It’s been 20 years since the Detroit Lions captured a division title, and at 4-2 after six weeks the club has a chance to create some serious distance in the crowded NFC North.
Detroit and quarterback Matthew Stafford welcome the Cincinnati Bengals to Ford Field on Sunday afternoon in Week Seven, kicking off its first two-game home stand of the season.
The Bengals are in a similar position with a one-game lead in the AFC North, and are coming off two huge wins, including last week’s 27-24 overtime thriller on the road over Buffalo.
Stafford is currently fourth in the NFL with 1,772 passing yards, and tied for sixth with 12 passing touchdowns, but much of the credit belongs to 13-year center Dominic Raiola and left guard Rob Sims bolstering a Detroit offensive line that’s let up nine total sacks, second best in the NFL.
Cincinnati pass rushers Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins headline a defensive front with 19 sacks, but much of the pressure will fall on corners Terence Newman and Leon Hall and the Bengals 11th-ranked secondary. Listed with an abdomen injury, Newman was held out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday and is reportedly questionable for Sunday.
Lions No. 1 receiver Calvin Johnson is still working through his knee injury, and was a limited participant in practice this week. Johnson was on the field for 38 snaps in last week’s 31-17 win over Cleveland, making three receptions for 25 yards. He will likely be available on Sunday, but is still working towards a full receovery.
Tight end Joseph Fauria picked up Johnson’s slack, with three catches for 34 yards and three touchdowns against the Browns. The 6-foot-7 undrafted rookie out of UCLA has been a pleasant surprise for Detroit, amassing nine catches for 66 yards and a team-best five receiving touchdowns this season.
Other than Johnson’s laboring, the Lions could have some reservations over safety Louis Delmas and corner Rashean Mathis. Delmas was limited in practice on Thursday after missing Wednesday’s with a knee injury, and Mathis has been limited all week due to a groin ailment. Both have five passes defensed this season, with Delmas tied for second on the team with two picks. If either is slowed, it could but more pressure on linebackers DeAndre Levy and Stephen Tulloch up front.
A weakened Lions secondary is meeting Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton at the wrong time. Dalton put together 337 passing yards for three touchdowns last week, both season highs, and receiver A.J. Green is coming off his second 100-yard receiving game of the season.
Detroit will also have to worry about the Bengals two-headed rushing attack of BenJarvis Green-Ellis and rookie Giovani Bernard. Green-Ellis leads the team with 295 rushing yards and three touchdowns, and Bernard has coupled his 237 rushing yards with 20 catches for 201 yards and two scores out of the backfield.
Point Spread: Detroit favored by 3 points.
Over-Under: 47 points
Kickoff Time: 1 PM Eastern Time
Where To Watch Online: NFL Game Access
TV Channel: CBS
Prediction: Detroit 30, Cincinnati 24
Currently covering NBA, NFL, MLB, along with Real Madrid and Barcelona, focusing on trades, controversy, and injury updates. Joined IB Times in August 2012.