The Detroit Lions once again kept their playoff hopes alive with a massive win against the division rival Minnesota Vikings. Winning 34-23 in convincing fashion, the Lions stay in the hunt and are in reach of the Seattle Seahawks, New York Giants and Washington Commanders for a Wildcard spot. Ideally, the Lions need to win three of their next four games, if not win out. Maybe the toughest of their final four games comes this week against the New York Jets. A win against the Jets would put the Lions in a great position to run the table.
The New York Jets currently sit at 7-6 and are tied for last place in the AFC East. Coming into the matchup with the Lions, the Jets have lost two games in a row to the Minnesota Vikings and the Buffalo Bills. While the Jets defense has been elite all season, major questions have revolved around the production of their offense. The Jets have a 41% chance to make the playoffs, and much like the Lions, they will likely need to win three or four of their remaining games to have a shot.
With both teams looking to make the playoffs, let’s look at some keys to the game.
No Mike White
After a crushing hit to the midsection by Buffalo Bills linebacker Matt Milano during the Jets’ 20-12 loss, quarterback Mike White was taken out of the game for X-rays, but was able to finish the game. Now, doctors have not cleared White for contact. The Jets have announced that quarterback Zach Wilson will start against the Lions. Wilson was benched in November after an abysmal performance against the New England Patriots. After the game, Wilson said it was not his fault that the offense performed poorly. With White as quarterback, the Jets seemed to have a new energy. While they lost two of their three games with White as the starter, White performed well. The loss of White gives the Lions’ defense a great advantage. The Lions defense has drastically turned things around, and an underperforming young quarterback is just what they need right now.
The Jets Defense is Legit
The Jets defense does just about everything right. They are in the top ten in every major defensive statistic, including sacks, interceptions, pressure percentage and passer rating allowed. They also do all of this while having the lowest blitz rate in the NFL. Head coach Robert Saleh has transformed this defense into a monster. This defense is very reminiscent of the defenses that Saleh coached as defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers. Expect this defense to give an elite Lions offense some troubles, something that very few teams have been able to do this season.
The Lions defense continues to trend in the right directions
Major strides have been made by defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn this season. After a historically bad start, major schematic changes were made. One of the major changes was the health of the team. The pass rush was troubled by injuries, and have since gotten healthy. Detroit is trending in the right direction at the perfect time. Despite giving up over 400 passing yards against the Vikings, they stifled the Vikings rushing attack, only giving up 22 yards. The Jets offensive line has been riddled with injuries, and two of their best offensive linemen, Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker, are currently on injured reserve. The Lions should be able to make Wilson uncomfortable and force him into mistakes.