In what has the making of being the NFC Championship game, the Detroit Lions face off against the San Francisco 49ers in a pivotal week two match-up (8.20pm ET, Sunday).
For the Lions, who are coming off a close win against the lowly St. Louis Rams, they will need a win to keep themselves in the Superbowl conversation.
For the Niners on the other hand, whose debut against the Green Bay Packers could not have gone better, they are just looking for another quality win to prove they are for real.
Who will win the game, who will be the difference makers and will the Lions be able to best the seven point spread?
San Francisco’s Defense is No Joke
For anybody that might have considered the 49ers and their NFC best defense a fluke, think again. As the team proved in their week one game, this defense can in fact lead this team on a Superbowl run.
Coming off of a heartbreaking loss to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship game, the Niners rebounded with a spectacular showing against one of the league’s best offenses in the Packers and one of the league’s best QBs in Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers on several occasions threw for over 300 yards last season really embarrassing defenses in the process. This year however it was Rodgers’ turn to look a bit confused as the Niners defense stifled his passing attack and limited his options. He finished the day with 303 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Now for many quarterbacks those numbers are massive, but for Rodgers who threw just six interceptions all of last year, his and the Packers’ early struggles did come as a little bit of a surprise.
BetOnline Betting Lines (accepts all USA clients):
-120 Lions +7pts; +100 49ers -7pts
Bet365 (for UK & all non-USA residents):
5/6 Lions +7pts; 1/1 49ers -7pts
What wasn’t surprising however was how the 49ers defense really limited the Packers run game to just 45 yards. Against the Lions and their relatively inconsistent rushing game, the Niners should have no trouble once again limiting the run game. The only problem with this however is that stopping the run game won’t get the 49ers a win unless they can stop the touchdown combination of Stafford and WR Calvin Johnson.
Can Matthew Stafford & Calvin Johnson Take Advantage of the 49ers Secondary?
In fantasy leagues, Lions WR Calvin Johnson is almost always the first wide receiver off the board. His massive hands and incredible range rarely see him go a game without getting targeted a significant amount and the fact that he is inches taller than even the tallest defensive back means that he has a great shot to catch whatever is thrown at him. Add to that the fact that Johnson is and continues to be Stafford’s number one target when it comes to throwing TDs, then obviously it makes sense that he is a fantasy gem.
Well other than his fantasy impact, Johnson known as Megatron, really has such an important role to play on this Lions offense.
There is no doubt that much of Stafford’s success as QB has come as a result of having a guy like Johnson to throw to. He really does make a difference and most importantly, no matter what defense the Lions face, expect Johnson to get his receptions.
It is not likely that a defense, even one as good as the 49ers, will be able to completely stop Megatron. Considering that last season the Lions top WR caught passes totaling over 100 yards seven times, including for 113 yards against San Francisco, it doesn’t seem like there is an answer of how to keep this guy off of the stat sheets.
For this reason, the 49ers can only hope to limit Johnson’s production. If they can keep him out of the end zone like they did in their match-up last season, even if he gets targeted nine times for 113 yards, just like it did in 2011, it should be enough to get the Niners the victory.
Faced Against Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh, How Good Can QB Alex Smith Realistically Be?
A seven point spread is something that won’t be easy for the Niners to achieve if their QB, much like Detroit’s, isn’t on point. For the 49ers in fact, the importance of QB Alex Smith really can’t be understated as in their week one win, he really was spectacular.
Smith is considered one of the smartest in the game when it comes to play calling. He knows how to read defenses and over the years has really improved his ability to accurately throw the ball. Where he still struggles at times however is when the pass rush forces him to throw under pressure.
For this reason, the question has to be asked. With the powerhouse and dynamic duo of tackle Nick Fairley and pro-bowl tackle Ndamukong Suh rushing the QB, how accurate and how successful can Smith expect to be?
To figure this out, let’s take a look at some of the numbers that might have Smith supporters doubting his potential week two success.
- Ndamukong Suh has had 14 sacks in his two year NFL career. He added an additional sack in the Lions opener against the Rams, sacking Sam Bradford who last year was one of the most sacked QBs in the NFL.
- Nick Fairley recorded 15 tackles and one sack in ten games last season. Injuries kept him from a full rookie season but this year he is completely healthy. He too recorded a sack on Bradford in the opener.
In addition to Suh and Fairley, the Lions finish out their formidable front line with veteran Kyle Vanden Bosch who had a career season in 2011. He recorded eight sacks and forced an additional four fumbles.
While all of this may just sound like numbers it matters in this case especially, because these three guys rush the QB and rush the QB well. One of Smith’s biggest issues came when he was rushed by three or four guys. Last season he was unable to adjust to the pressure and it was in these situations that he performed at his poorest, something the Niners cannot afford if they hope to win this game.
Don’t forget about the incredible secondary the 49ers have as well. Together they combined to really limit some of Green Bay’s biggest weapons. Against Stafford, this secondary could have another big day as the Lions QB showed against a much weaker Rams defense, that he is vulnerable when attempting to throw the long ball.
The Lions defense is banged up a bit especially at the cornerback position. That said, it doesn’t bode well for them if their first line of defense in the line can’t pressure Smith. With back-up corners, if the Lions give Smith time in the pocket, it could be a long night at Candlestick Park.
Lions at 49ers Betting Pick & Prediction
Although the 49ers should get the win, it seems like the seven point spread they have to overcome on the sportsbooks’ betting lines is too big an ask.
The Lions, even with defensive issues, still present one of the NFL’s best QB/WR combos in Johnson and Stafford.
With much of the personnel the same as it was in 2011, the 49ers only managed a six point victory. It covered the spread back then, but it wouldn’t have taken care of this margin.
The only way I can see the Lions failing by more than seven points is if Megatron gets less than 50 yards and for anyone that knows the Lions, they would know this is basically an impossibility.