Another week, another impending Lions game. Last week was a surprising comeback against the Eagles that just fell short. This time, the newly-christened Washington Commanders are coming to town. On paper, this is a similar team to the Lions. Young, talented receivers and a pass-catching running back trying to bail out a middling QB, with young defenses that may not be able to compete with other, more talented units. The one thing the Commanders have that Detroit doesn’t? A win. If the Lions want to even things out to .500 this week, they’d be well-advised to follow the second installment of Sackrider’s Three Keys to the Game.
1. Pick on the linebackers.
Looking at how the Commanders played against Jacksonville last week, they were gashed by WR Christian Kirk for 117 yards. Fortunately, the Lions have similar short passing options – namely, Amon-Ra St. Brown, TJ Hockenson, and D’Andre Swift. We all know about Jared Goff’s preference for short passes and checkdowns, and this is an ideal matchup to play to his strengths.
2. Stop the run.
The Eagles killed the Lions in a lot of ways last week, but Detroit’s primary weakness was their inability to stop the run. If they make that mistake again this week, Antonio Gibson will make them regret it. Expect to see a lot of DTs Isaiah Buggs and Alim McNeill as they try to stuff the run. The goal here should be to force the Commanders to pass the ball, which may force a few classic Carson Wentz mistakes.
3. Put pressure on Carson Wentz.
Look, we all know that in the heat of the moment, Commanders QB Carson Wentz doesn’t have the greatest decision making skills. When he’s under pressure, PFF graded him at a 51.5, a sharp contrast from his 71.9 when he has a clean pocket. He threw two interceptions against the Jaguars on back-to-back drives, causing them to lose a 14-12 lead. Fortunately, the Lions have several disruptive weapons they can use to shake Wentz up. It’s going to be up to edge rushers Aidan Hutchinson and Charles Harris on the edge and McNeill up the middle to rough him up. Wentz often gets in his own head, and it’s up to the Lions to give him a bad day.
I think the Lions are hungrier than the Commanders right now, and I think that’ll translate. Injuries could really sink their ship, though, with most of the starting offensive line out and Swift dealing with some bumps and bruises himself. However, this’ll be offense vs offense, and I trust Jared Goff (slightly) more than Carson Wentz when it counts. Lions win a close one thanks to more fourth quarter heroics. Lions win 31-28.