By Kevin McGuire
The Philadelphia Eagles have won four straight games and are looking to become the top team in the NFC East. To keep pace with the Dallas Cowboys for the top spot in the division, the Eagles hope to pick up a third straight home win, this weekend against the Detroit Lions. A win against the Lions would set the Eagles up as well as possible for the final three games of the year.
Who exactly are these Detroit Lions who will visit Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday afternoon?
The Lions come to Philadelphia with an identical 7-5 record. That includes a 4-1 mark in NFC North play, putting Detroit in first place. While the Eagles are tied with Dallas for first place in their division, the Lions have a one-game lead on the Chicago Bears, which means a win on the road against the Eagles could be huge down the stretch. The Lions snapped a two-game, mini losing streak on Thanksgiving Day with a 40-10 blowout of the Green Bay Packers.
Lions on Offense
The Lions have one of the best offenses in the NFL, ranked second in overall defense heading in to the week. The Detroit offense is led by their passing game with Matthew Stafford under center and one of the best wide receivers in the game, Calvin Johnson. This will be the second straight week the Eagles defense will be put to the test against one of the game’s best receivers after facing Larry Fitzgerald on Sunday. Reggie Bush has fueled the Lions running game out of the backfield, with 854 rushing yards and RB Joique Bell also has six touchdowns.
Lions on Defense
The Detroit Lions can be attacked through the air when on defense. Detroit has the NFL’s 26th ranked pass defense, allowing 262.2 yards per game and they have allowed 21 passing touchdowns this season. To be fair, Detroit can expose the same holes on the Eagles defense, as the Eagles pass defense numbers are no better. One area Detroit has been pretty successful in is stuffing the running games of opposing offenses. Detroit ranks third in the NFL in rushing yards allowed with just 82.7 yards allowed per game. If the Eagles are hoping to get momentum with LeSean McCoy, they could have some problems early on.
Calvin Johnson, Wide Receiver: As mentioned above, Johnson is among the best wide receivers in the game. This week he will bring plenty of size for Philadelphia’s secondary to battle, and double team coverage may be what Detroit hopes to see. Johnson can beat double team coverage as well as draw attention to open up the field for someone else. Last year in Detroit’s win in Philadelphia, Johnson had 135 receiving yards.
Ndamukong Suh, Defensive Tackle: Still a fierce defensive threat, Ndamukong Suh has been having a relatively quiet season. Perhaps that is good though as Suh has largely kept out of the controversial spotlight while still demanding attention from opposing offensive lines. Suh had one sack in Detroit’s Thanksgiving Day victory over Green Bay.
This is going to be a tough match-up for the Eagles. Detroit is playing well and is in control of the NFC North, but Detroit is 3-3 on the road this season so they are vulnerable. This is also a bit of a revenge game for the Eagles, who blew a fourth quarter lead against the Lions at Lincoln Financial Field last season. With the Eagles defense playing better, starting strong and finishing with the same energy will be necessary to avoid letting another potential win slip away.
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Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.