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Eagles-Lions Game Preview

Will the Eagles rest well during their bye week or will the sting of back-to-back losses linger throughout the mini-getaway? That's what's on the line for the Eagles as they welcome in the Detroit Lions before recharging their batteries for the final 10 games of the season. Of course, the Lions will have plenty to say about the outcome themselves, as they're fresh and healthy after coming off their own bye week. It's been a disappointing start to the season for the Lions, who sit at 1-3 one year after making the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

In many ways, this is a must-win game for the Lions. Already in last place in the division, they trail the 2-3 Green Bay Packers by a half-game and the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears by three-and-a-half games. If they fall to 1-4, it could very well be too big of a hole for the Lions to dig out of. As if there as any more need for motivation, the Lions have internally rallied around a recent article that quoted an anonymous general manager as saying the team lacked motivation. So make no mistake, the Eagles will be getting a full effort from their opponent come Sunday afternoon, and it should make for a great afternoon of football in South Philadelphia.

For the Eagles, meanwhile, the job has become simple. Protect the football and let everything else take care of itself. The defense has made significant strides and looks to be among the best in the league. The offense has been moving the ball with relative ease, only to be snakebitten by what has become a serious turnover problem. On the bright side, the Lions rank tied for last in the league with only three takeaways on defense, all of them fumble recoveries. So once again it may come down the Eagles staying out of their own way, and if all goes well, it should make for a restful week off.

Last Time They Met:
September 10, 2010 – Eagles 35, Lions 32

It was the game that won Michael Vick the permanent starting quarterback job for the Eagles. In his first start at quarterback in four years, Vick showed that he was back to his dynamic self, throwing for 284 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a quarterback rating of 108.0. LeSean McCoy also ran for 120 yards and three touchdowns. Two days later, Andy Reid would make the announcement that sent shockwaves through the league – Vick was his quarterback.

When The Eagles Have The Ball:
When the Eagles line up at the line of scrimmage on Sunday afternoon, they'll see something very familiar on the other side of the ball: the so-called wide-nine. Though Eagles defensive line coach Jim Washburn will tell you that "wide-nine" is a misnomer, whatever you call that defensive line alignment was perfected in Tennessee when Washburn worked alongside Jim Schwartz, who was the Titans defensive coordinator at the time. Schwartz, like Washburn, took that defense to Detroit, where the Lions have made getting upfield their priority. So a full summer's worth of practices against the Eagles' defensive line should prepare the offense well for what to expect on Sunday afternoon.

Specifically, the Lions feature a feared tandem of defensive ends in Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril, who have accounted for 3.5 sacks in four games. In the middle Ndamukong Suh, who has 2.5 sacks to his own credit thus far in 2012, usually pairs with Corey Williams, though Williams is a question mark heading into Sunday because of a knee injury. The linebacking corps is stead, led by Stephen Tulloch with Justin Durant and DeAndre Levy on the outside. In general, the Lions defense has gotten a bad rep because the team ranks 26th in points allowed per game. But several of those touchdowns have come by the special teams or defensive touchdown variety. In fact, the Lions rank ninth in the league in yards allowed per game.

However, the book on the Lions is that they can be vulnerable in the secondary. Free safety Louis Delmas is a quality player, but Erik Coleman, the other safety, is a bit of a journeyman. On the outside, veteran Chris Houston and rookie third-round pick Bill Bentley are the starters. As a team, the Lions rank 18th in the league in yards allowed per pass play and they'll certainly be tested by the speedy tandem of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. According to Football Outsiders, where the Lions defense struggles most in pass coverage has been against the tight end, where they rank 27th in the league. That could mean a big day for Brent Celek, who has actually topped 1,000 receiving yards over his last 16 games.

Tale Of The Tape (2012 Stats)
Lions Eagles
Record 1-3 3-2
Points Scored Per Game 25.0 (T-11th in NFL) 16.0 (31)
Total Yards Per Game 412.3 (3) 383.4 (11)
Rushing Yards Per Game 90.2 (24) 132.2 (10)
Passing Yards Per Game 322.0 (2) 251.2 (13)
Points Allowed Per Game 28.5 (26) 19.8 (10)
Total Yards Allowed Per Game 315.8 (9) 307.2 (8)
Rushing Yards Allowed Per Game 102.8 (13) 100.4 (12)
Passing Yards Allowed Per Game 213.0 (10) 206.8 (9)
Turnover Ratio -3 (T-21) -7 (T-30)

Players to Watch

WR DeSean Jackson

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson has been the Eagles' most prolific receiver in the early portion of 2012 as he ranks among the league leaders with 24 catches for 391 yards. Even with a gaudy 16.3 average yards per catch, Jackson has also worked the short and intermediate routes while becoming a go-to receiver in the red zone. Against the Lions in 2010, Jackson had 135 yards and a touchdown.

DT Ndamukong Suh

The former No. 2 overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft, starting right defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh already has 16.5 sacks in his young career. An All-Pro selection in 2010, Suh has recorded at least a half a sack in four of his last five contests. The 6-4, 307-pound Suh will be a test for the interior of the Eagles' offensive line. The Lions, much like the Eagles, utilize the wide-nine technique and throw waves of defensive linemen at the opposing quarterback.

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