Detroit Lions-Tennessee Titans Final Thoughts: Gameday a new experience for Chris Spielman and Random Thoughts on Lions center Frank Ragnow, backup QB history, my prediction and more:
Gameday is different today for Chris Spielman.
It's different than it was the last five years, when he wan an analyst for the FOX network telecasts of NFL games.
And it's probably different than it was for the 10 seasons he played linebacker in the NFL, spending the first eight from 1988-95 as a popular All-Pro linebacker for the Detroit Lions and the last two with the Buffalo Bills.
Spielman has a rooting interest in today's game. It matters to him who wins.
Spielman is back with the Lions as a full-time member of the organization. He was hired last week to fill the newly created position of special assistant to chairman and president & CEO.
There is a lot of work ahead, but today is about a football game, and Spielman is wondering if the old nerves will jangle like they did in his playing days.
He has crossed back over the line from being an objective observer in the broadcast booth to someone who cares very deeply about the Lions.
What does it feel like to watch a game and care who wins?
"Memorable, because it brings back rooting for a team again," he said. "I've been so used to focusing on calling the game. I didn't really care who won or lost.
"Now that I'm invested back to the Lions, wanting them to win so badly it comes back to you. I'll be pacing at home, or in a hotel room.
"I don't know how to respond. I haven't had this feeling in such a long time – this feeling of investment. I just haven't had it.
"I think I'll learn to enjoy it more and embrace a little more this time around. Being away from a team has given me a perspective."
How will he react if the officials make a questionable call that goes against the Lions?
He laughed and replied: "I don't have Dean Blandino to ask if that's a good call or not."
Ragnow, center of attention: The prospect of replacing center Frank Ragnow, who was ruled out for today's game with a throat injury, is daunting enough for the Lions considering he is one of the NFL's best at his position.
It becomes more difficult given the reality that nobody on the roster has played a competitive snap at center against an opposing team this year. Ragnow has played every offensive snap in all 13 games, and there were no joint practices or preseason games because of COVID-19.
As interim head coach Darrell Bevell said, other players have worked at center in practice, but it's not the same as live action – even in a combined practice.
Backup plan: The Lions haven't had much success with anyone except Matthew Stafford playing quarterback since he arrived in 2009.
Backup quarterbacks have a 5-22 won-loss record as starters in place of Stafford. Four of those wins came in the last four games of the 2010 season, and there haven't been any since.
Jeff Driskel (0-3) and David Blough (0-5) combined to go 0-8 last year after Stafford sustained a season-ending back injury in Game 8.
In the air: The Titans stats indicate an opportunity for the Lions to throw the ball, regardless of who plays quarterback. The Titans have a league-low 14 sacks, and they're tied for the most TD passes allowed with 28.
On the run: The Lions aren't known for having a power ground game, but they've been better this year scoring touchdowns in goal-to-goal situations.
They have 13 rushing TDs compared to seven for all of last season. All 13 have been from the six-yard line and in, and six are from the one.
"One of the things we made an emphasis on this year is when we get down there, score with your man," said running backs coach Kyle Caskey. "Don't just stop. That goes for the backs."
That means keep moving your feet until the play is over.
"We've got strong, tough guys up front, including the tight ends," Caskey said. "Those guys are getting good movement up front.
"When they call a run, and we're inside the five, let's go score."
Adrian Peterson leads the team with six rushing TDs. D’Andre Swift has five and Kerryon Johnson two.
Prediction: Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill does more than hand off to Derrick Henry and not make mistakes. That was pretty much his role when he took over for the last 10 games last season, and in the playoffs. He's given the Titans a passing threat, with 28 TD passes.
It's a lot for the Lions to handle, who've had to finish the season under interim head coach Darrell Bevell with major injuries at key places. It's a lot to overcome against the Titans, who want to keep rolling into the playoffs.
Pick: Titans 30, Lions 17.