Where I take exception with Ty's take is that A. Brown of the Giants should be the case study to give us hope. While it is true that he could give an idea of the possibilites, there are other factors at play here that must be considered. 

The foremost is NFL training and rehab facilities and trainers.  Brown was not an elite college runner.  He also, up until being the in the NFL, did not have that extra training to develop all the minor muscles in ways us amateurs miss.  We bench press thinking it's upper body... but do we work the other severl hundred small muscles around the shoulders and back? Brown is not only coming back from injury, but benefitting from targeted, high level development and training.  Over a two year period.  For his job.  These are things he did not have at near the same level -- meaning that this development is also tapping into untapped potential for burst, strength, speed that come from a focus on supporting muscle groups not just the primary ones. (although there was/is, I'm sure, plenty of work there too)

Of course, my same argument above is also what leads me to agree with Ty and that to say Leshure's careeer is over right now is just absurd.  What we have to acknowledge is that it won't really start for one or two years. We won't see the final version of Leshure until the 2013 season, if we ever do.  I just feel that he had less untapped potential than Brown as far as how developed physically he is -- in other words, he was already operating at a high level.  Its more about can he get back there versus can he get there.

That same training facility, staff, and time most of all is something we must not underestimate in its impact.  I'm going to quote an anonymous comment from Ty's Blog first:

Don't want to be a "downer," but I know first hand about ruptured Achilles tendons. I completely ruptured my left Achilles in late 2009, had surgery, and endured 3 months of physical therapy (three times a week), etc. I'm back to playing basketball in the driveway, shagging fly balls, playing catch, hiking, etc. However, I don't think I will ever be 100% again. The range of motion isn't the same, I have to stretch all the time, and am unable to push off the same as before the injury. Granted, I never went beyond HS athletics, but I can't see anyone being the same after this injury.
In February I fell wrong on my shoulder and had to have surgery to fix my rotator cuff, a torn labrum, as well as a bone spur. I had the surgery in May and went to physical therapy a couple hours each morning at 5am three days a week for a month before heading off to work. At the end, I had okay strength back and near full mobility and was on my own. I'm still ever so slowly getting back into shape but its a rough road. I don't have near the strength or speed I had before the injury.
Does this mean Matthew Stafford wasn't going to recover from his ifseason shoulder sugery? How is he doing so well? The difference is in the treatment.

I went 3 days a week for 2 hours to a physical therapy location.  For one month.  Matthew Stafford worked with multiple trainers doing shoulder and full upper body rehab and strengthening for 5 1/2 hours each day.  For 3 months. 

Starting to see the diffence? 

This is their occupation, and Leshoure as a second round pick will have one full time job: healing and rehabilitiation.  With sometimes more than one on one training/trainers.  On the best equipment.  For more hours in his first week than most of us regular joes would get total. 

When it comes to injury and recovery, we can't compare our buddies ACL tear, or Achilles injury, or shoulder surgery outcome to what it will be for an NFL player.  Will Stafford stay healthier now that he has strengthened and worked on all the little extra muscles I started to learn about in my short therapy window that should make him stronger and more durable?  Only time will tell. 

In regards to Leshoure, the only way to know whether or not he can recover is time. However, no matter the spin we like to put on it multiple sources say that a return to full power after an achilles injury simply does not happen.  Not unless other factors (better training in the case of Brown) are helping compensate for what was lost fromt he injury.  The real question is not will Leshoure come back -- When he comes back will he be enough of the back he was to be back in the backfield for the Lions?  IF...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Starters to Backups: Linebacker

Of the many things we can say about how Martin Mayhew is building the Lions, one is that he drafts talent and shops free agents for need.  He is also all about "value" - he isn't going to break the bank Millen style for that "one guy" if he has 5 or 6 or more holes. 

Most significant in the Lions developing over the past two years since Mayhew took over is the trend of players who were starters transitioning to backups.  Last year this process was done on the defensive line - Guys like Sammie Hill and Andre Fluellen who were starting became backups/rotational players.  Guys like Landon Cohen, Shaun Cody, and Joe Cohen were shown the door.  Now Sammie Hill is developing and blooming into a starting caliber tackle who is valuable in the rotation.

The sign of a good team is solid starters.  The sign of a great team is depth. 

