The Detroit Lions will kick off their 83rd season in the National Football League Sunday afternoon by taking on the Minnesota Vikings. With that opening boot, finally, the games will begin to count for a team that's been desperate to wash the bitter taste of 2012's miserable 4-12 season out of their mouths.
Minnesota, conversely, has been trending upward after a furious finish powered by the legs of Adrian Peterson sent them into the playoffs last year. Besides that, the Vikings went 2-0 against the Lions last season, winning at home and at Ford Field, where special teams miscues doomed Detroit. It's a new season and a new chance for both teams, meaning there's plenty of storylines prior to week one. Here's the five most important ones to watch Sunday afternoon.
1. Matthew Stafford's Accuracy. The Lions' signal caller is entering a pivotal 2013 season for plenty of reasons, most of which revolve around the amount of money he'll be paid. Detroit did helped him out this offseason by adding a major weapon in Reggie Bush. Despite that, Stafford's preseason wasn't great, as accuracy issues plagued him at times much like last year. Now, the pressure is on Stafford to be good in the pocket and make proper throws. He'll also have to avoid the costly interceptions which plagued him in the season opener last season, and will get a good test with Minnesota's defense in week one.
2. Minnesota's New Down Field Presence. Though the Vikings have long had a solid ground game with Peterson, now, the team added deep threat and Lions tormentor Greg Jennings along with super rookie Cordarrelle Patterson. Despite this, Minnesota still struggled to score through the air in the preseason, never going over 250 yards passing once. To neutralize the Lions' pass rush, the Vikings will have to turn things on deep with Jennings and Patterson and make some big plays through the air down the field. Peterson will get his, but the receivers must step up and make big plays.
3. Ziggy Ansah. Given his lingering concussion issue, questions about Ansah's availability arose early in the week. Later in the week though, Ansah said he'd be ready for Sunday, meaning Detroit should have their top pick on the field. Will the concussion issues be completely resolved by game time, giving Ansah the ability to play a full game? How will the raw Ansah look in his first pro football test? The fans have been hungering to see a full game out of Ansah for some time, and he could have a big impact on slowing the passing game with a rush on Christian Ponder and halting the running game with Peterson.
4. Can Detroit's Remade Offensive Line Rise To The Challenge? On Friday, the Lions learned they'd be dodging a 311-pound bullet with the news that Kevin Williams wouldn't play due to a knee injury. That's one potential stumbling block for Larry Warford, Riley Reiff and company avoided, given Shariff Floyd is a rookie and should be on equal footing. The line will still have to deal with Jared Allen and Brian Robison, so it will be important for Detroit to measure up in the trenches and keep Stafford upright. If the line struggles, it will be a long day for the entire offense as a whole.
5. What Secondary Wide Receivers Will Step Up? In terms of importance, it's not necessarily the fifth most important issue to watch on Sunday. Everyone knows what they'll get out of Calvin Johnson, but what will happen with Ryan Broyles, Nate Burleson, Patrick Edwards, Kris Durham and company? The Lions didn't make any additional waiver claims at wide receiver this week, giving all the previously mentioned targets their chance. Will any of them be able to step up and play well? Detroit needs major production behind Johnson and Reggie Bush
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