Detroit Lions (6-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-6)
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh - TV: FOX
*TV announcers: Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick, Laura Okmin
*Keys to the game: The Lions and QB Matt Stafford are required to show persistent patience against 3-4 defenses. Stafford has struggled against the scheme, which takes away the short throws to backs and tight ends while creatively filling gaps with linebackers to disrupt his timing. CB Ike Taylor might not be a lockdown cornerback, but he's tall, long-armed and game for a challenge. Taylor draws the Calvin Johnson assignment -- with help -- and stays close enough to make Johnson fight for his spot. RB Reggie Bush is capable of splitting out and getting into his routes quickly to create isolation mismatches. He is also no stranger to 3-4 schemes, and cutback lanes should be there if Bush waits for his blocks. The Lions have been very good of late stopping the run, which is when the Steelers have fallen into turnover traps -- minus-11 this season. The Lions are built to control one gap up front and penetrate with their front four, putting Detroit's linebackers on the spot to make one-on-one tackles. QB Ben Roethlisberger should be able to move the ball on a secondary with no real stud if he gets any time to throw. That's no guarantee. DTs Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley can create havoc against a beleaguered line that has allowed 35 sacks.
*Matchup to watch - Lions cornerbacks vs. Steelers WR Antonio Brown: CB Rashean Mathis isn't an option in the slot to replace the injured Bill Bentley because rookie Darius Slay has been getting torched on the outside. CB Chris Houston could contend with the explosive Brown, who leads the NFL in receptions, but the Lions have been reluctant to move Houston off the left corner spot. Mathis could end up on Brown and safety Don Carey could again be pressed into playing the nickel.
*Player spotlight - Lions LB Stephen Tulloch: He's leading the team in tackles by design, as the scheme funnels most of the action back inside to the heart of the defense. Tulloch is the unsung star of a front seven ranked No. 8 in the NFL against the run.
*Fast facts: Johnson's average of 87.4 yards receiving per game is the highest in NFL history (minimum 100 games). ... The Steelers have converted only 44.8 percent of their red zone chances into touchdowns, 27th in the NFL.
WHO WILL WIN AND WHY
Pittsburgh will put up a fight, but the Lions leave Heinz Field with a firm hold on the NFC North on the back of a big day from RB Reggie Bush.
*Our pick: Lions 28-24