Inside Enemy Territory is a feature where I ask a blogger for the Patriots’ upcoming opponent five questions about their team and the upcoming game. Being that it’s preseason and the games do not matter in the grand scheme of things, I focused my questions on getting to know the opponent a little better. The Pats play the Detroit Lions this Saturday in a nationally televised game, so I asked Zac Snyder, lead editor of FanSided’s “SideLion Report,” some questions about the state of the Detroit Lions. The Lions are certainly an up-and-coming team with a good young core of players, so it would not be wise for teh Patriots or any NFL team for that matter to sleep on this team.
Let’s get right to the questions…
Musket Fire: Ndamukong Suh has already been fined for his physical style of play before the regular season has begun. Did he really deserve the fine for his hit on Andy Dalton or is the NFL being overprotective?
Zac Snyder: I don’t have an issue with him being fined for the play but I do take exception to anyone that tries to label Suh a dirty player as a result. He is a player that brings a rare tenacity to a sport known for being violent. I would hate to see an unfair reputation hurt his wallet too heavily.
MF: Who has been the biggest surprise thus far in Lions’ camp? Who has been the biggest disappointment?
ZS: I’ll pick Maurice Stovall as the biggest surprise. He joined the Lions after the start of camp but he has impressed with his versatility as a receiver and on special teams and likely forced his way on to the regular season roster. My biggest disappointment has been the collective effort of the running backs and offensive line in the running game. The Lions weren’t a very good running team last year and they don’t look any better so far.
MF: The Lions seem to have struggled thus far in the preseason getting their running game going. Is there any concern about the ground attack in Detroit?
ZS: I talk myself off the ledge by remembering that the NFL is a passing league and the Lions have Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson along with a nice complement of other targets. The Lions don’t have to have one of the league’s top ground games but it would make me feel a lot better if I could have some confidence in them picking up a third and two conversion on the ground. Corey Hilliard has been the team’s reserve tackle but he will start getting some practice reps at guard as the starting tackles regain their health. No one seems quite sure what the answer will be but the team has started looking for a solution.
MF: Matthew Stafford has been impressive in the preseason. Is this finally going to be the year he takes the next step? What are the chances that he can remain healthy for 16 games?
ZS: The million dollar question. I would argue that last season would have been his “next step” if he was able to stay on the field. I fully expect that those quick to write him off as injury prone will be surprised what Stafford does this season. Those of us that have followed all along are expecting big things from him and the coaches and doctors don’t see any reason why he can’t make it through an entire season.
MF: What are Lions fans realistically expecting from their team this season? A .500 record? Just a winning season? Playoffs?
ZS: I’m riding the fence at 8-8 and 9-7 for my official prediction and my expectation is that the Lions will remain relevant in the playoff race until late in the season. Expecting the playoffs is so difficult because I’m not sure which NFC team to expect wouldn’t make the playoffs as a result. Lions fans are optimistic overall but there is surprisingly few ridiculous predictions on sports talk radio. Lions fans haven’t always been able to be labeled as rational but it seems to be happening ahead of this season