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Five Things Detroit Lions’ Fans Should Watch as the Cincinnati Bengals Face the San Diego Chargers

January 5th, 2014 at 10:21 AM
By Max DeMara

Chances are good that the Detroit Lions will end up with someone who's coaching in Sunday's second AFC Wild Card match up as their next head coach. Given that the Lions want to interview San Diego's Ken Whisenhunt and Cincinnati's Mike Zimmer and could also decide to talk to Bengals' offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, the odds might be in favor of Detroit's next coach competing in the early game.

'San Diego Chargers Quarterbacks Phillip Rivers and Billy Volek' photo (c) 2011, Marianne O'Leary - license:

As a result, fans should be watching Sunday's game from the Queen City very closely. What type of coaching might be on display by Whisenhunt, Zimmer and Gruden? It will be a fascinating chess match to watch play out between the three, meaning Detroit fans should be watching on Sunday. Here's five things to watch with a Lions' slant during an important playoff game.

1. Phillip Rivers' decision making and game management. Some of the decisions Rivers makes have been vastly improved under Whisenhunt and and as a result, he throws less interceptions and manages a game quite well. On the road against Cincinnati's defensive line, he will have to do that again. Will Rivers have more pocket presence than Matthew Stafford? Perhaps fans could be taking a glimpse into the future by watching Rivers if Whisenhunt becomes coach in Detroit. Considering his 2013 rebound, that could be good news.

2. The offensive imagination of the Chargers and Bengals. What kind of offenses will both teams run in an important game? Will there be a trick play or two? How much of the plays will be devoted to the run? What type of secondary targets will both quarterbacks look towards if their major targets are covered? These issues are big for Lions fans, considering Scott Linehan's offense became quite predictable and was easily destructible late in the 2013 season.

3. Andy Dalton's decision making and game management. Like Rivers, Dalton has taken leaps forward recently in his system, and has developed fast after being picked only two years after Matthew Stafford. How will Dalton handle the biggest game of his career? Will he be able to make all the throws, have good footwork and make quality decisions? Gruden's work with him has been impressive, and considering Dalton's age, finding a mentor for Stafford in the Bengals' offensive coordinator could be a good idea.

4. Cincinnati's defensive toughness. Zimmer has one of the best coached defenses in the league. How will they play against Whisenhunt's offense? What kind of game plan will Zimmer put forward for the biggest game of the year? Will he look like a head coach in waiting with his preparedness? Moreover, do the Lions want their defense to look like the Bengals' defense? If Zimmer wins the day with a fantastic game plan and later presents a quality idea for turning around Detroit's offense, he could quickly become a top candidate in Detroit.

5. Discipline. Given the Lions struggles with discipline prevented them from winning plenty of bigger games the last three seasons, will the Chargers and Bengals look like buttoned down contenders on Sunday afternoon? If there's a situation where discipline costs either team during the game, how will the head coach or coordinators deal with it? The Lions could use a swifter approach to handling penalties, so hopefully, Whisenhunt, Zimmer and Gruden show a no-nonsense approach with such issues if they arise.

Max DeMara is the managing editor of Lions 101. You can find him on this site's Twitter @detroitlions101

Tags: Andy Dalton, Detroit, Detroit Lions, Football, Jay Gruden, Ken Whisenhunt, Mike Zimmer, NFL, Phillip Rivers

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