With the Eagles and Lions scheduled to face off on Sunday, I reached out to the SB Nation Lions site: Pride of Detroit. Sean Yuille kindly took the time to answer my questions.
Let's take a look at the answers.
1) Name a Lions player who the Eagles need to watch out for on offense.
Reggie Bush is the most high-profile running back for the Lions, but don't sleep on former Eagle Joique Bell. He has been outstanding in the backfield for the Lions, and he serves as an excellent complement to Bush. Especially if the weather isn't great on Sunday in Philly, Bell could get a lot of work, so keep an eye on him, Eagles fans.
2) Name a Lions player who the Eagles need to watch out for on defense.
Linebacker DeAndre Levy leads the NFL in interceptions with 6 so far this season. He has really had a breakout season, and he has been a playmaker on defense for the Lions. He's very good at blowing up screens and end-arounds, and if anyone is going to end Nick Foles' streak of not throwing interceptions, I'd bet on Levy.
3) Detroit employs the wide nine alignment that Eagles fans are all too familiar with. The Lions also hired former Eagles DL coach Jim Washburn to help coach this. How do Lions fans feel about Detroit's defensive line and the defense as a whole? How do they match up against Chip Kelly's high octane offense?
The defensive line has been much, much better this year, and I think the addition of Washburn has had a lot to do with that. The Lions' issues with defending the run have disappeared, and the Wide 9 was always a source of blame for that in the past. Ndamukong Suh has been excellent, and Nick Fairley has shown flashes of star potential as well. And young guys like Ziggy Ansah and Devin Taylor (along with Willie Young) have really performed well at defensive end. Everything is clicking right now for the D-line.
The defense as a whole is another story. They were excellent against Green Bay, but playing Matt Flynn had a lot to do with their performance. Sunday will be a good test because LeSean McCoy and the Philly run game is so good. Also, the secondary will obviously be tested against Foles and the Eagles' passing attack. I feel like the Lions are athletic enough to contain Philly to an extent, but they've given up a lot of big plays due to breakdowns in coverage this season. I'd honestly be surprised if there aren't any big plays on Sunday.
4) The Lions own the league's 7th worst turnover differential (-8). Out of the 9 teams with the worst turnover differentials, they are the only team with a winning record. What is the problem here? Are these turnovers a result of bad luck or players who aren't careful with the ball? Do the Lions lack playmakers who can force turnovers?
Early in the year, the Lions were actually doing a great job of taking care of the ball and creating turnovers. That hasn't been the case in the last five games, though. On offense, the biggest problem is simply being too careless with the ball. Reggie Bush, for example, has lost a few fumbles this season simply because he wasn't properly protecting the ball. An increase in interceptions as of late has also been concerning. Part of this is simply bad luck, but this seems like an issue that can be fixed going forward.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Lions just haven't been able to force turnovers on a consistent basis. This was a problem last season, but early in the year the Lions were doing a good job of forcing interceptions and recovering fumbles, mostly at home. As of late, the turnovers just haven't been happening at the same rate. Only Levy seems to be able to pick off passes, and fumbles seem to be ending up back in the hands of the offense more often than not. The Lions definitely have some playmakers on defense, but right now the ball just isn't bouncing their way.
5) Let's hear a score prediction. Who wins this game and why?
As much as I'd like to say that the Lions will go to Philly and leave with a win to move another step closer to the NFC North title, I just don't see it. I am expecting Foles to have a big day against this secondary, and McCoy and this running attack seem capable of giving the Lions defense its first real issues on the ground in a long time. And on the other side of the ball, the offense's inability to protect the football is worrying. I do think this will be a close game, but I expect the Eagles to win by a score of 24-21 or something like that.