Matchup Preview: Detroit Lions vs. New England Patriots

Detroit Lions fans were once again disappointed following a 48-45 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 4. Now sitting at 1-3, the Lions are hoping to change the prospect of their season before their Week 6 bye with a road game against the New England Patriots. While the offense has consistently looked good, the defense has remained abysmal.

The Patriots come into the matchup after two tough losses to the Baltimore Ravens and the Green Bay Packers – two projected playoff contenders. The major story surrounding the Patriots has been the availability of quarterback Mac Jones. Jones has a high ankle sprain that was sustained during New England’s Week 3 loss to the Ravens.

With both teams sitting at 1-3, let’s look at the keys to the game.

Who will it be? Patriots’ quarterback injuries
In their road loss in overtime to the Packers, the Patriots also lost their backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, who left the game with a concussion. Rookie Bailey Zappe took over the roll, and was able to manage the game. Zappe completed 10 of his 15 attempts, and threw for 99 yards and a touchdown. While he was able to keep the game close and take it into overtime, the Patriots’ offense failed to do anything in overtime. While the ankle injury to Jones is expected to keep him out multiple games, the Patriots remain optimistic about his return. While no indications have been made yet for the matchup against the Lions, expect Zappe to make his first career start. If this is the case, the Patriots will likely side with a run heavy approach against one of the worst run defenses in the NFL.

Can the Lions’ Defense get a stop?
The Lions failed to get a stop against the Seattle Seahawks last week, and somehow made Geno Smith look like one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. No matter what the Seahawks did, it worked. The Seahawks threw for 320 yards and rushed for 235, while averaging 8.8 yards per play. The most noticeable aspect of the Lions’ lackluster defense is their inability to adjust. The same plays that worked for the Seahawks in the first quarter also worked in the fourth. This is a mix between a lack of talent on the defensive side of the ball and a poor defensive scheme from Aaron Glenn. While the Lions have a benefit of likely facing a backup quarterback, schematic changes have to be made. Even if the Lions’ offense can outscore the Patriots, this style of play is not sustainable. The Patriots have the 10th best rushing offense, and will have the ability to hurt the Lions all afternoon.

The calm before the kick
The Lions kickers have been very bad so far this season. Week 4 was no different. On Monday, the Lions cut kicker Dominik Eberle after he missed two extra points against the Seahawks. Eberle made the start after Austin Seibert sustained a groin injury. Seibert may be ready to go against the Patriots, but even he has struggled. Seibert missed two field goals in Week 3 against the Vikings. The Lions have been close in every game they have played this season. Every point matters in these close games. If this issue does not get fixed, there will be multiple more losses where the Lions come within one score.

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