In 2011, the Detroit Lions met the New England Patriots under similar circumstance. It was the third preseason game of the year, and Detroit was looking for momentum heading into an important season. The Patriots were quickly overwhelmed by the Lions, setting up Detroit with extra energy as the year began.
This time around two seasons later, the Lions need another big performance against football's premiere franchise in order to properly rev their engine prior to the regular season. With a quality home performance in the game where starters see most of the action, the Lions could take a major step forward Thursday night. Here's some things to keep in mind as the game goes along.
1. Louis Delmas. The safety is itching to play in a game, and the Lions still want to be careful with their vital players. As written this week, perhaps none is more vital than Delmas, who if healthy and playing well could mean the difference between the Lions making the playoffs or not. Will Detroit let Delmas test the knee this week in an important game, or will they continue to shelve him for the regular season? If Delmas plays, how will he look in game speed?
2. Detroit's "Attack First" Mentality. The big reason the Lions beat the Patriots the last time around was their fired up attitude. From the opening kickoff on, Detroit was determined to win and show well against a fantastic team. Throughout the first two games, we haven't seen the Lions look fully engaged on defense or offense, especially last week against Cleveland. Winning is as much about attitude than anything else, and the Lions must find some this week prior to the 2013 season.
3. Wide Receiver Battles. Aside from Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles, next to nothing is settled at wide receiver. Mike Thomas was cut this week, lending a bit of clarity in the race for fourth and fifth wide out. Last week, Patrick Edwards didn't play well, but he'll be in the mix. Will any of Matt Willis, Michael Spurlock, Corey Fuller or Terrence Austin stand out enough to be a difference maker at the fifth spot? Not one did anything of note against Cleveland. The Lions need to start to find definite clarity behind the big three, two of whom are coming off serious injury.
4. This Week's Veteran Newcomers, Specifically Rashean Mathis. After the dismal performance against Cleveland, the Lions reshuffled things, adding linebacker Rocky McIntosh, defensive tackle Justin Bannan and veteran cornerback Rashean Mathis. While these additions look good on paper, will any pay immediate dividends on the field? Particularly, how will Mathis play if given time at cornerback? The veteran has quietly been one of the better corners in the league, but never played anywhere else other than Jacksonville, and is coming off injury with elevated age. Could Mathis come in and take over the second corner position prior to the season opener if given the chance?
5. Offensive Line Play. During the first preseason game against New York, the line held up decently enough for the Lions to win. Against Cleveland, however, things went bad early and the Lions were overwhelmed. Will Riley Reiff, Larry Warford and company be able to hold up against a tough challenge in the trenches? The group badly needs a better effort against New England to help the offense run and pass.
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