Do or die should be the headline for this one. The Detroit Lions and Oakland Raiders meet today with plenty on the line. Both are right in the thick of things for a playoff berth, but a loss here would severely derail any hopes of that coming to fruition. Last week the Raiders got absolutely manhandled by the Packers in Green Bay, falling 46-16. The Lions needed a missed facemask call with seconds dwindling to hold on against the Vikings at home, 34-28. The Raiders are in need of some home cooking after back-to-back cross country trips to Miami and Green Bay.
The Lions have gone from having no in previous seasons, to a little bit too much this year. Defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh, will be returning this week after stomping on a Packers player in the Thanksgiving game. His two weeks away from football weren’t exactly quiet, though, as Suh got into a car accident and walked out in the middle of a radio interview. Regardless of his reckless antics, the Lions are going to be happy to have him back manning the middle of the defensive line. The Lions strength, defensive line, falls right into the Raiders strength, running the football. Needless to say the Raiders running game has been hurting since Darren McFadden went down with an injury. But, Michael Bush is completely capable of putting up big numbers for the Raiders. With Suh back, it makes it much more difficult, though. It appeared rookie Nick Fairley was going to make Lions fans forget about the loss of Suh against the Saints two weeks ago. However, Fairley had to leave the contest with an injury after he was causing havoc against the Saints offensive front. One would think the Lions would be ranked higher in stopping the run (27th), but they are still susceptible of getting gashed on the ground even with a superior defensive line. Once past initial defenders, running backs have been able to spring free against their linebacker core. With that said, Suh will help the Lions out immensely in this game.
Thanks to a host of injuries in the secondary, the Lions can be exploited through the air. Starting safety’s Amari Spievey and Louis Delmas, and cornerback Eric Wright are all questionable for today. Reports have indicated that Wright will be ready to go, though. The Lions will get cornerback Chris Houston back from injury which will certainly help, too.
The Lions problem on defense is the Raiders problem on offense. Three starting wide receivers for the Raiders will all presumably miss this game: Louis Murphy, Denarius Moore, and Jacoby Ford. Against the Packers last week, the passing game simply didn’t have enough weapons to get the job done. It is no surprise that quarterback Carson Palmer targeted Darrius Heyward-Bey a lot last week. However, outside of him, Palmer does not have much to work with right now. The Packers statistically this season possess one of the worst pass defenses, but it was still tough sledding for the Raiders. Ever since the receiving core has gotten banged up, the Raiders offense has sputtered. There are opportunities to make big plays against the Lions secondary, but Palmer can’t do much if he has no weapons. The Lions on the other hand have an array of weapons to work with on offense. Calvin Johnson started the first four weeks of the season out with 8 TDs, but has only scored 4 since. That is due to defenses zeroing in on Johnson, sometimes demanding triple coverage. All that is doing is freeing up room for other targets for quarterback Matthew Stafford. Titus Young, Brandon Pettigrew, and Nate Burleson have all played big roles in the last few weeks. The Raiders are allowing a putrid 27.2 points a game (27th); they could have trouble containing the Lions high powered offense.
Lions vs. Raiders Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Detroit Lions -1
@ Oakland Raiders +1
Over 48 (-110)
Under 48 (-110)
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Lions vs. Raiders Pick:
This could be an ugly game with respects to penalties. Both clubs are rated in the top-5 in penalties against. So, this may come down to who minimizes their mistakes, and avoids the game changing calls. If Ndamukong Suh wants to continue to play with disregard for his team, the Lions will lose again. However, after sitting out for two weeks, I expect him to come back focused and with a vengeance. Even when he was playing, he wasn’t playing to his full potential in my opinion. Suh should finish the year strong and give the Lions a legitimate shot at making the playoffs.
It is quite clear that the Raiders miss having a full repertoire of receiving options on the field for Carson Palmer. Even with a banged up secondary for the Lions, the Raiders should struggle for yardage through the air. The Lions offense will be able to score at will if they take advantage of the Raiders horrendous run defense early (29th). Running back Kevin Smith will be healthy in this one, a huge boost to the Lions ground attack. Smith was lighting in a bottle for the Lions after being claimed mid-season, but unfortunately had to sit out recent games with an injury. Take the Lions, in a game where they should pull away in the 4th quarter.