WHEN THE LIONS HAVE THE BALL
Detroit is outscoring its opposition by a 128-42 margin after halftime, and in the second half and overtime of games, Stafford ranks second in the NFL with a 111.0 rating, having completed 80-of-130 (61.5 percent) passes for 998 yards and 10 touchdowns. In three career home starts against the AFC, he has passed for 956 yards with 11 touchdowns, three interceptions and a 105.0 passer rating. Running back Jahvid Best is one of two players in the NFC with at least 350-plus rushing yards (390), 250-plus receiving yards (287), two rushing touchdowns and a receiving touchdown, but won’t play for a second straight week due to a concussion. Backup Maurice Morris has three rushing touchdowns in his past three games against the AFC, however. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson leads the NFL with 10 touchdown catches and is the first player in club history with three season of 10-plus scoring grabs, having garnered 12 in 2008 and 2010. He is also the second player since 1970 with 10 receiving touchdowns in a team’s first seven games to start a season, joining Randy Moss. Since the start of 2008, Johnson has 39 receiving touchdowns, the most in the NFL. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew ranks second among NFL players at his position with 38 receptions, while wide receiver Titus Young is third among NFC rookies with 209 receiving yards (15 catches, 13.9 average).
For the Broncos, rookie linebacker Von Miller, the No. 2 overall pick in last April’s draft, aims for a sixth consecutive game with a sack and ranks first in the NFL among rookies with six sacks on the season. Linebacker D.J. Williams, meanwhile, seeks a third straight game with a sack and recorded one in overtime of last week’s win that set up the deciding 52-yard field goal from Matt Prater, as Williams forced a fumble and recovered it on the play. Safety Brian Dawkins tied a career-high with two sacks last week and now has 25 for his career.
Detroit is sixth in the league in points scored (27.7 ppg), 13th in total offense (353.0 ypg), 11th in passing yards (260.3 ypg) and 27th in rushing yards (92.7 ypg). The Broncos are 29th in the league in scoring defense (25.8 ppg), 21st in total yards allowed (366.0 ypg), 19th in pass defense (247.5 ypg) and 18th in run defense (118.5 ypg).
WHEN THE BRONCOS HAVE THE BALL
In the fourth quarter of his past two games, Tebow has completed 13-of-26 passes (50 percent) for 216 yards, three touchdowns and a 116.8 quarterback rating. He averaged 8.1 yards per carry (eight attempts, 65 yards) last week as well. Running back Knowshon Moreno has three rushing touchdowns in his past three games against the NFC at home, while wide receiver Eric Decker has four touchdown receptions in his past five games. Young wideout Demaryius Thomas had a five-yard touchdown reception in his season debut last week, while tight end Daniel Fells has a touchdown catch in two of his past three games.
The Lions defense ranks second in the NFC in allowing 4.89 yards per first-down play. Safety Amari Spievey is tied for the team lead with a career-high three interceptions and aims for a third consecutive game with a pick. Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch has 17 tackles, four sacks and three forced fumbles on the season, while middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch has 44 tackles, two sacks and an interception.
Denver is in the lower tier offensively, placing 21st in scoring (20.5 ppg), 25th in total yards (304.3 ypg), 26th in passing yards (190.0 ypg) and 16th in rushing yards (114.3 ypg). The Lions are seventh in scoring defense (19.6 ppg), 10th in total yards allowed (334.0 ypg), ninth in pass defense (204.6 ypg) and 28th against the run (129.4 ypg).
KEYS TO THE GAME
Exactly who will be healthy and available for the Lions at quarterback will likely shape their offensive output against a Denver defense that’s in the lower third of the league in all statistical categories.
Tebow was bad for nearly a full game against a winless team and now faces a stiff challenge with a playoff contender that’s a top-10 force against the pass. He’ll need to be more consistent this week to lead the Broncos to a second straight win.
As mentioned earlier, this is the first stretch of adversity in several months for the Lions, who were streaking to end 2010 and swept through the preseason before starting 5-0. How they’ll handle it is a mystery.
Prediction – The Denver fans got what they wanted, as Tim Tebow is now their QB, and he gets his first start at home this week against a Lions team that is reeling a bit with two straight losses. Tebow was awful for about 50 minutes last week, but did what he had to do, turning it on at the end and getting the team back in it and then getting a key overtime turnover to get the win from a long Matt Prater field goal. The Lions may not have Matt Stafford, and the Broncos right now have the confidence after a win last week. Denver 20 Detroit 17