The ever popular regular season tradition of exchanging questions and answers with opponent SB Nation bloggers starts again today for the first time in 2009. I had the chance to shoot some questions over to Sean Yuille, lead blogger at SB Nation's Detroit Lions blog, Pride of Detroit. Below are his answers about fan expectations in Detroit, the Lions gameplan against the Saints and players to watch for during the game this Sunday. I would like to thank Sean for his time in putting together these answers. He runs a classy site over at Pride of Detroit and you can read my answers to his questions over there shortly.
CSC: What grade would you give the Lions off-season/pre-season and why?
POD: I would have to say an A simply for how much turnover there was. 31 of the players on the current roster weren't part of the 0-16 season. For bad teams to get turned around, one of the most important things is bringing in a ton of new faces. Obviously good coaching and having talented players is important, too, but I think the Lions did a good job in that respect as well. I have a lot of faith in Jim Schwartz, and while I think this year will be a struggle as a whole, there will be noticeable improvement on a game-by-game basis.
CSC: What are fan expectations for the 2009 Lions after last season? Is this year viewed more as a rebuilding year or do fans think the team has done enough this off-season to possibly make the playoffs?
POD: It really depends on who you ask. Some fans who are pessimists think the Lions will be lucky to win more than a few games. Others who are very optimistic think the Lions can win 10 games and will go to the playoffs. In the middle of those two extremes are where most fans (myself included) are. While there is certainly optimism among these fans, there is the realization that expecting anything more than 5 or 6 wins is asking a bit too much from this team. Sure, teams like the Dolphins and Falcons turned it around last year and made the playoffs, but those situations were much different than the one in Detroit. Considering that, most fans will tell you that this is a rebuilding year where there could be a few surprises, but not enough for the Lions to do much more than a .500 record..
CSC: The poll on Pride of Detroit shows 3 out of 4 fans are happy with Stafford being named starter. Are you comfortable with Matt Stafford under center?
POD: I am very comfortable with Stafford being the starting quarterback. There's no doubt he will struggle at times and commit his fair share of rookie mistakes, but that is to be expected. What I like about Stafford is that he seems very cool and collected when he's on the field. The knock on him is that he will throw a stupid interception every once in a while, but he can make up for that with his ability to make big plays happen.
CSC: What will the Lions game plan be for the Saints?
POD: I expect the Lions to attempt to establish the run early on. The Lions' motto is to run the ball and stop the run, and that is mainly because Jim Schwartz wants to emphasize ball control. The best defense against Drew Brees and company is to keep the Saints' offense on the sideline, so expect to see the Lions try to run the ball, at lesat initially. There will also be some bombs to Calvin Johnson thrown in there as well as lots of screens and dump offs if the Saints are getting pressure on Stafford.
CSC: Any surprise players on the Lions that Saints fans might not know about and should keep their eye on?
POD: One player to look out for is fullback Jerome Felton. If the Lions are near the goal line or are in a short-yardage situation, expect to see Felton in the game, sometimes lined up as the running back in a jumbo package. He can put some punishing hits on defenders as a blocker and when he actually gets the ball.
CSC: Score prediction for the game?
POD: I see the game going one of two ways. It will either be similar to last year's game where the Saints pretty much blew Detroit out of the stadium, or it will be closer than most expect and the Lions will actually make it a game. I tend to lean more toward the latter, though I fully realize that Drew Brees could shred the Lions' secondary. Both scenarios I see the Saints winning, but for the sake of making a prediction I will say by a score of 38-24.