Can the 49ers defense put a stop to the most dangerous quarterback-wide receiver combination in the league, in Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson?
The storyline’s are buzzing, and I expect nothing less than a close game with these two clubs battling it out for both pride and another mark in the win column.
Here are three matchups to watch in this prime-time matchup.
1) Chris Culliver (DB-San Francisco 49ers) vs. Calvin Johnson (WR-Detroit Lions)
The second year defensive back will have his hands full if he has to matchup against Megatron.
In last year’s matchup against the Lions, the 49ers assigned Culliver to shadow Calvin Johnson for most of the game. It makes sense.
Culliver has the physical abilities to matchup against bigger receivers like Johnson.
The 49ers have better depth in their defensive backfield, so I can envision Vic Fangio using a committee approach in defending Johnson.
2) Brandon Pettigrew (TE-Detroit Lions) vs. Patrick Willis (LB-San Francisco 49ers)
Why Pettigrew? With all the talent on this Lions offense, Pettigrew is the x-factor.
The Lions struggled offensively in last year’s matchup against the 49ers, likely because Pettigrew was kept in check.
Patrick Willis did a marvelous job in coverage against Pettigrew in last year’s hotly contested game, and he will have to do the same in upcoming Sunday matchup.
3) Jeff Backus (OT-Detroit Lions) vs. Justin Smith (DE-San Francisco 49ers)
The Lions offensive line will have trouble containing this front seven of the San Francisco 49ers.
The 49ers have the best front seven in football. They can rush from the edge, and stop the run like no other team in the NFL.
Backus will have his hands full against the best defensive end in football in Justin Smith.
In addition, the 49ers will likely go away from their traditional 3-4 defense, in the hopes of stopping this explosive Lions aerial attack.
What does that entail? Well, the 49ers played in more 4-3 packages against the Green Bay Packers in week one and that allowed Aldon Smith to play with his hands in the dirt as more of a defensive end.
This allowed the 49ers to play more defensive backs in the hopes of stopping Aaron Rodgers and that explosive Packers offense.
If the Lions decide to spread it out, with four receiver sets, look for the 49ers to have both Aldon and Justin Smith primarily rushing the quarterback.
This will be a juicy matchup. Forget players, how about the head coaches of these respective franchises? Jim Harbaugh vs. Jim Schwartz.
With all the player matchups highlighting, fans may forget the most tantalizing one of them all.
Whether something happens or not during the ceremonial handshake post game between the Lions and 49ers, this won’t be a boring affair.