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Week 1 Preview: Lions at Chargers

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Detroit Lions (0-0) at San Diego Chargers (0-0)

Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET, at Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego – TV: FOX

*TV announcers: Thom Brennaman, Charles Davis, Tony Siragusa

*Keys to the game: Rookie running back Melvin Gordon averaged 2.2 yards per carry in the preseason but the Chargers like the first-round pick and the explosive element he adds to the San Diego offense driven by QB Philip Rivers. The Chargers need playmakers to emerge for Rivers with TE Antonio Gates (suspension) idle, and WR Keenan Allen had his best summer in three seasons.

The Lions retooled, adding DT Haloti Ngata to fill All-Pro Ndamukong Suh’s spot, but it’s their own running game that has Detroit anxious for Week 1. RBs Joique Bell and rookie Ameer Abdullah bring balance to Jim Caldwell’s play sheet, which theoretically reduces the risky throws QB Matthew Stafford makes. The Lions easily push the ball downfield with WRs Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. If TE Eric Ebron can make an impact underneath after a shaky rookie season, the passing game could be one of the best in the NFL.

*Matchup to watch – Lions WR Calvin Johnson vs. Chargers CB Brandon Flowers: Help from playmaking S Eric Weddle will be vital for the 5-foot-9 Flowers, who yields significant height (seven inches) and weight (45 pounds) advantages in this tale of the tape. Johnson, nagged by injuries last season, said he’s in the best shape of his life.

*Player spotlight – Chargers ILB Donald Butler: Ranked 29th against the run in 2014, the Chargers were unable to get off the field late in games with Butler not performing to expectations and ILB Manti Te’o slowed by foot issues. If the Chargers want to be around in the fourth quarter, Butler will play a big role.

*Fast facts: Weddle is one of three safeties in the NFL with at least 6.0 sacks, 19 interceptions since 2007. … Stafford has 18,912 passing yards since 2011, second-most in the NFL.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

With the game on the line, Philip Rivers and rookie kicker Josh Lambo come through but the Chargers’ defense – and underrated secondary – is the story of the game.

*Our pick: Chargers 27-25.


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