Broncos vs. Lions Game Preview - Week 8

In this weeks matchup, the 5-2 Detroit Lions come to Sports Authority Field to face the 2-4 Denver Broncos. The Lions are coming off a 23-16 Loss at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons and the Broncos are looking to build off an Overtime 18-15 victory in Miami, the franchise's 400th. This will be the first regular-season meeting between the two teams in Denver since 2003.

Weather and Conditions


A storm came through Colorado this week and dropped about 6" of snow. The local news claims it will be gone by gametime. Here is the current forecast:

Few
Mostly Sunny
Temperature: 33/59f

Sunday's game is set for a 2:05PM MDT kickoff. FOX will broadcast with Dick Stockton calling the play by play and former Bronco John Lynch will provide the color commentary and Jaime Maggio reporting from the sidelines. Check here for the coverage in your area.

 Injuries and external factors


It looks like both teams will play without their leading rushers. Willis McGahee has a broken hand and Jahvid Best is suffering from the effects of a concussion. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is ailing too and may be a game day decision.

OFFENSE


Here is how the Lions Offense stacks up statistically with the Broncos Defense.

Lions Broncos
Offense Rank Category Rank Defense
27.7 6th Points For 29th 25.8
353 13th Total Yds 21st 366
260.3 11th Pass Yds 19th 247.5
92.7 27th Rush Yds 18th 118.5
14 T-14th Sacks T-13th 16
N/A N/A Forced Fumbles T-15th 5
7 T-7th Interceptions T-28th 3
28% 31st 3rd Downs 28th 44.9%
4.70% 15th Overall DVOA 17th 6.50%
+10 1st Turnover Margin 26th -5
38 7th QB Hits Allowed N/A N/A

 

The DVOA is calculated by Football Outsiders and is explained here.

Matthew Stafford leads the Lions with a 60.2% completion rate, 16 TD's and 4 INT's. He's been Sacked 14 times and his QB Rating is 95.5. Stafford dislocated his knee cap and wrenched his ankle in the Atlanta game and it isn't clear whether he will play on Sunday. Backup Shaun Hill has been getting extra reps in practice to prepare for the worst case scenario. Hill has only thrown one pass this season, a 28-yard pass to Titus Young in Week 2, but he has quick enough feet to get downfield. If he plays, the Lions will play more of a dink and dunk Offense.

As previously stated, Jahvid Best (84 Rush, 390 yds, 2 TD) isn't expected to play this week. Keiland Williams (28 Rush for 93 yds, 1 TD) and Maurice Morris (18 Rush for 70 yds) split the carries against Atlanta and if Matt Stafford doesn't play, look for the Lions to run more to help Shaun Hill. If Stafford plays, they will attack through the air. Detroit has weapons in WR's Calvin Johnson (41 Rec, 67, which is their strength9 yds, 10 TD's)  and Nate Burleson (22 Rec, 222 yds, 1 TD). TE's Brandon Pettigrew (38 Rec, 352 yds, 2 TD's), and Tony Scheffler (6 Rec, 78 yds, 2 TD's) are both capable of moving the chains.

Detroit's Offensive Line is made up of LT Jeff Backus, 11th yr. (3 Penalties, 6.5 Sacks Given Up), LG Rob Sims, 6th yr. (3 Pen, 1 SK), C  Dominic Raiola, 11th yr (2 Pen, 1.5 SK), RG Stephen Peterman, 7th yr. (4 Pen, 0 SK) and RT  Gosder Cherilus, 4th (3 Pen, 2 SK). Cherilus is dealing with a knee injury this week and  RT  Corey Hilliard, 5th yr. (1 Pen, 1 SK) will fill in if needed. Raiola is their best Linemen and they should have drafted an upgrade for LT Backus right after drafting QB Matt Stafford. Backus is capable, but not the ideal choice to protect a $60 Million Franchise QB.

DEFENSE


Here is how the Lions Defense stacks up statistically with the Broncos Offense.

Lions Broncos
Defense Rank Category Rank Offense
19.6 7th Points Against 21st 20.5
334 10th Total Yds 25th 304.3
204.6 9th Pass Yds 26th 189
129.4 28th Rush Yds 15th 115.3
17 T-8th Sacks T-11th 16
6 T-11th Forced Fumbles N/A N/A
10 5th Interceptions T-7th 7
42.6% T-22nd 3rd Downs 18th 38%
-10.60% 5th Overall DVOA 27th -7.60%
57/475 4th Penalties 31st 30/268
N/A N/A QB Hits Allowed 1st 17

 

Detroit runs a 4-3 Base look on Defense and their Line is the strength of the team. They are also strong through the middle. The line has LDE Cliff Avril (14 TKL, 3 SK, 2 OD, 1 FF, 1 FR), LDT Ndamukong Suh (23 TKL, 3 SK), RDT Corey Williams (15 TKL, 0.5 SK, 1 PD) and RDE Kyle Vanden Bosch 11th yr. (17 TKL, 4 SK, 3 FF, 1 FR). The rotation at the Ends consists of Lawrence Jackson (14 TKL, 1.5 SK) and Willie Young (8 TKL, 2 SK, 1 PD).