This year, Mayhew took on the linebacker position.  Despite the revolving injury door in the secondary, no position started more backup caliber players last season than at linebacker.  Jordon Dizon was lost before the season and never even got a chance to show if he had anything. This was only significant because Levy was also injured most of last season.  This left the Lions with about Paris Lenon level talent at MLB. 


What followed was Follett, Palmer, Havner, Johnson, Carpenter et al churning through at the position.  Carpenter looked really good as he got comfortable.  Palmer looked like a solid rotational guy.  Everyone else played solid special teams. 

Fast Forward to this truncated ifseason -- the Lions drafted Doug Hogue in the 5th, re-signed Carpenter, Levy is healthy and they added Justin Durant and Stephen Tulloch.  Palmer is also still on the roster -- along with a host of young tryouts and other guys trying to make a special teams roster spot.

In terms of 2010 to 2011 the starters are now backups, and there is very solid depth.  Durant and Levy will man the outside spots, and Tulloch will hold down the middle.  Levy will still be a 4 down LB as well as serving as the backup middle linebacker.  No more Spencer Havner in the middle.  +whew+

Backing up the outside spots will be Carpenter first (and I expect him to rotate in frequently), with Palmer next and Hogue mostly special teams and still learning.  From the rest of the pile on the roster I expect them to keep Ekejiuba due to his special teams impact.

In other words, if the Lions lose both Tulloch or Durant they would be plugging in Carpenter.  Even if they lose two of their three starters -- unless both Tulloch and Levy are injured -- they will still have a solid rotation and at the very least a starting caliber player at the ever important MLB position.

It is phenomenal to see where this team has gone since Martin Mayhew took over amidst the catastrophe of the 2008 0-16 season.  Finally Lions players that are released or not re-signed are catching on -- and in some cases starting -- for other teams.  To  have come so far so fast is a testament to his abilities to create a plan that works and sticking with it.  From starters to backups -- the Linebackers are looking like they will no longer be a liability this year.  Especially with Detroit's defensive line.  IF...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Roster Game, Set, Match?

We used to play a game every ifseason called our roster "30 lock".  The Lions were so untalented, it was actually difficult to figure who the starters would be, much less the backups and who would make the final roster.  Churn was high.  Talent was low.  UDFA were the next savior of the franchise.  Draft picks from rounds 1-5 were expected -- Needed -- to be quality starters.

As I sit after a few days of de-liquifying our home, just scanning over the Lions' new roster it hit me:
This team is both talented, and at several points - there is depth.  Honest to goodness depth!  We're not talking about the kind of Matt Millen depth where there was a group of similarly talented players at a position - where one got injured and there was another, equally bad player, there to take his place.


We are talking about starters ranging from solid to superstar at every position.  We are talking about backups and rotational depth that can step in and step-up to maintain quality play.  We are talking about an honest to goodness NFL roster!

Are we talking about a playoff roster?  It's too early to tell.  This is the ifseason, and while I'm growing more excited every day for this season full of new possibilities to start - I still hold the caution of "IF"  What I do know is that for the first time in many years we Lions fans know for certain that we have a real NFL front office capable, willing, able, to assemble a real NFL roster.  That alone gives the Lions a fighting chance each Sunday.

No more laughingstock of the league in Motown.  Think we can handle watching a real NFL team in action? I know I'm ready!!


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Drowning In News!

This summer has been hot and dry here in Lansing, and while we needed rain it came a little too much too fast last night.  Flash flooding has been hitting all aroun d- and for the first time ever the DF79 household is under water!!

My Backyard Yesterday
There is a good 2-3 feet of water extending our entire block.  According to the fire department, who checked to be sure it was safe from downed electric etc., only the new weather stripping I put on our back door last fall sealed it well enough to prevent standing water in our basement.  As long as we don't open the door, of course. 

The NFL Landscape for the Lions is pretty much mirroring my flood.  After months with nothing concrete happening whatseover, we have been drowned in a deluge of rumors, signing, information, cuts, camp.... but the Lions as usual are keeping many things sealed up tight even though leaks here and there are giving us great cause for excitement!!

Just like emptying my pool...I mean, basement, is going to take a lot of work in a short time, so too will things begin to calm down so that we may get a clearer picture of where the Lions really are now.  I'm glad to be back, and looking forward to the thrill of this upcoming PLAYOFF season with all of you!!


