The Detroit Lions open the 2015 regular season with a game against the San Diego Chargers in San Diego. This game will not be an easy one for the Lions as San Diego is always a solid all-around team. While they will be without star tight end Antonio Gates due to suspension, they also feature rookie running back Melvin Gordon who ran for well over 2000 yards last season in college. Can Detroit’s defensive line slow the rookie down without the departed Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, and CJ Mosely?
- Detroit Lions Offensive Line vs. San Diego Chargers Defensive Line – The Chargers feature a young defensive line with no one being 30 years or older. They are an average front, expected to clog the middle while their linebackers wreck havoc. Detroit’s offensive line is much improved. While they let go Dominic Raiola and Rob Sims, they brought in first round pick Laken Tomlinson and former Denver center Manny Ramirez. With Larry Warford out for this week, expect Tomlinson and Ramirez to play a considerable amount in an attempt to minimize Warford’s loss as much as possible. Edge None
- Detroit Lions Tight Ends vs. San Diego Chargers Linebackers – Eric Ebron was miserable last season. While most expect improvement from him, it is going to take a lot to be productive this season. The Lions cut Joe Fauria, leaving them with Brandon Pettigrew and new tight end Tim Wright to back up Ebron. San Diego, playing a 3-4, will likely rush their backers quite a bit. Still, expect to see Ebron in company shut down for the most part this week. Edge Chargers
- Detroit Lions Wide Receivers vs. San Diego Chargers Secondary – San Diego has a very good secondary. In fact, their secondary is good enough that last season I would have predicted a low scoring effort out of the Detroit offense. Jason Verrett and Brandon Flowers are very good corners, and Eric Weddle is one of the best safeties in the game. Detroit though has an advantage in that both Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate are healthy for week 1. Johnson, at 6-5, is considerably taller than Verrett and Flowers 5-10 and 5-9 respectively. Expect Stafford to take advantage of this height difference. Edge Lions
- Detroit Lions Running Backs vs. San Diego Chargers Run Defense – This is the big unknown for me. Detroit’s Joique Bell has not played yet this season due to recovering from injury. Ameer Abdullah looked good in pre-season and expects to factor in, but how good is he? San Diego’s division has had success recently running the ball, so unless we see a drastically different team, this figures to be an even match up. Edge None
- Detroit Lions Quarterbacks vs. San Diego Chargers Pass Defense – Matthew Stafford is one of the better quarterbacks in the league and one of the most talented. If he made strides in Joe Lombardi’s offense in the offseason, this could be an easy edge for Detroit. Calvin and company figure to take advantage of the smaller Charger corners, but will it be enough with a weaker tight end group? The Chargers secondary, while shorter, is still very good. Edge Lions
- Detroit Lions Defensive Line vs. San Diego Chargers Offensive Line – I really do not know how to call this one. San Diego’s offensive line does not jump out at me, but Detroit’s defensive line has looked pedestrian all pre-season. While Teryl Austin does manage to get the best out of his unit, he just does not have the same caliber of players up front that he used to have. Haloti Ngata will help, but will it be enough, especially without Caraun Reid, who made great strides and pushed for a starting position in the pre-season. Edge Chargers
- Detroit Lions Linebackers vs. San Diego Chargers Tight Ends – Another tough match up. The Chargers would have normally gotten the edge, but the are without Gates. Naturally, without Gates I would say Detroit gets the match up but star linebacker DeAndre Levy is doubtful. While Stephen Tulloch and Tahir Whitehead should be able to shut down San Diego’s run game just fine without Levy, pass protection is not their strong suit, especially without Levy roaming around in coverage. Edge None
- Detroit Lions Secondary vs. San Diego Chargers Wide Receivers – San Diego is very good at wide receiver. Detroit’s secondary is exactly the same as last year. Their big addition in Alex Carter is on 6 week IR. If Rashean Mathis plays well, Detroit should do well in this area. The problem is that I did not see enough from Mathis this pre-season to be confident that he still has it in him. Keenan Allen, Stevie Johnson, and Malcolm Floyd are going to be tough to stop. Edge Chargers
- Detroit Lions Run Defense vs. San Diego Chargers Running Backs – The Lions run defense is much worse than last season. Ngata is a run defender and will help out tremendously with Suh’s loss in the run game but in pass rush, he is not the same caliber of player Suh was. Tyrunn Walker and Gabe Wright are more rush oriented players and being inexperienced figure to make more mistakes against the Chargers young running back. Edge Chargers
- Detroit Lions Pass Defense vs. San Diego Chargers Quarterbacks – Phillip Rivers is a very good quarterback. He has been in the league for a long time and can read a defense well. Austin is great at making defensive adjustments, but initially, the secondary of the Lions fails. If they fall into a hole early, expect the Lions to struggle to recover. Edge Chargers
- Detroit Lions Special Teams vs. San Diego Chargers Special Teams – Jacoby Jones is a very good kick returner. While Detroit has options, they do not have a set return man for kicks or punts as of yet. Until they show something, they cannot get the edge over anyone. The Chargers though went out and got themselves a good one in Jones. Edge Chargers
Lions 2 Chargers 6
When I first saw this match up on the schedule, two things crossed my mind. The first was that the Chargers are a very good team and this will be a tough game. The second is that Detroit usually wins their season opener. Looking at it position by position, I cannot see how Detroit wins this game given the players they will be without. Warford and Levy are among the best in the league at their positions and both will be out. Reid was training with Suh and it looked like he was in line to start. He is also out. LaAdrian Waddle, the best right tackle the team has, is questionable. If all four do not play, that is 4 starters that will not see the field against a good opponent. Its hard to see a silver lining in that. I am predicting a closer game than one would expect, but only because of a healthy Calvin Johnson.
Detroit 24 San Diego 28