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NFL Preview - Philadelphia (0-1) at Detroit (0-1)
By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Football is a violent sport that can lead to frustration, injuries and sometimes worse. The Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions can attest to that as they limp into Sunday's matchup from Ford Field.
Both teams are not expected to have their starting quarterbacks in this one, as the continuation of the Kevin Kolb era in Philadelphia will be put on hold due to a concussion suffered in a 27-20 loss versus Green Bay in the season opener. Lions franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford will miss some time as well with a shoulder injury sustained in a Week 1 loss at Chicago.
Kolb's face was planted into the grass by Packers linebacker Clay Matthews and he spent a few plays receiving medical treatment on the sidelines. The Eagles' staff, which garnered mixed reviews for the move, briefly sent him back in action before Michael Vick took over to begin the third quarter and almost led the Eagles to victory.
Kolb, of course, supplanted current Washington Redskin Donovan McNabb as the starting quarterback and is a longshot to play in this week's game.
In compliance with NFL rules, Kolb must go through a series of tests before returning to the field. He failed the second phase of testing before seeing a specialist for an evaluation. According to Eagles head coach Andy Reid, Kolb will not be able to practice until Friday at the earliest.
"I'm going to listen to the experts and I'm going to follow what the protocol is here and that's how I'm going about it," Reid said on the team's site.
Reid is going through the same motions with middle linebacker Stewart Bradley, who also left the loss to Green Bay with a concussion. He too was inserted back into the lineup even after collapsing following a collision with new teammate and former Lions linebacker Ernie Sims.
Eagles center Jamaal Jackson, who made a valiant effort to return from offseason knee surgery, also suffered a season-ending triceps injury in last week's loss. The news wasn't good either for All-Pro fullback Leonard Weaver, who's out for the year with a torn knee ligament.
The Eagles hope their laundry list of injuries doesn't result in their first 0-2 start since the 2007 campaign, when they went 8-8.
Detroit has been through this before, as Stafford went down with a shoulder injury on his non-throwing arm last year. The second-year signal-caller was blind-sided by Bears defensive end Julius Peppers last Sunday and had to be replaced by Shaun Hill in a 19-14 loss.
The setback was accentuated by a controversial play involving Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who had a would-be touchdown in the game's final minute called back for not having possession through the completion. The ball rolled out of his right hand after he hauled in Hill's pass and landed in the end zone.
Lions second-year head coach Jim Schwartz said afterwards he wasn't going to blame the officials for losing a game, citing other areas that led to Detroit's demise in the Windy City. Detroit went 4-for-14 on third down and named Hill the starting quarterback for its home opener versus the Eagles.
"Shaun has a lot of trust in the locker room," Schwartz told the Lions' website. "They know what kind of quarterback he is. I think that the players respect that. That's not a sell job, that's not a massage job. Shaun will go in and lead the team."
In Hill's last three seasons -- all with San Francisco -- he posted a 10-6 record as a starter with a 23-11 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He was acquired via trade in the offseason and will try to hand the Lions their first home-opening win since 2007.
An improved Detroit defense that added veteran end Kyle Vanden Bosch and rookie tackle Ndamukong Suh made a strong impression against the Bears, save a few big plays from Chicago running back Matt Forte. The Lions held the Bears in check within the red zone last week, but must keep up the pressure versus Philadelphia's young core of offensive weapons.
The Eagles lead the all-time series with the Lions, which dates back to the 1933 season, 13-12-2. Philadelphia broke a deadlock in the series with a 56-21 rout of Detroit when the Lions visited Lincoln Financial Field in Week 3 of the 2007 season. The Eagles were also 30-13 winners when they last visited the Motor City in 2004. Detroit is 0-4 in regular season games against the Eagles since 1986, when they pulled out a 13-11 win at Veterans Stadium. The Lions last earned a home win over the Birds in 1977, though the teams also tied at the Pontiac Silverdome in 1984.
Philadelphia has won five in a row overall, including a 58-37 triumph in the only postseason meeting between the two, a 1995 NFC First-Round Playoff at the Vet. Reid is 2-0 in his career against Detroit, while Schwartz will be meeting both Reid and the Eagles for the first time as a head coach.
WHEN THE EAGLES HAVE THE BALL
With Kolb (24 passing yards last week) highly unlikely to play because of his head issue, Vick (175 passing yards, 1 TD) is expected to shoulder most of the load on Sunday. The veteran ran for 103 yards on 11 scrambles against the Packers and showed flashes of his days as an Atlanta Falcons franchise quarterback. Philadelphia's offense will surely change with the former Virginia Tech star under center, since his ability to run will keep defenses on its heels. The Lions may be forced to use a linebacker as a spy to prevent Vick from furthering the damage. Reid strayed away from running back LeSean McCoy on short-yardage situations last week, opting instead to use Vick's legs to make a play. McCoy (35 rushing yards, 1 TD) averaged five yards per carry in the loss and caught five passes for an additional 47 yards, averaging 9.4 yards per catch. Pro Bowl receiver and punt returner DeSean Jackson (30 receiving yards) caught only four passes and was taken out of the game early by an aggressive Green Bay coverage scheme, with fellow wideout Jeremy Maclin (4 receptions, 38 yards) catching Vick's touchdown pass in the second half. Tight end Brent Celek (32 receiving yards) is the Eagles' other receiving threat, but he finished with only two receptions for a stagnant offense. The offensive line had trouble with Green Bay's blitz and received a major blow when Jammal Jackson was lost for the season. His absence opens the door for Mike McGlynn, who is slated to make his first career start and will be responsible for making calls and changing protection schemes.
