Speed rushers: Two weeks ago, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali put four hits on Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. Last week, Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen sacked him three times while fellow defensive end Brian Robison brought him down twice. Hali and Allen are two of the NFL's best pass rushers. Sunday, the Lions will face the best. No NFL player has more sacks this season (5.0) or over the past three seasons (51.5) than the Dallas Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware. Stafford has had success getting the ball downfield despite facing those elite rushers. But the Lions probably don't want to find out how much damage Ware can do. They would be well-advised to devote more attention to him than Hali and Allen saw. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew is one of the NFL's top blockers at his position. The Lions might need to utilize him in that regard Sunday.
"Statement game:" I personally hate that phrase and think it's mostly irrelevant in the world of the NFL. With that said, I think the Lions have their best opportunity yet to demonstrate how far they've come and to set their fan base into a frenzy heading into their Oct. 10 prime-time game against the Chicago Bears. The Cowboys are 2-1 and have designs on the NFC East title. The Lions, meanwhile, have won in Dallas only twice in their history. Last season, the Bears began walking with a little extra pep in their step after winning at Cowboys Stadium. The Lions could do the same. A win would give the Lions their eighth consecutive regular-season victory, dating to last season. That would be their longest winning streak since taking nine consecutive games from 1953-54.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers could make Denver pay if the Broncos continues to blitz as often as they have in their first three games.
Faint hopes: The Denver Broncos have never won in the state of Wisconsin. They've lost seven consecutive road games and are one of three teams in the NFL whose pass defense has netted them zero interceptions this season. That's a bad combination for a 1-2 team traveling to Lambeau Field. Want some more? The Broncos have felt compelled to blitz on 41.9 percent of opponents' dropbacks this season, the sixth-highest rate in the NFL. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is completing an NFL-high 74.4 percent of his passes against the blitz. It's unlikely to work Sunday for the Broncos. On his weekly radio show, Rodgers noted that the Packers have seemed an afterthought from national observers. "Let everybody talk about Philly and Dallas and Washington and Detroit and Buffalo and we’ll keep on doing what we’re doing," he said. It's hard to imagine the Packers doing anything other than continuing to plug along Sunday.
Run to daylight: The Carolina Panthers are giving up an average of 117 yards rushing per game this season, the seventh-worst mark in the NFL. As we've discussed a few times, the Bears haven't paid enough attention to their running game this season. That has to stop Sunday. We can spend all the time we want discussing the return of Panthers coach Ron Rivera and tight end Greg Olsen. I'm sure they’re both pumped for this game. But the Bears can control it if offensive coordinator Mike Martz can find a way get the running game going. The Panthers should be vulnerable in that area.
Someone will win: The 0-3 Minnesota Vikings will play at the 0-3 Kansas City Chiefs. Something has got to give, right? A matchup of two winless teams after at least three weeks is relatively rare; it's happened six times in the past 10 years of NFL play. The Vikings haven't given up on their playoff hopes quite yet. After all, three teams have advanced to the postseason over the past 21 seasons after starting 0-3. But if the Vikings fall to 0-4 on Sunday, the most interesting question remaining in their season will be when rookie quarterback Christian Ponder will get on the field. When they acquired starter Donovan McNabb this summer, I don't think the Vikings believed they would be facing a Ponder Watch so early in the season.