I’ve been a Lions fan for a long time now, so I know both the danger and value of misplaced optimism in this team. But what’s currently coming out of Ford Field is not the S.O.L. – same old Lions. This is a team that hung with a probable playoff team in Philly and dominated the Commanders to the tune of 22 unanswered points in the first half. So, my question is… Are the Lions good this year?
Only time will tell. But right now, we have a lot to like and a lot to look forward to. This week, it’s Minnesota, and our team’s first road trip of the young season so far. The Packers have a tough matchup against the Bucs and the Bears are the Bears, so I expect the winner of this matchup to take the lead in a VERY contested NFC North. With that in mind, here’s Sackrider’s Three Keys to the Game for this week.
1. Pound the ball all day long.
We all know the Lions are good at running the ball right now. Behind D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams, this is a top rushing team in the NFL right now. What we don’t know is that, luckily, the Vikings have not been good this season at stopping the run. Looking at their stats, they’ve been allowing 5.3 YPC allowed and dead last in rushing success allowed. I’m willing to bet the Lions were going to make sure to feature Swift anyway, but the fact is that keeping the ball on the ground is going to hit Minnesota where they’re weakest.
2. Take Justin Jefferson out of the equation.
I’m sure most fans can remember the scene two weeks ago, when AJ Brown pretty much did whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted it. However, a week later, the Lions secondary did a much better job neutralizing Washington’s wideouts, holding Terry McLauren to 4 catches for 75 yards. We’re going to need a repeat performance this week, as CB Jeff Okudah – two games into an impressive bounceback season – is tasked with facing his fellow 2020 draft pick Justin Jefferson. In Week 1 against the Packers, Jefferson was faced with man coverage, which he masterfully dismantled. However, the Eagles faced him with bracket coverage for most of the game, which pretty much made him a nonfactor for most of the evening. DC Aaron Glenn is keeping his scheme cards close to his chest, but hopefully he throws more double teams at Jefferson. It is worth noting that the Lions don’t have a dominant corner like Philly has in Darius Slay, but hopefully, Glenn’s scheme can overcompensate for that.
3. Blitz Kirk Cousins.
It’s really a shame this game is on Sunday. If it was played one day later, we’d get to see Monday Night Football Kirk Cousins, and the game might be that much easier. But while we can’t change when we play, we can make Cousins feel the pressure. The Lions have called 39 blitzes so far this season, which produced 19 of their 50 QB pressures. Glenn has been aggressive with his pass rushers this season, and he’ll be well-served to continue that trend on Sunday. Against the Eagles, Cousins only
completed four passes for 21 yards and two interceptions when blitzed. The Lions are going to have to bring the pain off the edge for a successful game on Sunday.
My Prediction: I am drinking the Kool Aid right now, but I’ve got some apprehension heading into Sunday’s game. Even if the Lions can commit to the three items above, they still have to deal with Dalvin Cook, Adam Theilen, and a formidable defense. I really think this could go either way, and could be a thriller in the 1 pm slate on Sunday. So when in doubt, go with Detroit. My guess is it’s tight, but the Lions repeat their iconic win from last year with a last-second score. Either way, expect lots of offense. Lions win 34-27.