Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/12/14

Not many experts are giving the Detroit Lions much of a chance to win in San Francisco this Sunday night, myself included.

After beating the Packers at Lambeau Field last week, the 49ers look like a Super Bowl contender. Meanwhile, the Lions barely squeaked past the lowly Rams at home.

San Francisco is the favorite by about a touchdown in this game, which I don’t think is enough.  The 49ers have truly established themselves as a top NFC team, while Detroit’s season opener provided more questions than answers.

Detroit’s secondary will miss its top three players on Sunday night, putting even more pressure on an already questionable pass defense.  CB Bill Bentley has been ruled out with a concussion, CB Chris Houston is doubtful with a bum ankle, and safety Louis Delmas is also doubtful with the same knee injury that kept him out of training camp.

Doubtful means out in a vast majority of situations, so I don’t expect to see these three suit up in San Fran.  Without them, Alex Smith and the 49ers will look to exploit a severely depleted Lions defense.

The only way Detroit can slow down the niners’ offense is by getting to Smith early and often.  Detroit’s front four is faced with the nearly impossible task of trying to get to

Suh and Avril MUST play big in this game to keep Detroit in it

Smith as fast as possible, all while attempting to stop running back Frank Gore from busting loose.  And it’s looking like Detroit may have to do that without starting DT Corey Williams, who is listed as questionable with a knee injury and hasn’t practiced since Wednesday.

Add a slew of injuries to the fact that the 49ers are just plain better than the Lions, and the result is a lopsided matchup.

If I thought the Lions could score with the 49ers, I wouldn’t be so concerned, but after seeing San Francisco hold Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in check last week, I don’t see that happening.  The Lions and Packers run similar, pass heavy offenses, and it’s clear that the 49ers are more than capable of stopping it.

There are two ways the Lions can make this game competitive.

Number one: Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson go off.

Megatron has a knack for showing up for big games.  He had over 200 yards in the Lions playoff loss to New Orleans last year, and he may have another one of these games up his sleeve.  Last year against San Fran, Calvin had seven catches for 113 yards.

Number two: the front four is able to apply heavy pressure on Alex Smith on a very frequent basis.

If Ndamukong Suh and Cliff Avril arrive in the Bay Area ready to go, Detroit’s defense may not be dead after all.  It will take an every-down effort, but if Detroit can rush Smith all night, they have a fighting chance of getting sacks and turnovers.

The problem is that Smith doesn’t turn it over.  He threw a paltry five interceptions last year, and has a reputation as one of the NFL’s best at protecting the football.

Head Coach Jim Schwartz faces the tall task of finding a way to beat a tough team on the road.  It will require him to pull all the tricks out of the hat, and then some.

Hey, if the game goes downhill quickly, at least we still get to see the highest profile handshake in NFL history.

 

Follow me on twitter @ScottPeceny

 

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