Joique Bell vs. Hot Hands
The Detroit Lions running back situation has been poor all season long. I don’t need to explain the Reggie Bush disappointment, but Joique Bell receives tons of praise despite the Lions awful rushing attack. Some of it is warranted. Bell is a hard runner and decent receiver who can get yards after contact when he gets out in space. As a featured back, however, he doesn’t cut it. Mikel Leshoure was statistically superior in 2012 than Bell has been this season, to give you an indication. The past few weeks, Bell has been performing much closer to fan expectations, enough so that it warrants mentioning.
Joique Bell has never ran for 100 yards in one game. That’s kinda crazy when you think about it, as a guy who gets 15-20 carries a game. Bell has had some very good games in his three years as a Lion, so that’s a very surprising statistic to me. His value in the receiving game is a likely culprit, but with Bell running hot right now and the Bears running as cold as the arctic in winter, it’s time for the Lions power back to run through a statistical wall.
Corey Fuller vs. Hey, remember that guy?
Once upon a time, in the long recesses of history (Week 8), Corey Fuller was being worked into the team with increasing intensity. His flaws were still present, but the team was using Fuller in a variety of roles to increase his work load and experience. It seemed to be working, too, as Fuller was making some impressive catches, including his game winner against New Orleans.
And yet here we are, in Week 16, and Fuller has averaged less than one target a game since Week 8, where he was targeted 6 times and caught 3. You’d be forgiven for not noticing Fuller’s absence, what with Jeremy Ross lighting the league on fire, averaging one whole catch a game over the past 6 weeks (With none in the past two weeks). The Lions haven’t had an able 3rd receiver in forever. While I’m sure that Ross is not that guy, I’m not sold that Fuller doesn’t have more to offer just yet.
Cornelius Lucas vs. Willie Young
Lucas has been seeing an inordinate amount of time as a starter. Unlike LaAdrian Waddle, who came in after injuries ahead of him in 2013 and then cemented himself as the starter, Lucas has filled in at both tackle spots while the players ahead of him dealt with temporary injuries. With LaAdrian Waddle’s fifth injury of the season finally ending his time on the field, Lucas lands at right tackle. This pits him against former Detroit Lion Willie Young.
After 7 sacks in the first 6 weeks of play, Young has managed only 3 sacks in the past 10 weeks, landing him in double digits for the season. He’s a better pass rusher at this point in his career than his line mate Jared Allen, who Lucas bested the last time these two teams squared off. The undrafted rookie has been learning how to use his superior length to get the best of pass rushers and it’s been pretty slow going. He has improved in each contest, however, and while I wouldn’t have said so the last time these two teams played each other I think he gets the best of Willie Young.
Kyle Long vs. Ndamukong Suh
Few offensive players can claim to have gotten the best of Ndamukong Suh. Despite the Lions handily defeating the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving and putting constant pressure on Jay Cutler, Kyle Long actually won the battle with Suh for the most part. Suh was held without even a single tackle for the only time this season against Long. The second year guard has been battling injury and is questionable to play against the Lions.
Suh, on the other hand, has been having his best year as a pro. Where during the offseason we couldn’t get people to shut up about how the Lions should trade their All Pro defensive tackle, it’s now all about what they’ll have to do to keep him. One of the only irreplaceable parts on this top rated defense, Suh will need to show that he can follow up a bad performance when he has them. He had a poor day against Long the first time around, can he dominate him the second go?
Glover Quin vs. History
It seems like every week there is a Detroit Lions player that has a chance to do something that hasn’t been done in Detroit for decades. Quin presently leads the NFL in interceptions with 6. If he stays atop that list, he’ll be the first Lions player to lead the league in interceptions since Kurt Schultz in 2000. Quin also finished in the top ten for Pro Bowl voting, which may be an even bigger historic achievement.
The Detroit Lions used to be a hotbed of pro bowl defensive backs. Dick LeBeau, Dick Lane, Jack Christiansen, Yale Lary, and others kept the Lions with a constant stream of elite DBs. If Quin makes the Pro Bowl in 2014, which he truly deserves, he’ll be only the second DB in the past 25 years to make a Pro Bowl (The other is Dre’Bly). While the Pro Bowl is mostly a popularity contest, when was the last time the Lions had a defensive back that truly DESERVED to have his name in household conversation?
Jim Caldwell vs. Cruising
Jim Caldwell has done a very good job of not looking past his opponents this season. This was a concern of mine last week, but that was against a Vikings team that is well coached and on the rise. The Bears are in…a different situation. The Detroit Lions were bad for a long time. There was a lot of losing in their history and fans had to suffer through a lot. The Bears, on the other hand, have a long history of winning. So watching them implode and go down in flames is particularly entertaining for Lions fans.