Six Hidden Matchups for the Lions vs. Bengals

October 20th, 2013

Photo Courtesy ESPN

Kent Lee Platte, DLD Writer

Most of the Lions matched up favorably against their first AFC North foe of the season, despite the Browns’ defense coming on strong this season.  The Lions are taking on the AFC North again, only it’s Bengals flavored this time.  There’s a lot of chemistry between these two teams.  The Head Coaches are good friends,  you may have seen some articles outlining how the two affected each others’ careers.  Also closer than most opponents, AJ Green (Who was called “The Next Calvin Johnson” during his draft) spends time in the offseason training with the best receiver in the league, Calvin Johnson.  It’s no sunshine and rainbows on the football field, and these friendships should be put on the back burner come game time.  The Bengals, much like the Browns, bring a strong defense, but it’s their offense that is a bit more potent and presents the bigger threat.  Now, I don’t make predictions, that’s not my bag.  So why is it I have a feeling this is going to turn into a stomping one way or the other?  Well, there are some pretty severe over-matches in this game on both sides of the ball, and I have enough confidence in the Lions Coaching Staff after last week to believe they might actually take advantage of some of them.  To the same, there are some glaring problems with the Lions that I am not sure they will mask well enough to keep the Bengals from breaking the game open.

Reggie Bush vs. Vontaze Burfict

Burfict received a lot of press last season during the draft process when he tanked hard and fast from a 1st round fringe prospect to Undrafted status.  The latter is where he would ultimately fall, but he would grab headlines again when he would come on the year strong and end with 127 tackles.  This is easily the biggest mismatch in this game, as much of Burfict’s numbers come from teams simply targeting him in both the rushing and passing game.  He’s a target, and a player like Bush (and Joique Bell if he’s healthy enough) have the kind of moves to keep Burfict in his dust.  I’ve seen many articles touting Burfict as a strength of the Bengals defense, and a player to monitor (as in worry about).  I see it a little different.  Burfict is an opportunist, more like a janitor of that defense cleaning up for other people’s work.  If the Lions can get enough push to get their RBs to the second level, I expect to see this LB grabbing air.

The Slot and Inline vs. The Entire Bengals Interior

Hey, look at that.  Two matches in and I’ve already mentioned Burfict twice.  Burfict is a nightmare (for the Bengals) in coverage.  He lacks the speed and instincts to be much of a factor in pass defense.  Normally, this can be masked if there is another OLB that can cover (The Lions have that in Levy).  So who’s on the other side?  Why, former 2nd round pick and Lions fans’ hindsight favorite Rey Maualuga.  Is Maualuga good enough in coverage to make up for Burfict’s shortcomings?  Why no, dear reader, he is not.  In fact, it is easily his weakest area.  Mike Zimmer, the Bengals Defensive Coordinator, isn’t stupid enough to clear his Safeties to help cover the middle with Calvin Johnson looming, so I expect them to simply allow the middle and hope for the best.  This is a perfect storm for players like Brandon Pettigrew, Joseph Fauria, Ryan Broyles, Kevin Ogletree, and underneath routes to the RBs.  I could see 90% of the Lions passing yards coming from between the hash marks.

Ziggy Ansah vs. Andrew Whitworth

The Lions first round pick has already faced off against Joe Thomas and Matt Kalil.  This is the matchup I’ve been waiting all year for, however, as I feel Whitworth is one of the most underrated Offensive Tackles in the NFL today.  Sure, Bengals fans know he’s good, but he’s not one of the bigger names like I feel he should be.  Ansah has a limited repertoire of moves and counter-moves as a pass rusher, while Whitworth is technically sound.  Getting by as an athlete playing a lot of college football at a pro level, this is big boy time and Ansah will need to step up his game considerably to have any hope of beating Whitworth today.

Marvin Jones vs. Bill Bentley

If you take the penalties out of his game, Bill Bentley has been the Lions best Cornerback this season.  Will I get some flak for saying that, probably, but with Houston’s struggles, Mathis’ considerable inconsistency and health, and Slay taking longer to develop than expected, it falls on Bentley in the slot to make the best impression and I feel he’s more than delivered.  The Bengals are going to be using Phenom AJ Green on one side and a rising Sanu on the other, leaving the under the radar Jones in the slot.  Jones is sitting at a slim 11 receptions this season, but a scary 183 yards and 2 TDs.  Keeping the ball out of his hands will be paramount, and this is a good test since I feel Bentley matches up well to a player like Marvin Jones.   If our 2012 3rd round pick can keep it clean on the penalty sheet, this is a matchup that can swing the game one way or the other, and is one to watch.

