Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  By DAVE DYE  |  Last updated 9/6/13
By Monday morning, about half of the fan bases in the NFL will be dreaming of the playoffs and about half will be ready to fire their coach. That's why it's become known as "Overreaction Monday," the day after most teams open the 16-game regular season. Which extreme will the Detroit Lions be on? Nobody needs a new start more than the Lions, who ended 2012 on an eight-game losing streak to finish 4-12. Those bad memories will start to be pushed aside if they can open with a victory Sunday at Ford Field against division rival Minnesota. Here are five storylines to follow: 1. HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE? Newcomer Reggie Bush has been waiting for this day. "All I've been hearing about is just how loud it gets in there," he said. The perception is that the Ford Field crowd can be as deafening for opponents as just about anywhere in the NFL. So why haven't the Lions played better there? In each of the last two seasons, they've had the same record at home as they've had on the road (5-3 in 2011 and 2-6 last year). Five of those season-ending eight losses last year came at Ford Field. "We can't just go out there and give a C-plus effort and expect the crowd to carry us," receiver Nate Burleson said. "We've got to go out there with an A effort, ball out, and get the crowd involved. It's our job to get the crowd going. It's their job to fill in the seats. We have to do the rest." Is this the year the Lions start to take advantage of the home field? We'll know more by Sunday. To make the playoffs, realistically, they're probably going to have to win at least six, probably seven, of their eight home games. 2. FIRST-TEAM OFFENSE Expect a much-different look to the offense than the first-teamers showed during the preseason. First and foremost, receiver Calvin Johnson will be back after missing the final three exhibition games because of a bruised knee. The biggest questions will be whether the revamped offensive line (rookie Larry Warford is expected to start at right guard with Jason Fox at right tackle) can open up some holes in the running game for Bush and whether quarterback Matthew Stafford regains his passing accuracy after a mediocre preseason personally. "Nobody's happier than me to get to the regular season," Stafford said. "We had guys playing roles that, frankly, they're probably not going to play. I'm excited to have all the guys back in their spots. It helps having 81 (Johnson) back." Burleson compared Johnson's return to "having LeBron (James) on the court." "You can call it struggles or you can call it just getting through the preseason," Burleson said of the starting offense's lack of production. "There's so many things we've done in the offseason and in training camp that we haven't shown. We've been trying to stay hush as long as we can. Now it's time for us to unveil ourselves and open this thing up completely, which is exciting. We'll be playing at a different speed." 3. RILEY REIFF VS. JARED ALLEN Riley Reiff, the Lions' first-round draft pick last year, will have quite an opening challenge in his first game as the replacement for retired Jeff Backus at left tackle. It's Reiff's job to keep Vikings defensive end Jared Allen from attacking Stafford's blind side. "Jared Allen is a guy that makes a bunch of sacks, turns the ball over a lot, can force you into holding penalties and stuff," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "That's a very important matchup in this game." Allen, who has 117 sacks in nine seasons, insists he won't overlook the youngster. "Young guys are trying to make a name in this league," Allen said. "How else do you make a name besides beating the established players? I expect him to come out full piss and vinegar and grit and ready to rock n roll. "In this league, you never want to take anybody for granted or approach anything thinking that because hes young, youre going to have an easy day. You will be humbled. Reiff, who started one game at left tackle as a rookie when Backus was injured, thinks he's ready. "It's an important job.," he said of protecting the blind side. "I look forward to it." 4. STOPPING AP Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson rushed for 273 of his 2,097 yards last season in two victories over the Lions. Lions safety Louis Delmas joked that he'd "pay a million dollars" not to have to tackle the 6-foot-1, 217-pound Peterson one-on-one in the open field. He tried that as a rookie. "Have you ever seen a horse coming full speed at you and you're the only one who's got to tackle him?" Delmas said. "I almost gave myself a concussion. I have yet to have a bigger hit than that. Sixty yards away, helmet to helmet. We hit and both went our separate ways after that." Despite the presence of Peterson, the perception of the Vikings is that they overachieved greatly last year and are likely to take a step back. Their season win total in Las Vegas is just 6 12. 5. STARTING FAST The Lions lost a lot of different ways last year, but one of the common themes, particularly early in the season, was slow starts. They trailed after a quarter in five of their first six games and at halftime in all six. "We can't be a team that wants to rally whether it's late in the game or late in the season," Burleson said. "We've got to start fast." The Lions averaged 3.8 points in the first quarter, 6.6 in the second quarter and 3.6 in the third quarter before breaking out to score 9.1 in the fourth quarter while often playing from behind. Minnesota, meanwhile, was just the opposite while winning 10 games and going to the playoffs. The Vikings often scored on their opening drives and outscored opponents 101-60 in the first quarter. The Lions need to start showing up on time. PICK: LIONS -5 12. LIONS SEASON WIN PREDICTION: OVER 8 12.
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