Nate Caminata: - I think it all comes back to Lions general manager Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz giving Cunningham whatever he needs. Hiring Cunningham a few years back was part of a bigger strategy to take advantage of his unmatched knowledge, and they've entrusted him with talented pieces that they've acquired either via the draft or secondary. Each year they've addressed some facet of the defense that was once considered a weakness.
The defensive line is now among the game's elite, the team has perhaps one of the best linebacker trios in the league, and the secondary suddenly isn't swiss cheese. Cunningham even had a major say in the signing of former Browns cornerback Eric Wright this offseason, and he has since stepped in immediately as a starter. Cunningham is a quintessential players coach, and in this case, that's a good thing. Players like Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch will go into the trenches with Cunningham, and Cunningham's "go to the mattresses" demeanor is reflected in his players.
Warpaint Illustrated 2. The talk of the NFL in the preseason was Matt Stafford. He was lights out in each game he played. Against Tampa Bay last week he appeared to be a confident and competent quarterback. Is it smoke and mirrors? Or does he have the chance to be the real deal in the Motor City?
Roar Report: - I think there's no question that Stafford is the real deal. Anyone who suggests otherwise hasn't been paying attention. There's a reason why he was the top draft pick, and why scouts from across the league (not just in Detroit) fawned over his skill set, which is a combination of power throws and cerebral prowess.
Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said Stafford knows the playbook as well as he does, a pretty bold statement, while veteran Jeff Backus likened Stafford to having a coach on the field. He can make every throw, and he can absolutely dictate a football game. He oozes confidence, and is well on his way to being a true field general in this league.
The only caveat is Stafford's health because of various injuries since his rookie campaign. He has used his time off to study the game and absorb this knowledge he currently holds, but now the Lions require him on the field.
Warpaint Illustrated: 3. There's been a lot said about the wild nature and loose mouth of Ndamukong Suh. He's certainly making a name for himself on the field but why has he been so vocal outside of Ford Field? Is it arrogance, confidence or just his overall personality to live on the edge?
Can the Chiefs stop Suh?
Suh ascended so quickly, and in a town that hadn't witnessed stardom from a football player since the late nineties, that many didn't know how to react.
But the bottom line is that while he might have more confidence than some feel he should at this point in his career, he can also go onto the field and back up every bit of it.
Warpaint Illustrated: 4. If there is a flaw on the Detroit Lions, what do you think that would be and on Sunday how would the Kansas City Chiefs exploit that to come away with a victory?
Roar Report: - I think the 'unknowns' are more identifiable than actual 'flaws.' The Lions need to get their running game unhinged, although Schwartz isn't concerned about a balanced offense. To him, it's overrated because the team takes a game-by-game approach and is confident in its aerial assault. Still, I don't think the importance of running the ball can ever be overlooked entirely.
The Lions have also struggled when Calvin Johnson is obscured from having an impact, such as the Jets were able to do last season with Darrellle Revis. If Kansas City decides to gamble and throw more than one body at Johnson, it might complicate things for Detroit's offense or make it easier for Stafford to pick apart an overextended secondary. Stafford and Co., while explosive, are also still young, so pressuring the 23-year old and forcing his receivers into uncomfortable scenarios -- rather than playing dead -- is absolutely vital.
Warpaint Illustrated: 5. With the Detroit Tigers on the verge of clinching the American League Central, do you think with such high accolades being thrown at the feet of the Detroit Lions the last couple of months, that the football team can live up to the hype and expectations to match what's happening on the baseball side?
Roar Report: - I know the Lions don't get themselves wrapped up in matters beyond their own interest. While the Tigers success should be applauded, and coincides nicely with the Lions' rise, the comparisons and interest really end there; I don't think the Tigers are setting any kind of benchmark to be followed.
The city of Detroit itself has sat far too long in the doldrums, wedged between a borderline third-world economy and unfortunate sports teams. But the fans themselves are, in my opinion, the most loyal in sports, and it's great that they finally seem to be seeing a well-deserved payoff.
WARPAINT ILLUSTRATED MESSAGE BOARDS:
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