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NFL 2012 SNF Week 2 - Detroit Lions (1-0) vs San Francisco 49ers (1-0) - 2nd Half - Madden '13 - HD

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Published on Sep 16, 2012

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What matters: The "handshake" between 49ers' coach Jim Harbaugh and Lions coach Jim Schwartz after the 49ers' win in Detroit last season has dominated headlines ahead of Sunday's game. Lost in the handshake hype, however, is the fact that this week is the first opportunity for the Lions to measure themselves against a legitimate playoff contender. Superior talent helped Detroit overcome three first half turnovers against St. Louis. If the Lions cough the ball up three times Sunday, they could be in for a long evening against a 49ers team that scored 108 points off turnovers last season. Jim Schwartz said QB Matthew Stafford "got a little greedy" and pressed early against the Rams. Stafford must be more patient Sunday against a defense that thrives on forcing opponents to take risks. The Lions' defense will have its hands full against the NFL's second-ranked rushing offense. 49ers RB Frank Gore rushed for 141 yards against the Lions last season. That can't happen again Sunday. Some Lions players see Sunday's game as an opportunity to prove that the Lions' franchise belongs among the league's perennial playoff contenders. "This is a perfect opportunity to show everybody that we're a real team to be messed with," G Rob Sims said. To do that, Detroit must prove it can be a disciplined team in a hostile road environment. Avoiding costly penalties like the personal foul that second-year WR Titus Young received in Week 1 for head-butting an opponent is vital for the Lions to have any chance at a Bay-Area upset.

Who matters: If the Lions want to win Sunday, the O-line must have a better game than they did when San Francisco sacked Stafford five times last season. Sims says the 49ers front seven -- including potent pass rushing LBs Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis -- is the best defensive front that Detroit will face all season. That said, he believes the Lions' offensive line is a better unit this year than it was a season ago. "The tough thing to swallow is that part of the reason we had trouble [against San Francisco in 2011] was because our technique failed," he said. "That's not the way we are now." Detroit must also focus on maintaining enough offensive balance to force San Francisco to respect the run. RB Kevin Smith's game-winning touchdown catch made him one of Detroit's Week 1 heroes. He'll need to have an equally big impact Sunday night, either on the ground or as a safety-valve receiver for Stafford.

WR Calvin Johnson vs. anybody who covers him: Detroit's Week 1 comeback was made possible in part by a pair of big Stafford-to-Johnson completions on the Lions' final drive. Johnson caught six of the seven passes thrown his way in the win, and he needs to have a similar performance Sunday. If Johnson gets going early, the extra coverage he's sure to attract will allow Detroit's other receivers the favorable matchups they need to keep the offense moving.

Inside stuff: The Lions moved Suh and Fairley to outside positions on several plays and rushed D-linemen from standing positions during Detroit's Week 1 win. The move worked well for the Lions' front four, who were able to provide consistent pressure on Rams' QB Sam Bradford. DC Gunther Cunningham was pleased with the production from the front four in those situations, so Lions' fans should expect to see a similar scheme Sunday night.

Stat you should know: San Francisco hasn't allowed an opposing RB to rush for more than 100 yards in its last 20 regular-season home games. If the Lions can break that streak, it will go a long way toward the team leaving the Bay Area with its second 2012 win.

Record watch: Stafford passed for 355 yards in Detroit's Week 1 win over St. Louis, marking his fourth-consecutive regular-season 350-plus yard passing performance. If he repeats the feat Sunday, he will become the first player in NFL history to pass for 350 yards in five consecutive games.

Looking ahead: Win or lose Sunday, the Lions have a much easier path ahead in the two remaining games before their Week 5 bye. Titans QB Jake Locker's injury makes Detroit's Week 3 trip to Nashville much less daunting, and they should be able to beat a rebuilding Vikings team at home in Week 4. If Detroit wins Sunday, it's perfectly reasonable to expect them to be 4-0 at the bye. If they lose, they should be able to head to the break no worse than 3-1.

Prediction: 49ers 27, Lions 20

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