Bringing in identical 4-2 records, the Detroit Lions play just their third home game of the season when they welcome the Cincinnati Bengals to Ford Field on Sunday.
Here are five keys to the game:
1. Neutralize Bengals’ defensive tackle Geno Atkins, one of the NFL’s best at what he does. He’s got four sacks in the first six games. The Lions’ offensive line has played well, Atkins is just their next challenge.
2. The Lions’ defensive line must put pressure on quarterback Andy Dalton from the get-go and not give him time to find wide receiver A.J. Green and his buddies. Last week the Lions’ defense came together in the second half to get to Browns’ quarterback Brandon Weeden. But until then they let him have way too much time. Dalton has been sacked 14 times in first two games.
3. With the presence of Atkins and the rest of the defensive line, Reggie Bush and Joique Bell have to be patient. Pick up 2 or 3 yards or so at a time and wait to break through.
4. Target tight end Joe Fauria more often and not just in the red zone. Of his seven receptions in the first six games, five of them are touchdowns. Drops are way too common for Lions’ receivers and tight ends with Fauria as an exception. He is not only tall, he’s athletic and seems to have sure hands. He hasn’t dropped a pass yet. It should be easier to get him more involved with Tony Scheffler (concussion) out.
5. With Calvin Johnson healthy/healthier it should be easier to get him the ball. His drops last week were unlike him. Even though the Bengals’ have a solid secondary with corners Leon Hall (Michigan) and Terrence Newman and safeties George Iloka and Reggie Nelson, Johnson should have a better day.
Prediction: Lions 27, Bengals 13