The Detroit Lions will need a strong game out of their offense if they hope to best the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. It's not that another strong performance from Alex Smith in Week 2 is likely, it's just that San Francisco's defense is among the best in the NFL. A season ago, Detroit found itself unable to throw the ball as much as it wanted to, and that had a lot to do with the 49ers holding the sidelines down effectively.
This time around, Detroit has another option outside of Calvin Johnson (who caught seven passes for 113 yards in the 25-19 loss a season ago), and that's wide receiver Titus Young. Of course, he dressed for last season's game, but he made many strides this offseason and finally seems ready to make some noise in the NFL. ESPN's Kevin Seifert talks about why he could be a difference maker.
I, for one, want to see if the Lions have the personnel and balance to pressure the 49ers' defense in a way the Packers couldn't last week. We all know what receiver Calvin Johnson can do, but the 49ers aren't likely to let him run unfettered down the sideline too often Sunday night. That puts Young at center stage as far as I'm concerned.
Young would likely be defended by Tarell Brown, who had a strong Week 1 against Green Bay. But if Detroit comes out of the gate trying to pick on Brown while the 49ers concentrate on Johnson, it could be a way to put them off balance and put a generally low-scoring offense in the hole. Smith has improved by leaps and bounds, but he's hardly on Matthew Stafford's level.
The one factor that comes in here is the disciplinary issues Young is going through. He had trouble last season, and was fighting with a teammate this offseason, getting kicked out of training camp temporarily. Most recently, Young was benched in Week 1 against the St. Louis Rams for headbutting cornerback Janoris Jenkins. If he's still being punished or can't keep his nose clean, he may have less of an impression on the game than he could.