At Linebacker, Stephen Tulloch (44 TKL, 2 SK, 1 FR, 2 PD, 1 INT) takes care of the middle, while Justin Durant (25 TKL, 1 PD) takes the left side and leading tackler DeAndre Levy (59 TKL) grabs everything coming across the right side. Bobby Carpenter (16 TKL, 1 PD, 1 INT, 1 TD) has seen plenty of action spelling Durant.

The Backfield has LCB Chris Houston (35 TKL, 8 PD, 3 INT, 1 TD) and RCB Eric Wright (32 TKL, 1 FF, 2 INT, 4 PD) starting. The Nickel back is  Aaron Berry (15 TKL, 5 PD) and Brandon McDonald (10 TKL, 1 PD) plays in Dime situations. The Free Safety is Louis Delmas (38 TKL, 3 PD, 1 FR) and Amari Spievey (26 TKL, 1 SK, 3 PD, 2 INT) is the Strong Safety.


SPECIAL TEAMS

The Lions Kicker is Jason Hanson. He is 16/17 (94.1%) and has been perfect from inside the 50 this year. Hanson has made all 20 Extra Point attempts and his longest Field Goal this year is a 51-yarder. Hanson's 43 Kickoffs average landing around the 2 yard line. 20 have gone for touchbacks and 22 have been returned an average of 29.1 yards. 

The Punter and Holder is Ryan Donahue. The Lions are tied for the most punts in the league. When your Offense has a 3rd down conversion rate of 28%, that's what happens. Donahue has punted 42 times, with an average of 43.1 (24th in the league), a net average of 35.9 (29th) and a long of 60 yards. He has 3 touchbacks, landed 12 Inside the 20, 8 have been Fair Caught and 17 have been returned an average of 14.3 yards.  

Don Muhlbach is the Lions deep-snapping specialist who has a crisp and consistent delivery. He spent 2004 training camp with the Baltimore Ravens before joining the Lions later that season and has been the team's long snapper ever since. Muhlbach has played in 107 career games and recorded 31 Special Teams Tackles.

Stefan Logan is the Lions primary Return man. He has returned 18 punts an average of 8.7 yards with a long of 20 and has made 16 Fair Catches. Logan also has returned 11 Kickoffs for a 26.5 yard average and a long of 32 yards. Nate Burleson is listed as the backup Returner.

 Match-ups

I would say that their are two specific matchups to keep an eye on.

Lions LT Jeff Backus vs. Broncos RDE Elvis Dumervil -- Backus has given up 6.5 Sacks this year, the most on the Detroit Offensive Line. Dumervil has been getting double-teamed and if the Lions don't give Backus some help. Elvis is going to have a multi-sack game. If Dumervil draws the double-team, someone else will be freed up. RT Gosder Cherilus will be trying to keep Von Miller from getting by him. Miller leads all NFL rookies and is tied for 6th among all NFL players with six sacks, and his five-game sack streak is the longest by a Broncos rookie since 1991 (LB Mike Croel, 6 games.).

Lions LDT Ndamukong Suh vs. Broncos RG Chris Kuper -- This might just be the most interesting pair to watch on Sunday. Suh has the versatility to move around in a variety of defensive packages and formations, but will go up mainly against Kuper. Ndamukong has 13 Sacks since the beginning of 2010, the most by a Defensive Tackle in the NFL. Meanwhile, Kuper has only surrendered 12 Sacks in 63 starts, including 1.5 this season.

OF NOTE

Broncos Owner & CEO Pat Bowlen was presented with the game ball last week after the team earned its 400th regular-season victory to become just the third original AFL charter franchise to reach that milestone.

This will be the 11th regular-season meeting between these two teams. The Broncos lead the series, 6-4 and Denver has won the last three at Mile High Stadium. The last time they met, the Lions prevailed 44-7 on November 4, 2007. 

The line in Vegas has the Lions favored by 3 points

THE BOTTOM LINE

This isn't going to be an easy matchup for Denver, even though the odds are close. The biggest question is how much playing time and how effective will Matt Stafford be on Sunday. Well, that and will there be a Miracle at Mile High this week?

Don't forget to break out the Orange jersey because it's 'Orange Sunday.'

Go Broncos!                    


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