A little over three weeks ago, a few of my buddies and I were walking to the local Safeway. We had just finished up a great game of Settlers of Catan (I won with Longest Road and Largest Army - Woot Woot!) and so I decided to turn the conversation to football.
"Hey guys," I said, "this game against the Eagles is the real deal. This is some sort of Litmus Test for us." I said "Litmus Test" like the words had capital letters - full of reverence and respect-y and such.
The phrase resonated. I mean, come on, it's the team that watched Inception together, right? Plus, I knew that the Eagles/Bucs/emerging-Lions three week slew was going to be tough. In that conversation, I said that if the Niners only won one game, I would be happy. Joyous even.
But that phrase, man. Litmus Test. That just sort of stuck. I noticed during the week that it lingered in my conversations: in my Arthurian Legends class, I argued that Gawain's refusal of the young maiden was a Litmus Test for his showdown with the Green Knight. Litmus Test. It was there.
So coming into the Bucs game, all week long, Litmus Test. This game was between two legit teams. Frank Gore this, Buc's defense that = Litmus Test. I even made a weird game of it in my head. There's a Family Guy episode in which Hugh Laurie just says "House" a couple of times and Peter Griffin follows it up with "Roadhouse." I started to say "Litmus Test" in my head like that. It was weird.
And once the Bucs game ended (that happened right? The game doesn't seem all that memorable to me), I looked toward the Lions game with bated breath, lips a-licked, and eyes bigger than my football stomach. Because, guess what this is.
Yup, it's a Litmus Test.
This isn't to say that neither the Eagles nor the Bucs are good. I mean, the Eagles team has all sorts of crazy talent (full disclosure, Vick is my Fantasy Football QB) and the Bucs, I think, are turning into the real deal - Sunday notwithstanding.
But Holy Hot Potato, the Lions! I mean, honestly, who doesn't see Calvin Johnson and pee themselves a little bit?Don't deny it. This ain't seeing Willis run at you full speed ahead - that's a "you say it then you do it" situation. Calvin Johnson, though. I think he could out jump gravity and steal the moon's orbit (and then put it into orbit around JaMarcus Russell, cause he so fat, amirite?!).
And the man throwing him the ball might be okay too. I guess, if you value QBs who can throw the ball really well and weird stuff like that.
Honestly, the main component of that offense I am least worried about is Jahvid Best, and that dude is a sneaky little runner. Ask Chicago if we should be worried about him.
I think our defense is very very very very very very very good. Like borderline great. Willis and Bowman can just pound Best into the ground for as long as the Lions want to run him. And, I think the Smith twins can be very disruptive in the backfield. But, if both of these things don't happen, Vic Fangio is going to have a hard time keeping things in check this game. But hey, the Lions have a lot of weapons. This is going to be a true Litmus Test.
And that is more true for Carlos Rogers (or whoever has the main responsibility of covering Johnson, though I would imagine Rogers is the logical guy for the job, though there have been even some Culliver rumblings) than anybody else. I'm calling him the Prilosec/McDonalds/Microsoft/Google/Subway Litmus Test Player of the Pre-Game. I doubt that he will be asked to cover Johnson the entire time; likely there will be all sorts of double (triple?) coverage help. But hey, Litmus Test.
On the other side of the ball, their D-line is insane. These are some big dudes we are talking about. From what I have seen watching some of the Monday Night game, they don't actually seem to blitz a ton (and a sigh of relief swept through Niners Nation), but the linemen are so big and aggressive that sometimes they get it done themselves. Plus, they have the one guy who is supposed to be good... Duh, it's Suh.
The LB corps is actually pretty talented and perhaps a bit underrated, I would say. I think the Niners core blows them out of the water (they do that to most everybody in the NFL, actually), but I was surprised to read and pretend to fully understand stats that show the Lions aren't the greatest against the run. Their front seven look good.
Their secondary looks pretty average to maybe slightly better than average, though I would say that they are probably better equipped to sack Alex Smith than cover our TEs. Regardless, I think the Litmus Test is pretty well spread around on offense. Litmus Test O-line. Litmus Test Vernon Davis. And perhaps most importantly, Litmus Test Frank Gore.
So while I'm not writing up anything new when I make the joke about this being an oh-so unexpected game from two oh-so unexpected teams, I'm going to do it anyway. Who woulda thunk that the Lions-49ers game woulda be an NFC match-up of Playoff proportions!
But, seriously, Litmus Test. Beat this team and we can hold our own against quite a few elite teams in the NFL. Litmus Test.