Three weeks into the NFL preseason, things have been hot and cold for the Detroit Lions. Last Thursday, hot was again the word as the Lions torched the New England Patriots behind a big offensive and defensive effort.
This week, will the on again, off again theme continue? Detroit plays on the road against their usual preseason finale opponent, the Buffalo Bills. The Lions were humbled by the Cleveland Browns away from home two weeks ago, so even though starters won't play much, they'll need a solid effort to prove they aren't simply road kill in 2013. More than that, there's some important story lines which need answers this week. Here's five of them.
1. Can Somebody, Anybody Step Up At Wide Receiver? It's the last chance for anyone new to make something happen at the wide out spot, as the Lions search for impact players other than the big three of Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles. Michael Spurlock, Patrick Edwards and Matt Willis have each done decently at different times, but none has stood out as the consistent difference maker Detroit has been hoping for. Consequently, the Lions have been rumored to be looking around on the market for other options in the past week. Can one of Detroit's roster players step up, or will the team be forced to make an addition over the weekend?
2. What's Up With Ziggy Ansah? The Lions' rookie hasn't been seen anywhere this week, including at Detroit's annual Kickoff Luncheon on Wednesday, where young players are usually the guests of honor. Rumors of concussion problems have persisted all week since Ansah was hit hard on Saturday and forced to leave practice. Jim Schwartz, meanwhile, has failed to confirm or deny anything. Will Ansah suit up for the game? If not, will he even be on the sideline? Those facts will go a long way towards explaining the severity of what happened to the Lions' top draft pick, and showing if he'll be ready for week one.
3. Penalty Problems. Detroit had issues (again) in their dominating win over New England stemming from discipline. Willie Young made the most galling of three personal fouls, taunting Tom Brady in the end zone. Can Detroit knock off the silly play after the whistle? The Lions need to find focus before the season, and ditch the silly penalties which stunt drives, aid the opposition and drag the entire team down. There's no place for such nonsense on the Lions, who have struggled with this issue for years. It's time for the team to finally grow up.
4. The Pressure's On David Akers. Havard "Kickalicious" Rugland was cut this week, meaning Akers is officially Detroit's new kicker. Rugland had quite a following in Detroit and many people will be upset following his dismissal, so the pressure will be on Akers to win his fans over with good kicking more than anything. Last week, Akers missed a short field goal against New England, so he'll have to make good from long and short distance this week.
5. Final Roster Battles. The starters won't play much if at all for fear of injury, so the spotlight will be on players such as LaAdrian Waddle, Tahir Whitehead, Theo Riddick, Steven Miller and company. What rookies or borderline players will play their way onto the roster? The three listed have been impressive and are in roster battles. With final cuts coming soon, many other unknown players should be in a fighting mood, which makes for good watching.
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