Neil Harvey takes a look at the first of Sunday's live NFL games, where he's confident we'll see plenty of points, and almost as many nerves...
"As the league’s second best passing side, Detroit really should have a bonanza day against an Eagles secondary that’s rated the worst in the NFL."
Detroit Lions @ Philadelphia Eagles
Sunday 8th December, 18:00
Live on Sky Sports 3
The venue may not sound as catchy as the OK Corral, but the showdown at Lincoln Financial Field still promises to be a riveting shootout between gunslinger quarterbacks Nick Foles and Matthew Stafford.
Into his fifth NFL season, Matt Stafford has been Mr. Consistent, averaging more than 300 yards, two TDs and one interception per game. Yet his fine performances, and the huge help of having the league's best receiver, Calvin Johnson, on his side, still haven't been enough to establish Detroit as one of the Superbowl favourites. At 7-5, they remain a Jekyll and Hyde outfit, capable of any result, regardless of the opposition.
But as the league's second best passing side, Detroit really should have a bonanza day against an Eagles secondary that's rated the worst in the NFL. And Philly fans won't thank me for saying this, but from what I can see, their side is actually even worse at stopping the pass than the stats suggest. Just look at the quarterbacks the Eagles have faced this season, and you realize that they've actually had it pretty easy so far. I mean, they let Scott Tolzien throw for almost 300 yards for goodness' sake! And when they came up against real quality, Philadelphia were shredded, with both Peyton Manning and Tony Romo leading their respective sides to double-digits victories. So we can expect to see another big game from Matthew Stafford, who ranks second in the league for passing yards, and who leads a Detroit offense that's leaned heavily on the pass this year.
The Lions should also find space to run the ball. Last week, Arizona's second-string RB, Rashard Mendenhall, found gaping gaps in Philly's defensive line, in averaging more than four yards a carry. And Mendenhall is nowhere near as dangerous a runner as either Reggie Bush, or his back-up Joique Bell. Bell, by the way, might well be handed the goal-line carries here, following his big performance last week, and Bush's recent bout of fumble-itis. All that said, I can't see the Eagles keeping Detroit to less than 30 points, and I say that with great confidence.
If that happens, then history tells us that the Lions should come out on top. Five times this season, Detroit have broken the 30 point barrier, and every time, they've won. It's unlikely though, to be easy. Philadelphia QB Nick Foles is at least on a par with Matt Stafford right now. In fact, you could easily argue that he's the most in-form quarterback in the entire league at present. The 24 year-old has thrown 13 TDs and zero interceptions in his last four games. And it's that sensational form that's single-handedly led the Eagles to four straight wins, and at 7-5, put them back in the play-off race. Last week, he repeatedly threaded the eye of the needle, while picking-apart a top-class Arizona Cardinals secondary. Based on that showing, Detroit have no chance of stopping Foles. Especially when considering that just three games ago, the same Lions defense was torched by Ben Roethlisberger for almost 400 yards.
Both teams look set to rack-up some huge numbers through the air. But with Detroit's third-ranked run defense playing especially tough of late, the Eagles in particular may find themselves focusing almost entirely on their passing game. In this case we can expect a high-scoring game from the get-go. The only point at which the scoreboard might get a breather is in the latter stages, when you'd expect the team that's leading to start running down the clock. Who that might be though, is a tough call, with turnovers, mistakes, and luck all potentially decisive factors in this contest.
Remember also, the Eagles have won just two games at home all season, and by an average of just four points, which again suggests this could be desperately close. That makes victory by a field goal look like a good call. And that offers up an interesting opportunity for us. In Alex Henery and David Akers, we have two of the worst-performing kickers in the league, with both converting less than 80 percent of attempted field-goals. In fact, just last week, Akers missed a dolly of a 31-yarder for the Lions, immediately prompting speculation that his job was on the line. With both teams desperately needing to win this game, it's not hard to foresee one, or even both of these guys, missing the target.
Back Detroit total points over 29 @ 2.56/4 (Sportsbook)
Back total match points over 56 @ 2.1511/10 (Sportsbook)