Many of the Lions sat down to watch football on Monday night by themselves at home. They knew they would be visiting both Philadelphia and Washington over the next three weeks, and as they watched the Eagles' 20-12 loss to the Redskins, they had to think what many of their fans were thinking:
They can beat these guys.
The Lions are 2-0. They didn't beat two of the NFL's elite teams. They beat Oakland and Minnesota. Still, 2-0 is 2-0. It's a big deal when you won only three games all of last season. And it's exciting when a three-game stretch that seemed so difficult -- at Philly, Chicago, at Washington -- suddenly seems a little less difficult.
It's amazing that the Lions might actually have to worry about overconfidence. Back in 2004, the Lions started 2-0 -- and couldn't handle it in Week 3 against the Eagles. They got clobbered at home, 30-13. Last year, the Lions won two out of three and were supposedly hitting the soft spot in their schedule -- San Francisco, at Arizona, Miami. They promptly lost three in a row and ended up losing seven straight.
"They've still got a lot of good players," Lions offensive lineman Damien Woody cautioned, when asked about the Eagles' 0-2 start. "Any game, they could snap out of the little funk they're in and have a tremendous game. So I'm expecting their best game. Philadelphia's a tough place to play. I guarantee you right now: They're looking at this game as the perfect game to get it going. So we're going to have to match their intensity early."
Quarterback Jon Kitna said he couldn't stay awake for the end of the Monday night game, but from the telecast and the film, he saw a formidable Philadelphia defense.
"This is a good defense that we're playing, a defense that always has something new for each game, and you have to adjust," Kitna said. "They've got guys flying around out there. They're a little unorthodox in the way that they play it, so you know you have your work cut out for you and you have to be very smart with the football."
"They don't run the normal coverages that people run," Kitna said. "They'll run any kind of coverage. They'll make up a coverage that you've never seen before. You have to play your rules in this system."
The Eagles are hobbled by injuries. Cornerback Lito Sheppard probably won't play. Safety Brian Dawkins and running back Brian Westbrook are beaten up. Quarterback Donovan McNabb doesn't seem the same after suffering a torn knee ligament last season.
But the Lions seem to be getting stronger. Running back Kevin Jones could play for the first time since Dec. 10 at Minnesota, when he suffered a Lisfranc injury -- a tearing of the tissues that connect the bones in the middle of the foot. Jones could be motivated to play in his hometown, and even if he gets only 15 to 20 snaps, as expected, his combination of speed and power could help an anemic running game.
"I don't want to put too many expectations on him early, because he's coming back from a serious injury and he's got to work himself into shape and just get comfortable with his foot," left tackle Jeff Backus said. "But Kevin's a good player, a hardnosed player. Anytime you can add a player of his caliber to our lineup, it's a huge bonus. It's a huge plus."
SERIES HISTORY: 27th meeting. Series tied, 12-12-2. Teams have played only once since 1998. Lions were 2-0 and full of confidence then, just like now. But Eagles were 2-0, too, not 0-2, like now. Eagles won, 30-13.