Editor’s Note: We’re very lucky here at BLD to be part of Fansided, a wide-reaching network with blogs for every NFL team (as well as a huge selection of NBA, NHL, MLB, and other blogs as well). We’d be dumb not to take advantage of these resources, so welcome to our new feature: Behind Enemy Lines. Each week, we’ll be checking in with the staff from the Fansided blog representing the Bills’ opponent for that the week.
The Bills take on the Lions in Thursday’s preseason finale, so this week we’re talking with Zac Snyder, editor of SideLion Report, Fansided’s Lions blog. SideLion Report is one of Fansided’s best blogs, and anyone with an interest in the Lions should definitely check it out.
A big thank you to Zac for taking the time to answer some questions for us. I’ve always viewed the Lions and Bills as sort of kindred NFL spirits – both hard-luck teams from cold northern industrial cities with blue-collar fanbases desperate to have a winner to cheer on. For once it seems like Detroit has some hope for its team, so I know I’m really pulling for the Lions to do good things this season.
BLD: As someone who hates the Patriots with a fierce, burning passion, that beatdown the Lions gave New England Saturday sure brought a smile to my face. Yeah, it was only preseason, but was that game a sign the Lions are ready to be contenders in 2011?
SLR: On an individual game basis, yes. For the entire season? That remains to be seen. The Lions are clearly improved to the point where they can compete with the league’s best on the right Sunday but they will need to prove that they can do that for multi-week stretches through the season. Bills fans will remember what happened when the Lions came to town last season. The Bills actually won. The Lions will truly be ready to be contenders when they get rid of that “ability” to play poorly.
BLD: We’re entering year 3 of the Matthew Stafford era in Detroit. What’s your take on Stafford? Is he ready to become an elite QB? Is he ever going to be able to stay healthy?
SLRL: He’s been elite through the preseason and I expect he will be getting a lot of attention as one of the next up and coming quarterbacks this season. He hasn’t been able to stay healthy but that doesn’t mean he can’t stay healthy. The doctors and organization have expressed no concern that his shoulder will give him lingering troubles and it certainly looks like they are right from what we’ve seen so far.
BLD: Obviously there’s a lot of optimism surrounding the Lions these days. But are there any weaknesses on this team that could sink this promising season?
SLR: Their running game has struggled for some time now and I worry about their ability to run out the clock when they have a late lead. The other concern is the secondary but I don’t anticipate a lot of problems there thanks to the Lions’ ability to rush the passer.
BLD: Any key positional battles to watch out for in Thursday’s game?
SLR: Look at the way the various running backs perform. Jahvid Best is the clear starter but he won’t carry the whole load in the regular season; that is why they drafted Mike Leshoure. Leshoure’s season ending injury threw the playing time picture upside down and Jerome Harrison could find himself with a few carries if he proves to be effective. Aaron Brown is another back that will fight for playing time (and a roster spot).
BLD: Any other key story lines to watch for in Detroit early this season?
SLR: Watch for the Lions’ record after four games. They play three of their first four games on the road then come home to play on Monday Night Football. Entering that game at just 2-2 will have Ford Field rocking and could set the Lions up for a push towards the playoffs. Getting off to a good start isn’t crucial but it could be a harbinger of things to come.