Detroit was a popular choice among the national analysts prior to the season as a "Super Bowl-caliber team" and now, at 1-3, the Lions are taking their fair share of pot shots from those same analysts and anonymous personnel types making the headlines this week.
The Lions are being called "overrated" and "underachieving" and all kinds of nasty things in the wake of several off-the-field issues in the offseason and the slow start in 2012. And there is no position more criticized than the defensive line, one that has the talent to be as good as any in the league.
Tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairly and ends Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril -- as well as the injured Corey Williams inside -- make for a dangerous group up front for the Lions, prompting Vanden Bosch to set the bar high for the season at hand.
"If we're not the most dominant defensive line in the league, I feel like we're not doing our job," he said prior to the start of 2012. "I feel like we have the people, I feel like we have the weapons, so if we're not doing it, we're underachieving."
Detroit has 9 quarterback sacks and has had trouble against the run in four games this season. And the critics are letting the Lions know all about it.
The Eagles don't look at Detroit in any way other than having great respect. The Eagles are trying to put all the pieces together along their offensive line and know that they can't afford any breakdowns on Sunday.
"They're very good up front. Explosive, talented and they like to get up the field like we do," said right tackle Todd Herremans. "They've got a lot of speed and they use it well. It's a tough challenge for every offensive line."
The Eagles appear to have made some strides up front offensively. They held up pretty well for much of the game against the blitzing Steelers defense, and now face a group that has tremendous speed off the edges with Vanden Bosch in the "Wide 9"technique and Avril a force from Michael Vick's blind side. Suh is a monster inside with his combination of size, strength and athletic ability. He wrecks the interior of offensive lines, and is surely motivated beyond belief given the criticism he's taken this week from an anonymous general manager who told Pro Football Weekly that Suh "belongs on the all-hype team."
The Eagles expect the Lions to be at their best on Sunday. At 1-3, Detroit badly needs a victory. The Lions know they need to create some havoc up front defensively.
"I'm sure they're going to play hard and look to force turnovers and get after us," said guard Danny Watkins. "I see a disruptive group watching them play. They've got a lot of great players up front, so we have to play well together to win that battle."
- Something has to give on special teams on Sunday. Detroit has allowed touchdown returns in each of the last two games and the Eagles haven't had a big return all season. Is this the game in which Damaris Johnson and Brandon Boykin bust one?
- Former Eagles running back Ricky Watters returns as the team's Honorary Alumni Captain on Sunday and will participate in the pre-game coin toss and will also address the crowd and be honored at halftime from the Miller Lite Flite Deck. "I'm so excited to get back home and say hello to so many friends I have,' said Waters, who now lives in Florida with his family and spends a lot of time mentoring kids. "It's been a long time. I loved being an Eagle. It was great interacting with the fans. I learned so much, grew up so much. I tell the kids today to listen to what people tell you and to be humble and to learn from your mistakes. I made enough of them to know. In Philly, the fans let you know that, too. I loved it and I love them. I am going to enjoy this so much."
- The official scoring for a Rashard Mendenhall touchdown was changed upon review, so instead of a 13-yard touchdown run, he is credited with catching a 13-yard touchdown from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. That means Mendenhall's rushing numbers from the game are now 13 carries for 68 yards and the Steelers ran for 123 yards on 30 carries. Roethlisberger officially completed 22 of 38 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown. Big deal, right? Doesn't change the loss ...
- Interested to see how much the Eagles can get tight ends Brent Celek and Clay Harbor involved in the game on Sunday. Detroit has given up some plays in the short- and intermediate-passing game. The tight ends need to be constant parts of the passing game for the Eagles.
- Mychal Kendricks has a huge assignment on Sunday, covering Detroit tight end Brandon Pettigrew. The Eagles nearly drafted Pettigrew in 2009. Pettigrew had 71 catches in 2010 and 83 in 2011, and he has 23 in four games this season, which projects to 92 catches for the season. Pettigrew is 6 feet 5, 265 pounds and he can run. It's a tough matchup for any linebacker.
- How will the Eagles cover wide receiver Calvin Johnson? They surely won't leave him alone too much, and no team does that. Most defenses has used a Cover 2 scheme against Detroit and have kept a safety over the top against him. I don't know what the plans are, especially when Johnson lines up in the slot.