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Can Ndamukong Suh and DeAndre Levy control DeMarco Murray and the Cowboys' running game?

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If the Lions can keep Murray in check, they'll make it to the next round of the playoffs. Retired NFL defensive end Stephen White explains.

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It was supposed to get Medieval in the trenches this weekend in the Lions at Cowboys Wild Card playoff game. Talk about your classic throwback matchup between the Cowboys' hard-nosed, road-grader offensive line and a shit-kicker, stout and aggressive Lions front seven. I might have paid pay-per-view prices just to watch this game play.

But then, Mr Sportsmanship himself Ndamukong Suh decided to step on Aaron Rodgers' leg last week for who in the hell knows what reason, which almost got him suspended for the first round of the playoffs.

And lets be clear about this, he did that shit.

Watching the video at first, he had me fooled because he wasn't looking back and he never seemed to react even to Rodgers hitting him on the leg trying to get him off his leg. Then common sense intervened and I thought back to when I was playing. One of the most dangerous things that can happen on the football field is for a player to step on something during a play. The reason is that normally if you did step on something you probably didn't see it and therefore aren't prepared for your foot to be at any other angle than flat on the ground which affects your weight distribution. One wrong step and you can snap an ankle or tear a knee ligament in the blink of an eye.

Look at that video again. Suh never reacts at all, which is how you know he is guilty. He had to have felt Rodgers' leg underneath him. Yet, he didn't turn to look back and see what it was he was stepping on and his foot didn't quiver the way it normally would when coming down unexpectedly on an uneven surface. Rather than his lack of reaction showing his innocence, as I first thought, it's pretty damning in showing his intent.

Turns out, Ted Cottrell both admitted that Suh's stomp was intentional, and also agreed to grant his appeal and lift the suspension. Some impressive double speak. I'm talking Orson Wells 1984 stuff. But at the end of the day, all that matters is Suh is playing this weekend, and now we get the battle royal up front that we were owed all along.

Now we will be able to see the Lions' front seven at full strength trying to limit running back DeMarco Murray to fewer than 20 carries and 80 yards. With Suh in the lineup, it wasn't absurd to think that the NFL's No. 1 run defense -- a unit that allowed an average of just less than 70 yards a game on the ground -- could keep Murray in check.

For the Cowboys to win, Murray has to have 20 carries or more that result in more than 80 yards for the game. In contrast, if the Lions can find a way to hold him to less, I believe they win the game, plain and simple.

My X factor in this game is Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy, a big-time Pro Bowl snub in my book and an absolute animal out there on the field. Levy has as much of a case as Bucs linebacker Lavonte David when it comes to not getting the attention they deserve nationally for their level of play. Levy may be capable of shutting down Murray on his own if he makes a bunch of big plays to catch him behind the line of scrimmage before Murray can get started. I imagine if Levy goes too hard trying to stop the run, he might get burned in coverage a few times by the Cowboys. At the same time, that dude is so fast, I bet he will still find a way to get back to the play.

Had Suh's suspension been upheld, the only way I saw the Lions competing this weekend was if Levy played out of his mind even more than usual. Not exactly an easy task, but doable. It's easier with Suh in the game, but the bottom line remains: If Murray gets more than 20 carries and tops 80 yards, the Lions are fried. If not, the Lions will be moving on to the second round.

It's really as simple as that.

★★★

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