It’s Sunday night, and the Lions have a chance to earn early bragging rights in the NFC.
After more upsets in Week 2, there are only five undefeated teams in the conference, and that number will go down to four after the Lions play the 49ers, starting at 8:20 on WDIV-TV (Channel 4).
The Lions have sounded confident all week as they’ve prepared to face arguably the best team in the NFC. The 49ers have a balanced offense that doesn’t turn the ball over and a tough defense on all three levels.
The Lions will have to play Sunday with a battered secondary as safety Louis Delmas (knee) and cornerback Chris Houston (ankle) have officially been listed as inactive. Rookie cornerback Bill Bentley (concussion) was also ruled out earlier in the week.
That means the Lions will put their trust in Jacob Lacey and Drayton Florence as the two cornerbacks. Both played well last week against the Rams, but Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham will be a much tougher test than the St. Louis receivers.
The 49ers enter tonight’s game off a big win at Green Bay in Week 1 and certainly have a target on their back. Sunday’s game also provides the Lions a chance for revenge after San Francisco gave them their first loss in 2011, but most players downplayed that as a factor this week.
One player who could be a factor is rookie wide receiver Ryan Broyles, who is active this week. The Lions have weapons ahead of him, but he gives them an option to have four wide receivers on the field against a team that does give up big pass plays.
If the Lions want to win tonight, it starts with stopping running back Frank Gore, who’s averaged 125.3 rushing yards in four career games against the Lions. Stopping the run should help the Lions put more pressure on quarterback Alex Smith, but that won’t necessarily spell doom for the 49ers. San Francisco hasn’t given up a turnover in 26 consecutive quarters.
And on offense, quarterback Matthew Stafford will need to avoid turnovers. Clearly, this is the case every week, but the 49ers will make him pay for any and all mistakes. San Francisco will try to make the Lions one-dimensional by stopping the run, so it will be up to Stafford to find open targets.
I called for a 27-20 victory by the 49ers. Let’s see what happens.