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lockout Blackout

Its been an interesting year.  While continuing to deal with ankle issues, I went and completely wrecked up my shoulder, Matthew Stafford style.  Its about 90% surgery at this point - and after being at a computer all day at work, just have not been able to sit down at night to research and type up articles. 

Now, while this normally wouldn't have stopped me, something else happened: the lockout.  There is no real information coming from anywhere. Nada.  Other than specualating about college players I haven't been able to research, there is no Lions news of note.  No position battles. No free agency. Heck, we don't even know who the free agents are/will be yet! 

The NFL blacks out a game for the local viewing audience when it doesn't sell out entirely.  Well, I'm going to pull an opposite.  Since the players are MIA the NFL is getting blacked out by me.  I am going to keep focusing on my health and family for right now.  Once the blackout ends, I will be able to dive in with gusto to the new CBA, free agency if it happens, etc.  Until that time, I hope the rest of you will join me in taking advantage of this nice break and once the draft is over do something else for a while.  Spend more time with your loved ones, start a new hobby, whatever it may be, and then come back to the Lions refreshed and excited for what should be a benchmark season for the team. 



Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lions Congregation: Felton and Smith

First off, my apologies.  This piece was supposed to appear on Monday, but did not publish correctly.  This week, the Lions Congregation takes a look at the situation in the backfield behind best with a couple of restricted free agents Kevin Smith and Jerome Felton.  Have a question or topic?  Email

This Weeks Panel:

Al of the Wayne Fontes Experience

Zac of The Sidelion Report

Blades Boyd Contributor

Steve of Detroit Lions Weblog

Latif of House of Spears

NetRat of NetRat Detroit Lions Page

Question from Joseph B: With Felton demanding more of a role and the limited availability of Kevin Smith the prior seasons, what is the thinking of the front office going into the off season with these two players?

Al: I'm thinking they may have even less playing time than they did this past season. There's a reason both Smith and Felton made noises about wanting to leave Detroit (though Smith quickly backpedaled away from his original statement, and...well, no one really cares about Felton). They may have seen the writing on the wall.

Felton is a natural fullback, a position the Lions don't have much use for due to their preponderance of two tight end sets...for good reason. Who would you rather see on the field? Journeyman Jerome Felton or a combination of the extremely productive Brandon Pettigrew and play-making Tony Scheffler? I know who I want to see on the field...and it isn't the fullback. 

The Lions may try to find a big back capable of running between the tackles in the coming months, as, to be blunt, Felton has proven to not be that guy. He doesn't move the pile, and committed some costly fumbles in the attempt. What potential Felton once had has become nothing more than unfulfilled promise. I'd rather see Maurice Morris or a healthy Smith in a short yardage situation.

As for Smith, he still fancies himself as a feature back, though his production, injury history and lack of speed says otherwise. But he's under contract for another season, so it doesn't matter what Smith thinks he can do. It's what the Lions think Smith can do, and they must believe he's a backup...why else would they have drafted Jahvid Best in the 1st round last year?

If the Lions can improve their backfield depth, they will. But I doubt they'll spend a high draft pick or much money to do it. Which means we could very likely see Smith and Felton, whom are still under contract, return in the same roles they had this past season. Smith as the backup to Best, and Felton as the fifth running back, and only fullback, on the depth chart.

But if the Lions felt the need to move on from both backs, and let them walk, I doubt it would break any hearts...including that of the players themselves.

Zac:  It is often impossible to know what the front office is thinking so I will tell you what they should be thinking. They should be willing to bring Kevin Smith and Jerome Felton back next year but only on the organizations terms. Lets be honest, Smith and Felton are both easily replaceable and the Lions arent in such a desperate position that they need to bow down to either guy.

Jahvid Best will be the number one running back going forward and Smith hasnt shown a whole lot to distinguish himself from Maurice Morris. Jerome Felton failed to prove that he is a viable option to the teams short yardage woes. He does bring some versatility to the table but there is no use keeping him around if he isnt going to be content in his limited role. Simply put, he doesnt deserve an expanded role.

Im fine with both guys remaining as Lions into next year as long as they understand and accept their place in the depth chart. If they arent willing to accept that then the Lions have reason to keep them around.