Bengals Tight Ends vs. Stephen Tulloch

The Lions were able to effectively neutralize Jordan Cameron against the Browns with some creative usage of DeAndre Levy.  The Bengals?  They have two talented pass catchers in the middle.  It wasn’t so long ago that Tulloch was actually one of the better cover backers in the league, but it seems so far away right now.  The Lions should be able to take one of these guys out the same way they did Cameron, but that leaves the other one.  It’s possible they use the Safeties to assist here, but I have a hard time seeing that with AJ Green and Marvin Jones on the field (Safeties should be back a lot).  That leaves Tulloch, who has always battled the ‘undersized’ stigma.  He might just be better off playing hardnosed and taking some hits, but is it really better to accept a penalty or two instead of swinging coverage?  Both Eifert and Gresham can catch and run, so it’s possible the Bengals take the same tact as the Lions and just throw a barrage over the middle.

Ndamukong Suh vs. Merton Hanks

It isn’t often an NFL staffer comes out and admits to specifically targeting one player, so we’re in a unique position with this one.  Looking at highlights from this past week’s games, I saw no less than TWO DOZEN similar hits to the one Suh put on Weeden, and none of them were fined.  The lack of a fine for Quentin Groves, who made the same hit (and was flagged) in the very same game, put the nail in the coffin of anyone trying to pretend it isn’t intentional from the league.  Now, I could sit here and cry about how unfair that is, but that wouldn’t be very productive.  Suh is likely to take a fine for any hit he makes this week; the question is just whether he changes his game or finally loses it and snaps someone in half.  This is a tricky match up.  If Suh becomes noticeably apprehensive against the Bengals, it could change the entire attitude of the Lions defense, who rely on his aggression to fuel the team.  If Suh loses it, it could send the team into a tailspin, potentially setting records for penalties (Which would be an achievement for a  Lions team, considering their reputation).  It’s interesting how Suh’s situation plays out, but I feel no matter which way it goes it ends poorly for Lions fans.

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6 Responses to “Six Hidden Matchups for the Lions vs. Bengals”

  1. The Strategy Expert says:

    Another dreadful performance by the Lions in almost every facet of the game, and yet again a particularly embarrassing day for Stafford and his lousy decision making and passing skill.

  2. Rob Meiks says:

    That sounds like they typical overreaction, they weren’t that bad. Stafford didn’t play flawlessly but he was far from lousy. He put the ball in some nice windows later on in the game after missing high in the first half.

    The offence generally had a solid game, in pass protection especially considering the number of OT’s we lost to injury. The defence was shocking though, the corners were abysmal and the D line didn’t help with the complete absence of pressure.

    • The Strategy Expert says:

      Hmm well any way you slice it I think it was abundantly clear that once again Stafford was the most valuable contributor to that loss. He blows away almost everybody else with that terrible performance and still exorbitant pay rate beyond what he delivers in return. This team is indeed a mess across a large number of elements, but Stafford’s play was the #1 signature detractor from that win over any other single player.

      • Rob Meiks says:

        Chris Houston disagrees with you! He got torched so bad we benched him for Slay, and he is supposed to be our #1 corner.

        24 points and over 300 passing is a good result on the Bengals D only Green Bay have scored more on them this season and even Aaron Rogers didn’t match Staffords passing. Our D is the only thing that can really be blamed, we can’t demand perfection from the offence while the defence is some way below mediocrity.

        • The Strategy Expert says:

          He was bad, but also he doesn’t make anywhere remotely close to as much money as Stafford does, so his performance computes differently. He’s also in a position where we have other CBs and need other CBs whereas Stafford comprises 100% of our QB output group, so that factors into consideration as well. Houston doesn’t come close to being more responsible for this loss than Stafford. We didn’t need those points if we had a great QB too, so even with the mistake we still should have bailed out of that from the totality of all the things we did wrong all day including the big stuff from Stafford.

          I agree with you the Defense is very disappointing, but to me that’s really a function of Gunther and Schwartz and Mayhew. Those are the guys that are responsible for the Defense, and I don’t see hardly any specific players that are needed for blame. Nobody is bad enough to bring down the whole ship, this is a problem that stems from the top and has to do with ROSTER design choices first of all, then COACHING screwups from personnel to philosophy, SALARY CAP issues in play as well, and then of course general oversight and quality control to make the most out of the flawed situation is not even there to keep us in line with playing basically respectable football on an overall basis.

          It’s a terrible mess here in Detroit and such a pitiful waste of our talent and potential. There is no honor in the way we play the game, nor even respectable effort from the leaders and managers of the team. And we still don’t know how to manage a challenge flag. Those points possibly could have been saved. But we don’t know to even pay attention or follow the basic rules of the game or the procedure of the game. We do not know how to think smart!!!

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