Forget the Detroit Lions' 4-7 record. They have the NFL's second most-prolific offense, a defense that epitomizes “nasty,” and they're playing at home. The Indianapolis Colts have their work more than cut out for them. Here are five pivotal factors:
Divine intervention vs. Megatron
There's no way, absolutely no way, any of the Colts' defensive backs can handle Lions superstar receiver Calvin Johnson. It can't be done. He's 6-foot-5, 236 pounds and can leap over small cornerbacks in a single bound. The Colts have small cornerbacks. There's no other way to put this: The only way the Colts can slow Megatron is if they put so much pressure on quarterback Matthew Stafford he's rushing or late on his throws. Otherwise, they'll need divine intervention. And there's no proof even the divine can slow Johnson.
Create some discomfort for Stafford
Let's say the Colts can't slow Megatron. Fine. Give him seven or eight catches and a score. But Indy can still win by forcing Stafford into quick, hurried throws otherwise, and by finding a way to turn some of Stafford's gambling into turnovers. Maybe that's an interception (a rare possibility, given the Colts' rather anemic numbers in that category) or maybe it's one of those Robert Mathis or Dwight Freeney sack/strips that cause a sudden change in possession. Bottom line: They can't let Stafford stand and throw. He'll destroy them.
Luck finding the right target
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has 10 of his 12 interceptions on the road. A quick assumption would be that the number of passes Luck is attempting on the road is a factor. The Colts are 2-4 in Luck's six games with the most passing attempts. Three of those losses (Patriots, Jets, Bears) were on the road. But it's not necessarily the number of passes that makes the difference, since Luck threw his season-high 55 in a win over Green Bay and his third-highest 48 in a win over Miami. He had only one pick in those two wins, however.
Special teams momentum
It was shocking to see T.Y. Hilton return a punt for a touchdown last week because the Colts have rarely had much of a threat in the return game. Hilton won't return kickoffs because interim coach Bruce Arians says he's not a fit there. (It didn't make much sense when he explained it, either. Hilton returned kickoffs in college.) But good field position and continued strong punting by Pat McAfee will be crucial to developing some sort of upper hand for the Colts.
Keeping their cool
The Lions are one of those teams that can turn games ugly early. Ndamukong Suh leads the way, of course, but the entire team has a volatile edge to it that has only increased with frustrating losses. The Colts can't afford to allow the Lions to draw them into chippy behavior or retaliation for cheap shots. Let the Lions take the personal-foul penalties. The Colts must keep their cool. That's easier said than done when Suh is kicking and stomping, of course.