Week 1: Detroit Lions Vs. St. Louis Rams
- QuarterbackWhy did the Detroit Lions make the playoffs last season? Because Matthew Stafford stayed healthy last year and he was able to use his arm strength and quick release to find Detroit’s big-play receivers. Stafford suffered a hand injury during the preseason but he should be ready for the opener.Sam Bradford struggled with his health a year ago and could not match what he did as a rookie. He is healthy at the start of the season and he can depend on his mobility to buy time and throw accurately to his receivers.
- OffenseThere is no stopping wide receiver Calvin Johnson when he is healthy and all systems are go for the start of the season. Nate Burleson is a fine complementary receiver and Tony Scheffler can get open and catch the ball. The running game is loaded with question marks.New head coach Jeff Fisher is going to try to steady the ship in St. Louis and that means a heavy dose for veteran running back Steven Jackson. The receivers seem limited as rookie Brian Quick has size and strength but needs experience. Danny Amendola is a hard working hustler who is not a big-play threat.
- DefenseThe Lions know they have talented players on defense, but discipline was an issue all season. Cliff Avril is a solid pass rusher while defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh can destroy the interior running game and crush the pocket. Middle linebacker Stephen Tullock had 111 tackles last year.Fisher wanted to bring in Gregg Williams as his defensive coordinator but Roger Goodell put the former Saints defensive coordinator on the sidelines because of his role in Bountygate. Fisher and veteran coach Dave McGinnis will look to Chris Long for a pass rush and dependable middle linebacker James Laurinaitis to make tackles.
- Special TeamsJason Hanson has seemingly been kicking since the Reagan administration. While Hanson may have lost some range, he will not miss shorter kicks. Titus Young and Stefan Logan give the Lions a pair of solid return men.The Rams were done in by special teams last year and Fisher is going with a new placekicker in Greg Zuelein to try to steady the field goal kicking. The return game is ordinary.
Jim Schwartz has some problems controlling his emotions on Game Day, but he knows his team is moving in the right direction and he’s not going to put up with any slippage in the 2012 season opener. Look for an easy win by the Lions, who appear to have an overwhelming edge in talent.