Lions vs. Ravens: Six Hidden Matchups

December 16th, 2013

Will Jonte Green keep his head in his first extended action of 2013? And thank goodness that SIlva guy is gone!

Kent Lee Platte, DLD Writer

I set up several under the radar matchups last week against the Eagles and while I missed the biggest one (Everyone vs. the Weather), I totally nailed Gunther Cunningham’s adjustments, the Secondary embarrassing themselves, and Matthew Stafford’s mistakes.  Hooray for me!

Unfortunately, those are things I had rather hoped the team would come out on the winning side on, and instead we ended up witnessing a team not only fail at pretty much everything for 30 minutes straight, but do so in pretty epic fashion.  With a Bears and Packers victory, the path to the Playoffs for the Lions isn’t as clear and they come into Monday Night Football without any kind of cushion and three must wins ahead of them. 

There are plenty of obvious match ups against the Ravens, with a dangerous deep passing game going against a secondary known for giving up big plays; a struggling Ravens run game against a team that gave up almost as many TDs as they’ve had all season and more yards than they’ve had in the previous six weeks combined in one game; and a team that seems to want to give every game they can away facing the former Super Bowl Champions trying to cling to a playoff spot themselves.  With as many obvious ones out there, what could there possibly be beneath the surface?

Red Zone Defenses vs. Two Undrafted Dudes

If I had told you prior to the season that coming into week 15 two Undrafted Rookies would lead all rookies in receiving Touchdowns, would you have believed me?  Yet, that’s exactly what we’re looking at in the Lions’ Joseph Fauria and the Ravens’ Marlon Brown.  Keenan Allen may have jumped them with 2 TDs on Thursday, but Big Joe Fauria and Brown have a chance to get back on top.  Fauria and Brown face equal challenges as both the Lions and the Ravens have done a very good job defending the red zone this season.  It’ll be interesting to see how each team defends these two guys who couldn’t even land a spot on draft boards back in April.  It’s a hidden match up now, but you can bet you’ll be hearing about either or both on Monday night.

The Returners vs. the Sams

Jacoby Jones had an electrifying return on a kick designed to keep the ball away from him against the Vikings this past weekend.  You know what would be more impressive than that?  A guy doing it twice.  In the snow.  Suck it, Jacoby Jones!  Still, both Sam Koch and Sam Martin will be facing tough games where they will likely be trying to either boot it out of the end zone or put it somewhere it is difficult to bring out.  Koch is an established punter and we’re in a dome this week so it shouldn’t be much of a concern for him, but Martin has had some consistency issues with his directional punting the past few weeks that need to be ironed out with the quickness.

Gunther Cunningham (Yet Again) vs. Jim Caldwell

This isn’t as bad of a match up as it was against Kelly, but Jim Caldwell is no slouch.  Caldwell has found ways to keep his offense chugging even with a rushing offense that is, frankly, pathetic.  There has to be an award for dealing with that kind of ineptitude and still managing to get your passing offense to hover just below average in the NFL.  I mean, it’s not great, but it’s not as terrible as it should be.  What it tells me is that Caldwell can adapt, and that’s bad news for the Lions since Gunther Cunningham has shown no such ability.  It has the makings of yet another heart wrenching game, since Lions fans are now accustomed to the old adage “No lead is safe”, and should be practically terrified if there isn’t a three score plus cushion coming out of the half.  And even if they manage that, I’d be concerned.

Jim Schwartz vs. The Coin Toss

It’d be comical if I wasn’t a Lions fan just how obvious it was that the Lions should not take the ball to start the game.  Schwartz has often replied that he takes the ball to start the first half because “We have Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, derpy derp”.  I may have paraphrased.

The point is, despite the fact that yes, we have talented offensive players, the Lions still fail week in and week out to put points up on their first possession.  Adding to that, the team should do whatever they can to keep the ball out of the opposing offense’s hands in the second half (see above).  It’s somewhat silly that we’re getting down to really looking at the coin toss as something that could change the game, but it’s more reflective of the mindset that it projects.  Rather than taking what works, the team keeps banging their head against the wall and hoping that this time, this time the wall will crumble.  I applaud the Lions aggressiveness this season, even at times where it hasn’t succeeded, but sometimes you have to play the numbers.  Speaking of Jim Schwartz…

Jim Schwartz vs. Jim Schwartz

A trend this season has been for Jim Schwartz to leave sitting on the bench players at positions of need due to injuries.  Specifically, leaving his extra CBs inactive and leaving Mikel Leshoure as a healthy scratch most games.  Now, I’m not lobbying for Leshoure or Greenwood to play a single snap, that’s not the point, the issue is having them in street clothes when you have injuries at those two positions.

The Lions are coming into this week’s game short at least one corner and with another likely hampered by injury (And normally terrible when he’s hampered by injury).  Do we really want to see Don Carey playing in the Nickel again?  Maybe against a team that could run the ball, but not against one all about the pass, nuh-uh.  Reggie Bush has been fighting injuries all season, and missed last week when he tweaked his calf.  Does anybody really want to see Joique Bell as a feature back again, with Riddick his ONLY spell?  In Joique Bell’s two starts this season he’s rushed 43 times for 132 yards (3.1 YPC), 2 TDs, and 2 fumbles.  That was against two middle of the road rushing defenses, and he is now going to be going against the Ravens whose rush defense is ranked 7th in yardage and has only allowed 3 TDs on the season.

Going back to Greenwood, he hasn’t played a single down for the Lions this season, but if Houston (assuming he even plays), Bentley, or Mathis don’t make it through the game (all have missed time), do you really want to put one of your Safeties in that position?  Again?

