Commentary

The Jets better bring it in Detroit

The Lions are 2-5, but they will take advantage of mistakes, like they did last week

Updated: November 5, 2010, 7:18 PM ET
By Rob Parker | ESPNNewYork.com

DETROIT -- This is a warning to the New York Jets. You better come to Motown ready to play.

The Detroit Lions, drowning in a sea of losses the past decade, are still a bad football team, a team that can be beaten easily.

[+] EnlargeCalvin Johnson
AP Photo/Duane BurlesonThe Lions do have some weapons, including wideout Calvin Johnson.

They are 2-5 this season, have lost an unbelievable 42 of their past 47 games in a league praised for parity, and are currently on a 24-game road losing streak.

The numbers, indeed, aren't pretty.

Still, this will be no piece of cake -- especially if the Jets don't play up to their capabilities. If they allow the Lions to hang around and don't issue the knockout punch, the Lions could steal this game.

They are an opportunistic team. If you give them breaks and make major mistakes, they will capitalize on them. That's how they beat the Washington Redskins on Sunday at Ford Field. With four minutes to go, Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb threw into triple coverage and was picked off at Washington's 41-yard line, setting up the Lions' go-ahead touchdown.

The Redskins have now lost twice in the past two years to the Lions. Both times, the Redskins came in unready and offered up victories on a silver platter.

There are so many things still wrong with the Lions, who are going through their fourth rebuilding phase in the past eight seasons. They can't run the football, ranking 30th in the league. Their secondary isn't very good -- 16th in the league. They make a lot of mistakes and commit a lot of dumb penalties. They have 17 takeaways, but 16 giveaways. In other words, they do what bad football teams do -- they usually beat themselves.

Sure, they have some young players that you have heard a lot about. After all, they have been so bad for so long that they have collected a lot of top draft picks, including defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson.

Still, this team hasn't progressed as quickly as some thought they would, given the type of talent they have been stockpiling.

In reality, the Lions haven't put together an all-around solid effort and beaten a quality football team since the first half of the 2007 season. We're talking three years. That's when they started the season 6-2. They finished that season by going 1-7 in their final eight games.

But anything is possible when the Jets play the way they played last Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, getting shut out, 9-0. Who pitched?

That was no laughing matter. And this isn't any time to come in flip and not be serious about an opponent.

The Lions need this victory to convince fans and people around the league that something is going on here -- that, indeed, they are turning things around. In 2008, they became the first team to go 0-16. Last year, they were 2-14.

And even though they beat the Redskins last week, most people aren't convinced that anything has truly changed. But a win over the Super Bowl-contending Jets? Yeah, that would get some people believing that change is in the air in Motown.

That's why the Jets, with a 5-2 record and trailing the New England Patriots by a game in the AFC East standings, need to be focused. They need to play well from start to finish. It's not about doing anything supernatural, it's simply about playing football the way they're capable of.

The Jets, who stop the run, can't let the Lions run the ball after they have amassed a measly 84 yards in their past two games on 42 carries.

The Jets have to cover Johnson, the Lions' star receiver, like a blanket. They can't give up three touchdowns, like he had against the Redskins. The Jets' secondary is too good for a thing like that to happen.

And the Jets, third in the league in rushing, have to continue to run the ball down the Lions' throats -- keeping Stafford on the sideline while they eat up the clock with long-winded possessions. And Mark Sanchez has to be better, making smart decisions with the football.

And, most of all, they can't turn the ball over three times in their opponent's territory, like they did against the Packers last week.

The game plan is simple. The opponent is weak. Detroit has been the "General Hospital" of the NFL for some time. The Jets, 3-0 on the road, can get well here. But it's all up to them.

Rob Parker is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com.

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