But injuries are a part of football. Since there's no way to tell if Johnson will be playing on Sunday, the Lions' keys for victory will focus on the other areas of the game.
Can the Lions pull out a victory? Let's check it out.
Keys to a Detroit Victory
1. Get the ball out quickly
Quarterback Matthew Stafford had the quickest trigger in the league through four weeks, getting the ball out in 2.24 seconds, according to Pro Football Focus. With Johnson out last week, Stafford was holding onto the ball much longer waiting for someone to get open. And Green Bay racked up five sacks as a result.
This week will provide an even scarier outside pass rush, with the likes of Paul Kruger, Barkevious Mingo and Jabaal Sheard bearing down from the outside. Stafford must make quick decisions to keep the talented Cleveland defense from notching drive-killing sacks.
2. This is Ryan Broyles' week…again
I know. This isn't the first time I've put forth Ryan Broyles' play as a key to victory. But this isn't lazy analysis; there are actually a couple reasons to think this is the week that Broyles busts out.
First, Detroit needs another option to either replace or complement Johnson. Kris Durham is a nice third or preferably fourth receiver and that's it. He can't create separation nor win any aerial battles, yet he somehow had six more targets than Broyles last week. We saw how poorly that worked out.
Second, the slow road back might have been the Lions' plan all along.
Detroit has had problems developing receivers for a variety of reasons. Thus, the coaching staff has taken great care with Broyle's second knee injury in two years. Now that Broyles has proven his body can handle the stress of football, Scott Linehan will be free to increase his workload.
3. Willie Young has to take advantage
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner has not choice but focus his protection on Detroit's defensive tackles. That's going to leave right tackle Mitchell Schwartz on an island with defensive end Willie Young.
That's great news for the Lions.
Schwartz has struggled protecting the passer this season, allowing a league-high seven sacks. Considering how poorly the Browns rush the ball (79 yards per game), there should be plenty of opportunities for Young to exploit the young tackle. And that, in turn, will get the defense off the field on third down.
Important Matchup: Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley vs. the Cleveland Interior Line
The Browns have one of the best centers in the league in Alex Mack. But on either side of him is a guard that can be exploited by the top-notch defensive tackle duo.
The importance of these two cannot be understated. If they control the line of scrimmage, the Browns anemic running game will struggle. When the running game struggles, the offense will routinely find itself in third-and-long situations. And how confident can the Browns when Weeden needs 10 yards with the Lions' pass rush bearing down on him?
How the Game will Go Down
Assuming Johnson plays, the Lions will be able to stretch out that solid Cleveland defense. That will leave holes for Reggie Bush, Joique Bell and Broyles to exploit. On the other side, the Lions defense should be able to put the clamps on Weeden and the offense. So long as they don't let explosive wide receiver Josh Gordon get behind them, the Browns will have to fight to get to double digits.
Final Score: Lions 16, Browns 10
Brandon Alisoglu has been covering the Detroit Lions for two years. He has been published at Yahoo!, Bleacher Report, CNN and other websites. He also co-hosts a podcast called Lions Central Radio with Nick Kostora that can be found on ITunes and Stitcher. Follow him on Twitter for more football talk.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Detroit Lions
- Cleveland Browns
- Ryan Broyles
- Matthew Stafford
- the Browns