Surprising Lions Hit D.C.

The Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins have been stockpiling wide receivers the past four years. Five weeks into this season, though, both teams are still dealing with problems at the position.

Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell and his Lions counterpart, Jon Kitna, may be missing key targets as two of the season's most surprising teams meet at FedEx Field on Sunday.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Washington -3.5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday's game, the over/under has been set at 46.5 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 69% of bets for this game have been placed on Detroit +3.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

Washington (2-1) has aggressively pursued wide receivers in recent years, beginning with the signing of Laveranues Coles from the New York Jets in 2003. After trading Coles back to the Jets for receiver Santana Moss in 2005, the Redskins signed Antwaan Randle El and acquired Brandon Lloyd in a trade the following offseason.

Of that group, however, the only receiver that the Redskins seem certain to be able to count on Sunday is Randle El.

Moss strained his groin in a 24-17 loss to the New York Giants on Sept. 23, and is uncertain for this game. Lloyd, meanwhile, has been in Gibbs' doghouse and is now the team's No. 4 receiver, so Washington will need to find somebody to line up opposite of Randle El.

Washington signed veteran Keenan McCardell on Monday to bolster the thin receiving corps and is familiar with the Redskins offense, having played in a similar system in San Diego. He said it was "realistic" that he could play Sunday.

The two-time Pro Bowl selection was cut by the Chargers after last season and nearly signed with the Redskins in July, but went to Houston because he wanted to play in his hometown. The Texans released him at the end of preseason.

Uncertainty at wide receiver may be tough to overcome for a young quarterback such as Campbell, who may also have a limited running game at his disposal with Clinton Portis nursing a knee injury. Portis was hurt in the Giants game, although he gave way to capable backup Ladell Betts.

"There's always something you've got to adjust to," Campbell said. "You've got to get used to adjusting."

Moss is nearly indispensable, as the Redskins face the possibility of getting into a shootout with a Lions team that has one of the most dynamic passing attacks in the league.

Detroit (3-1), though, could be without outstanding rookie receiver Calvin Johnson (back) for the second straight game as it tries to win at Washington for the first time. Johnson - the No. 2 pick in April's draft and one of four receivers the Lions have drafted in the first round over the last five years - had 10 catches for 189 yards and two touchdowns in his first three contests.

Of that group of receivers taken in the first round, only Johnson and Roy Williams remain on Detroit's roster. Williams has developed into one of the league's top wideouts, with 26 receptions for 388 yards and three touchdowns this season.

He had six catches for 53 yards in the Lions' 37-27 win over defending NFC champion Chicago on Sunday. Even without Johnson, Detroit topped 30 points for the second time in four games and is fourth in the NFL with 28.5 per contest.

With Kitna leading the offense, coach Rod Marinelli thinks the Lions could take a big step. Detroit has already matched its win total from last season.

"If we can clean a few things up, we have a chance to be an elite team," Marinelli said. "I mean one of the best teams in the league - the top echelon."

The Lions have been extremely productive offensively even though they haven't protected Kitna well. He was sacked six times by the Bears, increasing his total to 18 for the season.

"The pass protection has to be better - we have to start winning more of the one-on-one battles," Marinelli said. "Every guy has to do his job and pass block. If we have to do other things to help the protection, we will do it."

Right tackle George Foster, acquired from Denver in the Dre' Bly trade, was benched in favor of Jonathan Scott midway through Sunday's contest. Foster has struggled all season with penalties and pass blocking.

Marinelli called the move a "rotation," but hasn't committed to leaving Foster in the starting lineup.

Detroit's offensive line needs to help Kitna to stay healthy if the team wants to contend for a playoff spot. The veteran has played well in offensive coordinator Mike Martz's system, completing 71 percent of his passes for an NFL-leading 1,227 yards, with eight touchdowns and four interceptions.

Detroit is 0-17 in Washington. This will be the first meeting between the Lions and Redskins since Nov. 7, 2004, when Detroit won 17-10 at home.

By: Staci Richards - - Email Us

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