It’s the visitors from Detroit that will looking to announce themselves on a national stage.
“I think if we get the win, people will give us a little bit more respect,” said Lions defensive end Cliff Avril. “But respect is earned, that’s just with anything. We definitely have to go earn it, get that ‘W.’”
Everyone knows about the 49ers. They are tested and true contenders to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
The 49ers surprised most of the NFL last year when a new coaching staff endured the lockout and delivered a 13-3 record, an NFC West title and were a few plays away from reaching the Super Bowl.
The 49ers only enhanced their status when they marched into Lambeau Field and tattooed a 30-22 victory on the Packers in Week 1.
“We got kicked in the butt,” Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said.
The Lions? No one is quite sure what to make of them.
Detroit, without question, has some elite talent dotting the roster.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns last season. Last week Stafford threw for 355 yards. Dating back to last season, he has four-straight games with at least 350 yards. Only Drew Brees of the Saints has ever done that.
Receiver Calvin Johnson led the league with 1,681 receiving yards, and was second in touchdowns (16) and fourth in receptions (96).
Tight end Brandon Pettigrew set a franchise record with 83 receptions in 2011.
On defense, ends Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch and tackles Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams, give the Lions perhaps the league’s best defensive line.
And as a team, you have to tip your cap to a Lions team that at 10-6 secured the franchise’s first playoff berth since 1999, and first winning season since ’95.
Dating back to 2010, when the Lions finished the season with fourth-straight wins, they are 15-6, which is certainly impressive.
But a closer look leaves questions.
They have beaten just two playoff teams during that span. The Packers, 7-3, in ’10 when quarterback Aaron Rodgers was knocked from the game. And the Broncos last season, 45-10, during the first game of the Tim Tebow experiment. It wasn’t until after that game when the Broncos tailored the offense to Tebow.
Besides those two games, every time the Lions had a chance to make a statement, they failed to do so:
So here the Lions are again, promising and talented, with a chance to assert themselves as a real contender in the NFC.
“All counts the same,” he said. “It counts a little bit more because it’s a NFC game. NFC on the road; those are important things against a team that won the West and was in the championship game. That’s plenty of reason for it to be an important game. But … we only have 16 of them, they’re all important.
“We don’t care how people look at us. That’s fine for fans and for TV and everything else. Power rankings and all that other crap doesn’t mean anything to us. It’s about getting the win. I mean, it’s a big game and people are talking and we certainly are excited to play. But we still have 14 games after this one. Whether we win the game or lose the game, we’re playing next week.”
In the Lions locker room, however, the players are embracing the opportunity the team has on Sunday night against the 49ers. This is what they call a measuring stick game.
“You could say that, a lot of people would say that,” Johnson said. “We definitely want to see what we’re stacked up to, and we feel like we have a good shot going into there. A great shot.
“It would definitely propel us through the early part of the season. We feel like we are a formidable opponent on the road. I think our concentration is real high on the road so I think — I know — we’re going to be ready.”
Road game against an NFC finalist. National television audience.
Time to take measure of the Lions.
Greg Bedard is a contributor to NBCSports.com and the NFL writer for the Boston Globe. Follow him on Twitter @GregABedard.
PFT: Tom Brady, who turns 36 in August, says he has "never felt better throwing the football" and his confidence is peaking.
PFT: Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith said the draft process taught him an important lesson on taking criticism.
2013 SNF Schedule
Check out the 2013 Sunday Night Football schedule.
Latest from ProFootballTalk
Video: Football from NBC Sports
Chudzinski: 'Too early' to name a QB
Following Thursday's OTA, Browns coach Rob Chudzinski speaks to the media about his team’s brewing quarterback controversy. He feels the competition will aid in each QB’s progression as a passer, but he isn’t ready to name a starter for Week 1.
Check out some of the NFL cheerleaders from across the league.