Next 5 Notes Week 2: Look ahead to the Detroit Lions’ next five opponents

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Now that the Lions have improved to 2-0 after their 24-10 win over the Giants on Monday Night Football, let’s take our weekly look at Detroit’s next five opponents and the top storylines to come out of their most recent game.

WEEK 3 – vs. Atlanta Falcons (2-0), Ford Field

The Falcons opened their new stadium with a rematch of last year’s NFC Championship game against Green Bay. Atlanta owned the first half with Matt Ryan throwing for over 200 yards and one TD as they jumped out to a 24-7 lead at the break. The defense added a score early in the third quarter, then Atlanta basically just ran the ball the rest of the way en route to a 34-23 victory. Devonta Freeman had a nice game, rushing for 84 yards and a pair of touchdowns. They may have won the game, but Atlanta did suffer a big loss: linebacker Vic Beasley, who led the NFL in sacks last season, suffered a hamstring injury that is expected to sideline him for a month. That is good news for the Lions who welcome the Falcons to Detroit on Sunday.

WEEK 4 – at Minnesota Vikings (1-1), US Bank Stadium

Viking quarterback Sam Bradford may have been great in week 1, but he didn’t see the field in week 2’s 26-9 loss in Pittsburgh. Bradford tweaked his left knee in practice this week, but no one thought it would keep him out of Sunday’s game. Instead, Case Keenum was under center for Minnesota and did not fare very well. The Vikes had only 237 total yards of offense and managed just two scoring drives while committing 11 penalties for 131 yards. The Vikings defense was their only bright spot,  holding the Steelers to 3-for-13 on third down. Bradford might be back when Minnesota hosts Tampa Bay in week 3.

WEEK 5 – vs. Carolina Panthers (2-0), Ford Field

The Panthers are 2-0, and Cam Newton and the rest of the offense better be buying their defensive counterparts dinner to thank them for that. This week Carolina topped Buffalo 9-3 in what can only be called ugly. Well, at least offensively. If you like defense, you will love this Panthers D. They only gave up 176 total yards to the Bills, and for a second straight week, allowed only three points. Pretty easy to win when you only need to score four or more. Carolina didn’t score much more than that, but it was enough. There was a scary moment when Newton rolled his ankle in the third quarter, but he remained in the game. The same cannot be said for tight end Greg Olsen, arguably their top receiving threat, who left the game with a broken foot in the second.  The Panthers will try to get that offense healthy at home in week 3 against a really bad Saints pass defense.

WEEK 6 – at New Orleans Saints (0-2), Mercedes-Benz Superdome

The Saints are 0-2 for a fourth straight season as they gave up 555 total yards to the Patriots in a 36-20 loss. As I just noted above, the New Orleans pass defense is bad. They let Sam Bradford torch them for 346 yards in week 1, and let Tom Brady go 30-for-39 for 447 yards and 3 first quarter TDs on Sunday. New England scored on five of their six first-half possessions. Ouch. The Saints let the Pats move the ball at will and control the clock for over 35 minutes. Ouch again. The only way New Orleans is going to win games this year is by out-scoring their opponents, and they have the horses to do that. Drew Brees threw for a pretty impressive 356 yards and a pair of scores. Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson each had only eight carries, but the Saints were down big so early, they were forced to pass almost the entire game. The Saints look for their first win at Carolina in week 3.

WEEK 7 – Bye

WEEK 8 – vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0), Ford Field

The Steelers had an emotional home game Sunday, the first since owner Dan Rooney died this off-season. As I mentioned above, they got to face a short-handed Vikings squad, who were without their starting quarterback Sam Bradford. Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell seemed much more himself after sitting out the preseason and having only 10 carries in week 1. Bell ground out 87 yards on 27 carries in the 26-9 victory. It wasn’t flashy, but neither was Rooney. Next up for the Steelers is a trip to Chicago to face the 0-2 Bears.

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