The Lions have studied the game film and will prepare for both Kolb and Vick, but it's pretty clear the latter will be handling most or all of the snaps. Vick ran the first-team offense this week and can be a nightmare for defenses that aren't prepared for his elusiveness. Detroit didn't have to worry about that against the Bears, since Jay Cutler isn't very mobile and was the victim of Suh's first career sack early in the first quarter of last week's test. Vanden Bosch led the way with a team-best 11 stops last week. Philadelphia will try to establish the run early with both McCoy and Vick, leaving linebackers Julian Peterson (6 tackles), Isaiah Ekejiuba (4 tackles) and Zack Follett (1 tackle) responsible for the middle of the field. Free safety Louis Delmas (8 tackles) had a busy day last week, as he was part of a defense that was gashed for two big pass plays by Forte that helped decide the outcome of the game. Delmas has been bothered by arm and groin ailments this week, but should be ready for Sunday. Strong safety C.C. Brown (6 tackles) had a pass defensed in the opener and knows his unit will be in for long day if DeSean Jackson, Maclin or Celek are on their game. Starting corners Chris Houston (5 tackles) and Jonathan Wade (2 tackles) must jam Philly's receivers at the line to get them out of their routes.
WHEN THE LIONS HAVE THE BALL
Hill (88 passing yards, 1 INT) was able to move the Lions' offense in Chicago and almost pulled out a win had it not been for the call on Johnson's catch. He completed 9-of-19 passes and brings a decent amount of starting experience into this matchup, having gone 10-6 with an 85.2 passer rating as a starter and 7-1 when starting at home. The Lions could make Hill's job a bit easier by establishing some sort of ground attack after netting just 20 rushing yards against the Bears. Rookie Jahvid Best (20 rushing yards, 2 TD) scored a pair of touchdowns and showed the speed that earned him a shot in the NFL. It's hard to believe the Lions had problems running the football with guard Rob Sims, center Dominic Raiola and left tackle Jeff Backus up front. Backus has started every game for the Lions since he was drafted in 2001. Perhaps working against Peppers and Chicago standouts Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs posed a problem for the o-line. Either way, they'll have to give Hill enough time to find his receivers, with Johnson (4 receptions, 45 yards) serving as the biggest threat to the Eagles' defense. Tight end and ex-Bronco Tony Scheffler (43 receiving yards) caught a team-best six passes last week in his Detroit debut, while fellow newcomer Nate Burleson had only one catch for 19 yards after joining the team as a free agent in the offseason.
Philadelphia's defense did a good job against Green Bay's potent offense in the first 30 minutes of last week's loss until the Packers made adjustments at halftime to break the game open. The front line applied plenty of pressure on Packers signal-caller Aaron Rodgers, forcing him to make quicker throws to avoid the sack. Pro Bowl end Trent Cole (6 tackles) had a sack and backup Juqua Parker added two more for the Eagles, who didn't see much from rookie starter Brandon Graham. The 2010 first-round draft pick didn't have a tackle, but was in the backfield a few times. With Hill's limited experience, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Philadelphia defensive coordinator Sean McDermott dial up a bevy of blitz packages. McDermott's linebackers, however, will most likely be without middle man Bradley, who is still recovering from a concussion. Omar Gaither (5 tackles) replaced Bradley and has experience, but can still be a liability on the field at times. That's a term rarely used for newcomer Sims (5 tackles), who will be making a return to Detroit after the Lions traded him to the Eagles this offseason. Rookie safety Nate Allen (5 tackles, 1 INT) played well in his NFL debut, but his job doesn't get any easier this week. Corners Asante Samuel (3 tackles) and Ellis Hobbs (4 tackles) are aware of Johnson's speed and height advantage.
Vick was probably a hot item on the waiver wire this week, along with a handful of other players coming in after starters were injured. It wouldn't hurt to give him a shot, since he's provided instant offense last week and Kolb isn't likely to be medically cleared to play. DeSean Jackson and Maclin disappointed in Week 1, even though Maclin came away with a score. Expect the two wideouts, along with Celek, to be more involved this week. McCoy was having a strong game until the Eagles needed to pass in order to catch up to the Packers. Philly's defense and kicker Davis Akers should be in the lineup, too.
The Lions don't have many fantasy studs besides Johnson, but Best seems to be making a name for himself early with his two scores last week. Burleson didn't receive many looks against the Bears, but it's still safe to give him a chance to work with Hill. Detroit kicker Jason Hanson is a good choice as an injury replacement.
The last time the Eagles were the road team, they were embarrassed in consecutive losses to the Dallas Cowboys to end the 2009 season, including a playoff setback that preceded the trade of McNabb. Kolb got his wish to be a starter, but it went south after a ferocious hit. Vick is also trying to be a No. 1 quarterback again, and all signs point to that coming to fruition in Motown for at least one week. Vick, who hasn't started since 2006, must get Philly's sputtering offense in gear, but has a great shot at doing that against the underdog Lions. Much like Vick, Hill can plant a seed in the minds of the coaching staff with a good performance. However, this is not the week for him to do that. Detroit's offense is centered around Johnson, but the Eagles will be ready.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eagles 24, Lions 13
09/16 14:56:15 ET
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