The Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions both have defenses ranked in the top 10 in the NFL this season, but it has been the Seahawks' ability to pull out some close games that has them above the .500 mark.
For the Lions, an inability by a talented offense to put up points has the team in the basement of the NFC North.
Detroit may have trouble finding the end zone this Sunday against a stingy Seattle defense that is one of the best in the league.
Thanks to the pairing of the talented Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, Detroit was to put together its best record in 16 years a season ago and make the playoffs for the first time since 1999. Though it ended with a first-round loss, the Lions figured to be a team on the rise.
However, the Lions sit at just 2-4 through six games this year, losing four of five since their Week 1 win over the St. Louis Rams. Detroit rallied for a 26-23 overtime win against the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct. 14, but only managed a late touchdown in a Monday night loss to the Chicago Bears.
The Bears scored 10 points in the first quarter and added a field goal in the third stanza en route to a 13-7 win despite Detroit owning a 340-296 advantage in total yards. Stafford, though, had an interception and Stefan Logan, Joique Bell and Mikel Leshoure all lost fumbles, with Logan, the team's returner, actually putting the ball on the ground twice.
"(The Bears) combined good coverage with pass rush all game long," said Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz. "We turn it over three times in the red zone, twice within the 5-yard line, and once on a punt -- that's the tale of the game. You're not going to win that way."
Seattle has won by staying competitive for 60 minutes, going 4-3 to sit a game back of the San Francisco 49ers for the top spot in the NFC West. The Seahawks are coming off a 13-6 setback to the Niners last Thursday, failing to hold a 6-3 lead after getting shut out in the second half.
Quarterback Russell Wilson completed just 9-of-23 passes for 122 yards with an interception as Seattle couldn't ride the momentum of a thrilling 24-23 rally over the New England Patriots the previous week to a third straight win.
"The way we lost was frustrating. We could have done some things better," Wilson said.
Seattle, which will wrap a string of playing four of five on the road, has seen Wilson become the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to throw two game-winning touchdown passes in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime since the merger.
"Those are the kind of things that I think he will continue to do. I think he can do special things," said Seattle head coach Pete Carroll.
The Seahawks needed to rally the last time they played the Lions, yielding 17 first-quarter points before fighting back for a 32-20 home win on Nov. 8, 2009.
It was Seattle's third straight victory in the series, a span in which it has outscored Detroit 76-40, and it leads the all-time series 7-4.
The Lions haven't bested the Seahawks since 1999.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
One thing not to watch is the scoreboard as this contest could be of the low- scoring variety.
Seattle comes in ranked fifth overall in the NFL in yards allowed per game (297.3) and is giving up just 15.1 points per contest, ranked third-best in the league.
Though Detroit is yielding 25.0 PPG, its still ranks eighth in total defense at 319.3 YPG.
The Seahawks excel at bringing pressure off the ends and are sixth in the NFC with 19 sacks. Defensive end Chris Clemons has seven of those, tied for third in the NFL, while end Bruce Irvin is second among all rookies with 4.5 sacks.
Neither picked up a sack versus the 49ers, but defensive end Jason Jones did bring down the quarterback to give him 2 1/2 on the year.
Overall, Seattle's defense has yielded three touchdowns in its last 16-plus quarters.
Detroit could also prove a headache for Wilson, who leads all rookie quarterbacks with four victories and is second with eight touchdown passes.
"I think he's done some pretty extraordinary things. I think he's played within the format we set up for him well," said Carroll. "He's played particularly well at home, not as well on the road, we noticed. The numbers are quite a bit different there. He's grown and corrected things."
In three games at home this year, the 23-year-old rookie has thrown six touchdown passes without an interception, while getting picked off seven times to two TD throws in four road contests.
Wilson may spend part of his day running from Lions tackle Ndamukong Suh, who combines talent with a reputation for some dirty plays. He has 3 1/2 sacks on the season and his takedown of Chicago's Jay Cutler on Monday night left the quarterback with some injured ribs.
Some Bears took exception to the hit by Suh, which saw him chase down Cutler before driving him hard into the turf, but the second-year player defended his play.
"It was simply a football play," Suh said. "I can't control my momentum, especially at that high speed. I'm chasing him. He's running away from me. My whole goal is to get the quarterback down and make a play and get us off the field or move on to the next play."
Suh had one of five Detroit sacks on the day, with end Kyle Vanden Bosch notching two himself.
The Lions are likely to be without safety Amari Spievey due to a concussion he suffered in the second half versus the Bears, while wide receiver Nate Burleson will miss the rest of the campaign due to a broken leg.
With Burleson out, second-year wideout Titus Young and rookie Ryan Broyles will be called upon to help out star receiver Johnson, who was held to just three catches for 34 yards despite 11 targets.
Young, though, came up with six catches for 81 yards and Broyles had three receptions for 51 yards with a score.
"That's tough. We lose a great leader, captain on the team," Johnson said of Burleson. "I hate it for him that it had to happen to him. ... That's tough because he's an emotional leader, leads by example on the field. Gets the energy up, helps us get the energy up. So we're going to have to take that over for him."
Energy has certainly lacked from the offense at times as the Lions are fourth in total offense (406.3 YPG) but are just 19th in points with 22.2 per game.
"We just haven't been able to put points on the board early in the game and that's obviously come back to hurt us," said Stafford.
An improved running game could help Stafford, much like the presence of Marshawn Lynch gives Wilson another option. Lynch is tied for third in the NFL with 652 rushing yards and is second in the NFC with 735 yards from scrimmage.
Still, Seattle is scoring just 16.6 points per game, ranked 31st in the NFL.
It has been bizarro world for the Lions, who have struggled scoring while watching their defense continue to exceed expectations. Detroit would be one of the league's more dangerous teams if it can get the offense on the same level as the other side of the game.
A matchup with Seattle's hard-nosed defense with extra rest isn't the best remedy, nor is the loss of Burleson.
The Seahawks' offense doesn't set the world on fire and that is the reason that the Lions may have the edge this weekend since they luck out by not having to travel to Seattle.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Lions 17, Seahawks 16