It’s Week 8 of the NFL and for the Detroit Lions, their scheduled hasn’t gotten any easier. Lions are coming off a tough home loss to the Cincinnati Bengals where they had multiple chances to win, but missed out on some great opportunities. However, the Lions have no time to sulk, seeing that they face off against Dallas Cowboys this Sunday.
Coming into this game, Dallas Cowboys are 4-3 and looking to keep control of the NFC East which isn’t easy with Philadelphia Eagles right on their tail and even the Washington Redskins are trying to stay in the race, so they definitely need this win. As for the Detroit Lions, they are looking to take back control of the NFC North and if they get a win they may just be able to do that. However, if the Detroit Lions plan to beat America’s team, the Dallas Cowboys, there are certain steps they must follow to win.
When it comes to the Detroit Lions, I have to start with the offense. Last week I complemented the Detroit Lions passing game, saying they played great, despite quarterback Matthew Stafford over throwing a few key passes. The reason I gave the Lions that complement was because everyone got involved, I mean literally everyone, it wasn’t just about wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Stafford did a great job of spreading the ball around and the receivers did a great job of making plays after the catch.
The Lions need to do that same thing this Sunday against the Cowboys. Cowboys are ranked 30th in the NFL in opponent passing yards but you better believe the Cowboys secondary will do their best to bracket Johnson and force the Lions to beat them with someone else besides Johnson. I want to see wide receivers Kris Durham, Kevin Ogletree, Ryan Broyles and tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria get involved and make plays. Stafford also needs to do what he didn’t do last week which is capitalize on those big play opportunities, if he had done that last week, they probably would have won. Don’t get me wrong, Stafford had a good game but when you go back to those big touchdown opportunities that he couldn’t connect on, it makes a difference. I want him to do exactly what he did last week but I want to see him execute on those big play opportunities and I need the receivers to be ready to make the big plays. More importantly, Stafford also needs to limit his mistakes in this game, mainly turnovers, Dallas has a good pass rush and if he turns the ball over, Dallas is capable of making him pay for it.
Lions offense also needs running backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell to get going in this game. Dallas has a solid run defense but not a great run defense seeing that they allow over 100 rushing yards a game, if Bush and Bell can get going, it will open up things for Stafford in the passing game. However for both the passing game and running game to succeed the offensive line must be ready to step up. As I said before, the Cowboys have a good pass rush along with good linebacker play so the Lions offensive line must be prepared to block for Stafford and open up holes for Bush and Bell. This game could come very well come down to the Lions offense outscoring Cowboys, so everyone needs to be ready to step up.
Defensively, the Lions were horrific last week, while they did step up in the fourth quarter, but they still played horrible allowing quarterback Andy Dalton to look like Tom Brady and don’t get me started on how wide receiver AJ Green ran all over the secondary. Going into this match-up, the Lions defense better be ready with some much-needed adjustments.
It all starts with the defensive line, they must create consistent pressure on quarterback Tony Romo. While Romo isn’t the best quarterback in the NFL, he is still a solid quarterback, who is having an impressive year so far. If the Lions give him all day in the pocket, Romo will burn them. There is no doubt in my mind that this game could come down to the offense, with that being said the defense must be prepared to get stops.
Which leads me to the most important part of the defense, the linebackers and the secondary. As I have always said, while it’s great that the Lions have an impressive defensive-line, they can’t be counted on to win every game. Linebackers and the secondary must be prepared to come up big in coverage. First they must figure out a way to contain tight end Jason Witten, he may not be the fastest tight end but he definitely knows how to get himself open and make plays. Lions must be aware of where he is at all times and not allow isolated coverage situations. Lions linebackers were exposed last week against the Bengals, so you can believe the Cowboys will try do the same, the linebackers can’t afford another debacle in coverage.
Lastly the secondary, who was once again exposed last week against the Bengals. The first thing this Lions secondary must do is respect the dynamic duo of Romo and wide receiver Dez Bryant. I said earlier, the Cowboys plan to make the Lions beat them on offense with someone else besides Johnson, well Lions secondary needs to adapt to that same philosophy with Bryant. Force Romo to beat you will his other weapons, like wide receivers Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams. However for Lions to be able to bracket Bryant, the secondary must be able to hold their own, that means cornerbacks Chris Houston, Rashean Mathis and Darius Slay must be able to handle their assignments unlike last week.
Lions defense should also be prepared for plenty of play action plays because that’s one thing Dallas loves to do and Lions showed last week they don’t do well against it. When it comes to slowing down the play action, I need Lions safeties Glover Quin and Louis Delmas to be more aware and conservative, instead of rushing to make a play, watch and analyze the situation because last week they overreacted to play-action plays forcing them to adjust and they weren’t able to recover. Lions would also be smart to not underestimate the running game.
In conclusion, I expect this to be a very intense game and this honestly could come down to who makes the least amount of mistakes or who has the ball last. I expect both teams to score, so I look to see which team’s defense will step up in this game. As hard as it is for me to decide on this game, I am going with the Lions to win this game, mainly because they have a bye-week coming up and would like to go in on a high note, they understand they need to re-establish control of the NFC North and to do that, they must win this game. Tune into the Detroit Lions as they go up against the Dallas Cowboys at 1pm (ET) on Fox.
Written by LBeasley, Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit
Listen to LBeasley’s Radio Show, “Sports Talk with L-Beasley” every Mon, Wed & Fri from 6-8pm (ET) on LBeasley.com