On Sunday, the Green Bay Packers look to get back on track against the division-rival Detroit Lions. Christopher Lemieux of Pride of Detroit was kind enough to answer some of our questions about the Lions and provide insight into their strengths and weaknesses.
APC: Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter is now two games into his first full season as the Lions' offensive coordinator. What has he changed about the offense since taking over, and what are its strengths and weaknesses?
On the most basic levels, it's the same as it ever was: not much of a ground game to speak of and a lot of aerial assault. Which is why I'm a little baffled and perplexed to see the run game numbers in the first couple of games; even more so with Abdullah absent for a majority of Game 2. I don't think that trend continues if the #1 option is Theo Riddick, but I've been wrong before.
The pass game is similar to what used to be, but with a trend away from the deep balls of Calvin Johnson to short and intermediate routes and quick passes by Matthew Stafford to a wide cast of receiving options from wideouts, slot, tight end and tailback. If it gets rolling it becomes rather efficient at picking up first downs, but put the Lions in a third-and-long hole and they're not liable to climb out.
APC: The Lions scored 39 points in Week 1 and 15 points this past Sunday. Does the difference between the Colts and Titans defenses account for the difference, or did other factors contribute to the scoring variance?
It's two weeks in so I have no clue if the Colts or the Titans are better defenses or whatever, or if the Lions truly are a team deserving of the third ranking in offensive DVOA after two weeks (definitively, most certainly not). What I do know is that the game against the Titans featured a number of dropped balls, three touchdowns erased by penalties and a bevy of injuries, one of which was to running back Ameer Abdullah. It could be the Lions beat up on a depleted Colts secondary on the first Sunday, or it could be that nothing went wrong that day in comparison to the blunders and errors committed against the Titans. Dropped balls and penalties can be corrected; injuries cannot.
APC: The Lions have now entered Year 2 of the post Ndamukong Suh era. How has the team adjusted to life without the All-Pro defensive tackle, and what areas, if any, do they still miss him?
The defensive line is still the strongest element of the Lions defense. I'm sure the experience has differed from swapping Suh for Haloti Ngata but it's not been something I witness on Sundays and go "damn, Suh could have stopped that, absolutely." The fall of the Lions defense after 2014 has a lot more to do with degradation in the backfield and kiddie pool-level depth at linebacker as soon as you get past DeAndre Levy.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss Suh. He was phenomenal, he got in the backfield and made a mess. But it's just not my top regret when I look at this defense.
APC: Which under-the-radar player for Detroit could have the greatest impact on the game?
I'm afraid to change my answer to anything other than Kerry Hyder because it's quite possible he'll have that set of a handful of downs where he swaps in at defensive tackle and puts in a couple of sacks. I think that's the right answer, if for no other reason than I'm struggling to think of anyone else right now.
APC: Finally, it's prediction time. Which team do you see winning on Sunday and why?
I'm not one to do predictions, save in the form of very silly, unreasonable scores directed to my editor. What I will look forward to is a slow start from Aaron Rodgers that will generate a flood of panicked Madisonites screeching death at the @Packers account when they send out a tweet containing an image of the halftime score. The day after what will ultimately turn into a Lions loss, I will look forward to the new quotes from @JSComments. I spend too much time on Twitter.
We'd like to thank Christopher and Pride of Detroit for answering our questions. Be sure to check out our Q&A session over there, as well as their fantastic coverage of all things Lions. As always, keep your internet machines tuned to Acme Packing Company this Sunday for our comprehensive game-day coverage of Lions vs. Packers.