Dollar, thanks for doing that.
When we started our year in review stuff, I said a few times that the Skins were likely a division winner who lost a home playoff game. Looking at the early voting here, it seems most would agree with that. But looking at this matchup (and with with the caveat that yes, I am advocating for my team) the Skins win this game and it likely will not be close.
If you, like me, think games are dictated in the trenches, I think the Lions have a tough matchup here. When they have the ball, Joe Thomas cannot block everyone. That is a weak interior offensive line that will have trouble handling Richardson and Fairley. Thomas and Hardy will be a battle up front, and Thomas might get the better of Hardy, but the other three guys up front for us are gonna eat, and eat well. So we won't need to blitz to generate pressure on Tannehill, which is a good thing because splits-wise, Tannehill actually does well against the blitz? What he doesn't do well against is a four man line. Last season he had a 75.3 rating against 4 man fronts. (Splits here
When Detroit runs, we're not going to completely shut down Shady, but Hardy (PFF +12.5) and Richardson (PFF +34.0) were both beasts in the run game (those are their run defense PFF grades alone). Richardson is definitely going to draw double-teams in the run game, which allows Ryans and Ogletree room to flow freely to the ball carrier. There will be rare moments when Shady finds guys blocked at the second level. Most of the time he's going to have to win one on one battles against our LBs to break big plays, and we'll take our chances that we will win most of them.
D-Jax and Garcon is a tough 1-2 punch at WR, but if we are minimally blitzing, we can play lots of zone coverage and eliminate throwing lanes. Our secondary is a weak spot, so our best bet is relying on our front four to generate pressure on Tannehill and force him into poor throws. I have confidence they will.
When we do blitz, we're sending a human wrecking machine in Alec Ogletree. I truly hope we are still doing this exercise in a few years, because a core of Hardy/Richardson/Ogletree in the front seven is gonna be special to watch grow.
When the Skins have the ball, there will be times when Detroit gets pressure, but looking at their front seven, I really think they will need to blitz to generate pressure. Other than Mebane that front is on the weaker side. And Mebane is primarily a run stuffer, with zero sacks in 2013. I doubt Detroit would be content to rush three/four and give Flacco all day to throw. If they do, fine, but I think they will need to blitz. If and when they do, we have one of the best weapons in the game against the blitz. Vernon Davis. Our TE caught 13 TDs in 2013. How many came against the blitz? 10. Of his 52 receptions, half of them were against the blitz. When teams blitzed SF, Vernon Davis caught 26 passes for 467 yards and 10 TDs
. We all know Flacco loves throwing to his TEs. So unless Detroit either A: doesn't blitz or B: starts sending corner or safety blitzes, Vernon Davis will have room to roam against LB blitzes and on hot reads.
If Detroit does start sending DBs to generate pressure, we've got a nice young tandem of our own outside in Jeffery and Hopkins. I argued earlier that one of the reasons Flacco had a down 2013 was that he lost Anquan Boldin, a big, physical WR who would win balls in the air for Flacco and bail him out. Well, in our experiment I got Flacco an upgrade in Jeffery. I'm confident in Jeffery's ability to win one on one battles against whichever DB the Lions roll his way. And with Vernon and Alshon drawing the bulk of Detroit's attention, Hopkins will have some room to make a few plays for us.
Finally, when we run the ball, we've got (according to Bleacher Report) the best LT in the game to run behind, and both a rising star (Bell) and a human tank (Blount) to carry the rock for us.
I think Vegas would put this game at about Skins -3, so that is my vote. But I really think this match-up favors Washington.