The Lions started the series with four straight shutout victories. The Eagles, however, own a 14-12-2 advantage in the series and have won the last five meetings, including a 35-32 victory over the Lions in 2010.
2012 REGULAR SEASON RANKINGS (Rank)
|Points per game||25.0 (11)||16.0 (31)|
|Total yards per game||412.3 (3)||383.4 (11)|
|Rushing yards||90.2 (24)||132.2 (10)|
|Passing yards||322.0 (2)||251.2 (13)|
|Points allowed||28.5 (26)||19.8 (10)|
|Total yards allowed||315.8 (9)||307.8 (8)|
|Rushing yards allowed||102.8 (13)||100.4 (12)|
|Passing yards allowed||213.0 (10)||206.8 (9)|
|Turnover ratio||-3 (t-21)||-7 (t-30)|
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Louis Delmas, S:
Delmas practiced in a limited fashion Wednesday and Thursday and sat out Friday, and although he was listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report, I’d still expect Delmas to make his season debut on Sunday.
The Lions are a much more athletic defense in the back end with Delmas in the lineup. When Delmas missed the last five games of the regular season there was a big drop off in production from the back end of that defense. The Lions rank No. 10 in the NFL against the pass this season without Delmas playing a down, how much better can they be with him?
Mikel Leshoure, RB:
Leshoure was stymied last week (26 yards on 13 carries) after rushing for 100 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut the week prior in Tennessee.
The Lions need to get their run game jump-started and Leshoure is the focal point of that.
“He was close on a couple (big runs),” Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “I think just getting, you know, there’s a little term ‘Getting your sea legs.’ He’s really missed football for two years. Had a really good first outing. I think came out after that first game knowing he still has to work on getting in his football shape.
“Guys that carry the ball as much as he has in the first two games aren’t going to feel great on Monday and Tuesdays and so he’ll get himself to where he’s getting in that rhythm and getting his body back in football shape will definitely help.”
Brandon Pettigrew, TE:
After some key drops in the Lions’ 20-13 loss to the Vikings Sept. 30, including one in the end zone in the fourth quarter, Pettigrew stood at his locker and was honest about his performance, saying:
“When it comes down to it, the team's counting on me, they called my number. I need to make the plays. Big time players make big time plays and right now I'm not doing that.”
The Eagles defense is very good on the outside at cornerback and at the linebacker spots. Pettigrew has a tough matchup this week and it’s a perfect opportunity to show that he can “make big time plays.”
Michael Vick, QB:
Vick has evolved as a quarterback with the Eagles. He’s a quarterback before a runner and is currently third in the NFC with 1,321 passing yards.
He’s gotten his fair share of criticism this season for 11 turnovers (six interceptions and five fumbles), but those numbers are a bit deceiving. All his interceptions came in the first two weeks of the season; he hasn’t thrown one over his last three games.
“Well, he’s taking care of the ball better as far as the interceptions go,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said this week. “Obviously, you can’t have the fumbles. But he’s also done a lot of things. He’s playing good football with the exception of, in this case, this last game with the fumbles.”
DeSean Jackson, WR:
Jackson is the Eagles’ leading receiver (391 yards) and their No. 1 big-play threat. Since entering the league in 2008, Jackson has posted a 17.7 yards per catch average, which is fourth in the NFL.
His 16.3 average this season ranks in the top 12 among all receivers with at least 15 catches.
The Lions defense ranks second in the NFL with eight pass plays allowed of 20+ yards. Jackson and the Eagles will test that come Sunday. The Eagles have 187 plays of 20+ yards since 2010, the most in the NFL.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB
Rodgers-Cromartie, along with Nnamdi Asomugha, form one of the best cornerback tandems in the NFL.
Rodgers-Cromartie has tallied three interceptions this season, which is tied for third in the league. His 19 takeaways since 2008 rank third in the NFL over than span. He’s the playmaker back in their secondary.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
Special teams bounce back?
It’s not good when this is a category for a second consecutive preview. The Lions’ special teams again gave up a touchdown on both a punt and a kickoff against the Vikings for the second consecutive game.
Lions special teams coordinator Danny Crossman said he has to find a way to get those units playing better.
“I'm a teacher,” he said. “If you're a teacher and half the kids are flunking your exams, you have to find a way to teach the kids better. They're your kids. Teach them better. Find a way to get it done. And that's what I'm going to do.”
We’ll see if they get a passing grade Sunday.
Desperate teams sometimes mix it up
When a team’s on the ropes and needs a win like the Lions do, sometimes they go into their bag of tricks to look for a play that can be a spark and change momentum.
Maybe Sunday in Philadelphia that comes in the form of a flea-flicker, or a double reverse, or a fake punt, or something like that. Sometimes it only takes one of those kinds of plays to get things turned around.
We'll see if they dip into their bag of tricks.
Can Stafford increase the TD passes?
The Lions own the NFL’s third-ranked offense and No. 2 passing attack behind quarterback Matthew Stafford. They’ve had little problem moving the football, but we’re still waiting for the big game from Stafford in terms of touchdown passes. He has just three through four games.
The Eagles secondary is limiting opposing quarterbacks to a 67.1 passer rating, third in the league, and 206.8 passing yards, the fifth-lowest total in the NFC.
“These guys can score at will on offense and stop you all they want on defense too,” Stafford said of the Eagles. “They're a really good football team and going into their place on the road is going to be a tough test for us, but we're excited to get back out there. There's nothing better after a loss then having to sit on for a bye week then getting out and playing again.”
‘Explosive’ run plays
The Lions need to get their run game back on track this week if they want to slow down an aggressive Eagles defense. What they really need is to start explosive plays from their run game. The Lions have yet to rush for at least 20 yards on any play this season.
“I think the thing that will really help in the combination of us being efficient and running the ball, really help that hasn’t been there, are explosive runs,” Linehan said. “We’ve been getting explosive plays out of our passing game, but those chunk runs are going to start to come, hopefully, as we keep sticking with what we’re doing and break away some long runs. That will really help our running game I believe.”
The Eagles and Lions are similar teams in a lot of ways and this is likely to be a close game. In close games, the turnover battle usually decides the winner. The Lions were one of the best teams in the NFL last season at forcing turnovers. Their +11 turnover ratio ranked fourth in the league.
So far this season, The Lions are -3 and rank 21st. They have yet to record an interception and have been credited with only 11 pass breakups. The Bears lead the NFL in interceptions with 13.
The Eagles have turned the ball over 14 times in five games and have a -7 ratio. Vick has 11 of those turnovers.