Or will Schwartz commit to rolling with Green as a starter, playing against the likes of Torrey Smith and Marlon Brown?  Meanwhile, the Lions had six wide receivers active the past two weeks, including coming into a snow game.  Roster management, not Schwartz’s strong suit.

Jonte Green vs. Torrey Smith

Funny thing, the Lions have a very specific usage for all of their cornerbacks.  Chris Houston matches up better against the smaller faster receivers, but struggles against the big and strong ones.  Reshean Mathis does well against the big and strong ones, but can’t handle speed or shiftiness.  Bill Bentley has the Nickel locked down against anybody.

In theory, it should run smoothly, especially with Darius Slay coming into his own against a very dangerous pair of receivers in Jordy Nelson and James Jones.  Sadly, the Lions lost Slay for several weeks after he tore his meniscus, while Chris Houston is on injury #3 or 4 this season and both are listed as doubtful for MNF.  So what does that leave us?

Well, Mathis is going to line up against Jacoby Jones or Marlon Brown (Again, can’t handle speed) which leaves Jonte “The Immortal” Green to pick up Torrey Smith on the outside.  No?  Jonte Green?  Don’t remember?  He was the guy that started several games last season, looked lost at first and then started to improve as he went along, but was completely dog housed all season often watching games as a healthy scratch before injuries dictated his need on Special Teams?  No?  Had that interception last year against the Jags?  Still no?  *sigh* He was the guy who was made fun of in camp because of his short shorts.

Okay, now you remember.  Anyway, THAT guy is going to be starting against Torrey Smith, who has been targeted just a little bit less than Calvin Johnson has this season.  Smith is a high volume receiver in Baltimore’s offense, and they LOVE to get him running on deep routes in the hopes of a big play or a big penalty.  Meanwhile, Jonte Green has 3 tackles on the season.  Of course, there’s always the chance Chris Greenwood is covering someone, but at that point are we confident at all in victory?  There are tough match ups all over the secondary, but none as important as this one.

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4 Responses to “Lions vs. Ravens: Six Hidden Matchups”

  1. The Strategy Expert says:

    Well the oddsmakers like us by having us 5.5 favorites, it was up to 6.5 the other day. Also Sam Martin is the last guy on the team that I’m worried about right now. He may not be perfect yet, but he’s doing a really good job and I have been pleasantly surprised by him so far. Nice strong leg and that can be worked with. I still don’t think it was a good use of a draft pick considering I thought we could have got him with a lower pick or an even better value way to solve the Punting problem.

    Heck if it was me I would have signed Zoltan Mesko and Dan Carpenter, and not had to use ANY draft pick to get 2 decent kickers for the time being. I like the free guys more than the draft guys and I don’t see why we needed to use a 5th to draft a Punter, and I am skeptical that anybody else was on the brink of drafting him anyhow. Even if they lost him, so what, there’s plenty of ways and other drafts to find kickers, and this was a good year to get some decent and free vets.

    And the vet we go with, old man Akers, and not Carpenter who is 27/30 this year. Akers is 15/20.

  2. The Strategy Expert says:

    Just another game where Stafford is the clear cut #1 player that is responsible for the loss. I’m glad that Gruden called him out on some of his mistakes, we don’t get that very often. He still let Matthew slide on a few miscues, but he did a fairly decent job of pointing out a lot of the mistakes and flaws. What he said at the end about how he’d really like to see him be able to do it was pretty spot on. It was exactly how I feel every game. Well you pay him to be a great QB and it sure would be nice to see him be that great QB, but that’s where it stops, as an idea, and not something you can have real confidence in or take seriously.

    SOME day the Lions will figure out that Stafford is awful at what he does. And then maybe we can get a real QB who knows how to play this game, OR WE COULD COACH THIS ONE AND GIVE HIM A CHANCE TO DEVELOP!!!! Stafford does NOTHING well except getting rich. And our team is extremely dumb for continuing to shower him with big money for no good reason. Shame on us.

  3. The Strategy Expert says:

    Oh and by the way Julian Stanford is a Detroit Lion in case none of you knew. It’s such a big deal that they didn’t even bother to list him as a Transaction on the team website, because we don’t care enough to count him with ALL of the other transactions. Just another thing that this team can’t figure out. They can’t even report the information about what players we have on the team, let alone teach those guys how to win. Although this is beyond the 100th mistake we have made on our website in the years I have been watching. Our team just does not care about football that much. If they took this stuff HALF as seriously as I take it, then that would be an improvement. But they don’t. I just care too damn much, and they are sloppy and out of touch and have no idea what’s going on in virtually any element of the football operation.

  4. The Strategy Expert says:

    Draft update:

    Lions currently hold the 15th pick. It is only possible for 6 other teams to fall behind us if we lose both games, and 5 of those 6 teams have very favorable schedules to pick up a win or two, so there’s still an opportunity to creep up a little higher.

    Also in that last game the Lions again mismanaged the clock. In that final BAL drive they had no risk of running out of time, unless they went for it on 4th down and converted, but if they did that then they really don’t need much time since they would be guaranteed for a routine FG anyhow. But WE had a chance to save time, and in that situation when they let the clock run down before calling a TO, it was ONLY in OUR interest to conserve time and we FAILED to call a TO because we don’t have a Head Coach who knows how to manage the clock and TOs. We make mistakes like this ALL THE TIME, and have no idea we are doing it. We are so stupid and ignorant.

    If it’s any consolation, the Ravens screwed up their clock management in BOTH halves. Not that it ended up mattering, but it could have.

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