By Chris Morgan
Now that the Detroit Lions have finished off their regular season by losing to the Green Bay Packers on the road once again, they have to prepare for their first round playoff matchup. They head down to Dallas to take on the Cowboys, who are even more of a surprising playoff team than the Lions are. Many thought they’d be a poor team, but instead they finished 12-4 and won the NFC East. They also did that despite the fact Tony Romo missed some time due to injury, leaving Brandon Weeden under center. How did the Cowboys get here, and how do the Detroit Lions matchup up with them?
The reason the Cowboys were expected to be so bad is because their defense was expected to be awful. They didn’t have a lot of talent, and then they lost quite a bit of it due to injury. However, defensive coordinator, and former Lions head coach, Rod Marinelli kept them from being awful. Yes, instead they were just mediocre, but mediocrity was enough for them to get by thanks to their great offense and their solid special teams, including their excellent kicker Dan Bailey.
This game will be a battle of strengths when the Cowboys offense and the Lions defense match up. Dallas is led by Romo, running back DeMarco Murray who led the league in rushing, and Dez Bryant, who is one of the best receivers in the league, and on Calvin Johnson’s level. They also have a great offensive line. Meanwhile, the Lions have had a great year on defense, but they could be majorly shorthanded. In addition to not having Nick Fairley due to injury, Ndamukong Suh has been suspended due to his stomping on Aaron Rodgers’ leg. He is appealing, but if he can’t play, suddenly the Lions’ stout defensive line is missing arguably its two best players. DeAndre Levy can only do so much.
As such, the Lions may have to get more done on offense than they have a lot of the season. Matthew Stafford has been up and down, but he has real potential for having a great game. Calvin Johnson is healthy, and Golden Tate had a great year too. Stafford struggled against the Packers, but that was also outdoors in the wintery weather of Green Bay. This game is indoors. Getting something from the running game, and having Larry Warford healthy, are both also important as well.
The Dallas Cowboys were only 4-4 at home this season, but the Lions were only 4-4 on the road. Detroit only beat one playoff team during the regular season, and that was at home against the Packers. Their road wins are much less impressive. It seems unlikely that the Lions can overcome the absence of Suh, and this will likely be a high scoring game. That is in Dallas’ favor. Neither team has had much recent playoff success, but the Lions definitely have more to overcome than the Cowboys do. Upsets happen all the time, and the Lions have the skill players to make it happen, but Dallas and their offense is going to give the Lions all they can handle.
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Chris Morgan has been a diehard Detroit Lions fan through the good (Barry Sanders) and the bad (Matt Millen) and that love has led him to take jobs writing about sports, including as a fantasy sports “expert.” His work can be found on Examiner.com. .