Blades:  Felton is an interesting case because it seems he's a bit over valued. Now the question becomes is he over valued because of his potential or is because he's really that good. There's little doubt he's a good short yardage running back but he hasn't shown much else. He reminds me a lot of Kuhn from Green Bay. He'll never outrun anyone but can get the yards when needed. It's interesting but I think you will see the Lions use a lot more single TE sets with a full back in the game. Felton saw limited action because often the Lions would use a double TE look in the running game. If you watch the game when Morris rushed for over 100 yards, you'll see the Lions used less double tight end sets which lead to the success.

As for Kevin Smith, I've always been a huge fan but there's just something about running back who play for the Lions that wear number 34. It's a bad omen!!' James Stewart, Kevin Jones and now Kevin Smith are or were all top talents at the RB position but injuries quickly ruined their careers. Kevin Smith would be a great #2 because he can run, catch and block but by the sounds of things, he still wants to be a starter and don't be surprised if he seeks a trade in the offseason. Hopefully he gets healthy and can still reach his full potential!

Steve:  In my opinion, neither player should figure too heavily into the Lions future plans, when push comes to shove.


Felton, more of a hybrid fullback, than a true blocking, power fullback, has exhibited some playmaking ability, but has never taken ahold of the short-yardage and goal line back role that has been seemingly there for his taking. 


In regards to Felton, I am of the opinion that the Lions could do worse, but if an opportunity for an upgrade presents itself, the Lions need to take a look at it. 


If the Lions are going to become a true, power running between the tackles, play action, vertical passing brand of team (which would seem to suit Matthew Stafford), a hard-nosed fullback would go along ways towards helping to improve their offense.

As far as Smith is concerned, there are some things to like about his hands and his edgy brand of play.  That being said, his lack of true breakaway burst and a growing propensity towards injury makes him very expendable in my eyes.


I do not believe that Jahvid Best will ever become a pure, north-south, between the tackles runner.  I believe that the Lions could benefit from a split back situation that pairs the shifty, gamebreaking Best with a tough, between the tackles runner, who still possesses the afterburner's to break big plays.


With the Lions picking at #13, even with considering much they need help on defense, I believe that they should take a long hard look at Mark Ingram, Jr. from Alabama.  If Ingram, Jr. grades out worthy of being selected near pick #13, and all of their top defensive options are gone, the Lions could possess a down right explosive offense, with Ingram's addition.


If nothing else, the addition of a veteran like Ronnie Brown might be an option, too.

Latif:  I can see Jerome Felton coming back as a Lion. He is a restricted fee agent, but there aren't any teams dying to sign him away from the Lions. Early in the season, the Lions tried to use him as a power back, but that really isn't what he is cut out to be.  He is a decent option as a receiver every now and then and does a good enough of a job blocking. In my opinion, he is an average fullback in the NFL, but definitely doesn't need to be replaced. Personally, I would like to see him gone. Like I said, he is just average as a fullback and the Lions seemed to run better with Heller as the fullback. Heller obviously isn't a long term option, but there are some good ones out there. The first name that comes to mind is LeRon McClain. He is unhappy with his role in Baltimore, and he could definitely fill both roles of a power back and fullback very well. I'm not quite sure if McClain would come to Detroit, and would still take a fullback role, but he definitely is worth looking into.

As far as Kevin Smith goes, I think his time in Detroit and maybe even career in the NFL is over. Its been back to back seasons that he has ended up the IR, and has averaged less than four yards a carry. Plus, he already came into the NFL with a ton of millage. He will have to be replaced by someone, and I think Michael Bush is the best option in free agency (assuming he is a free agents). The next best option would be to draft a back in the mid rounds (3rd to 5th) because there are plenty of good backs in those rounds, but of course that requires the Lions front office to scout properly, which they have done in the past two years.

NetRat:  I believe Felton will see some competition in camp and may or may not make the final roster... in addition, he may be trade bait should anything come up.  Meanwhile, I re-tweeted this tweet earlier today.  @Omar Kelly RT by @theNetRat Ran into Lions RB Kevin Smith during my morning workout. He's a restricted free agent and told me to tell the Dolphins: "Come get me."  So Kevin Smith (RFA most likely) doesn't sound as if he likes the snow (that's a joke by the way).


This is why I commented on Kowalski's recent article that I wouldn't be so quick to rule out a RB in round 1 of the draft should one rate significantly higher then any defensive guy who might still be there at 13.

Thank you again for joining the Lions Congregation!  See you for another ifseason edition next Monday!