Detroit enters Week 16 and will face a big test with a huge Monday Night Football game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Field in Arlington, Texas. The Lions are 9-5 and still lead the NFC North. Detroit can clinch the North if the Packers lose on Saturday to the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field. Detroit can clinch a wildcard berth if Tampa Bay and Washington lose on Saturday as well. The Cowboys have clinched home field advantage and the NFC East. Dallas has nothing to play after the Giants lost on Thursday night but the Cowboys should play their starters still to stay in a rhythm. This could potentially be a big game for Detroit’s playoff chances.
Detroit Passing Attack
Stafford had a rough game against a top 5 defense in New York in Week 15. Stafford had a 70 rating with 0 TDs and 1 interception (late in the game in the end zone). Stafford has thrown 22 TDs and 8 interceptions on the year with a 95.8 QB rating. Stafford has completed 66.3% of his passes for 7.3 YPA. Stafford is having a good year despite average pressure allowed by the Lions offensive line and no run game support. Detroit has plenty of weapons but Marvin Jones and Eric Ebron must step up this week. Hopefully, Theo Riddick can return from injury (missed last 2 games) and be an underneath passing threat. Riddick missed practice again on Thursday. Golden Tate had a nice game against the Giants and must continue to make big plays for Detroit.
The Cowboys are 27th in the league and allow a 96.4 QB rating by opposing QBs. Stafford, if protected, can have a big day passing the football. Dallas has 30 sacks on the year and may get Randy Gregory back this week. Tyronne Crawford (4.5 sacks), Benson Mayowa (4 sacks), Maliek Collins (4.0 sacks) and Demarcus Lawrence are the top pass rushers for Dallas. Crawford and Lawrence are battling injuries however and their game day status is up in the air. David Irving had a big game in Week 15 against Tampa Bay as well at DE. Detroit must find a way to slow down the Cowboys pass rushers to give Stafford time to produce long drives and touchdowns.
Detroit Run Game
Detroit had a nice rushing day in Week 14 against Chicago but struggled again against the Giants. However, Detroit runs only at 3.7 YPC. Dallas allows 3.9 YPC which is 10th in the league but have the lowest rushing yards allowed on them per game. Dallas is 4th best in the league in points per game allowed. It will be tough sledding for Detroit on Monday Night.
It will be tough for Detroit to run and they will need Riddick back to have success. Dwayne Washington’s 2.9 YPC has been very poor his rookie year with no run blocking in 83 carries. Zach Zenner had a crucial red zone fumble last week and must rebound from that against Dallas.
Riddick (3.9 YPC) will be needed to boost the Lions rushing attack. Detroit must find a way to run block. Travis Swanson has missed the last two games and missed Thursday’s practice (concussion). Hopefully, he can return from a concussion to stabilize the Lions interior offensive line. Otherwise, Graham Glasgow will start at center and Laken Tomlinson will come off the bench at left guard. Right guard Larry Warford needs to play much better than he did in Week 15.
If Detroit can run the ball enough and control the clock, they should have a good chance to beat Dallas.
Cowboys Passing Attack
Rookie Dak Prescott came out of nowhere this season for the injured Tony Romo. Prescott has produced a 103.2 rating in 431 passing attempts with 7.9 YPA. The Dak Attack has 20 TDs and 4 interceptions on the season. He protects the football and allows the Cowboys a chance to win with their run game and defense. Prescott has ample protection with a really good offensive line led by pro-bowlers Tyron Smith, Zach Martin and Travis Frederick.
Dez Bryant is a huge threat with 726 yards and 6 TDs on the season. Cole Beasley is a sneaky slot player with 759 yards and 5 TDs on the season. Reliable tight end Jason Witten has 630 yards and 2 TDS. Terrence Williams notched 500 yards and 3 TDs. Dallas has a plethora of weapons for Prescott to throw the ball. If Dak has time, he can tear the Lions secondary apart.
Detroit may be missing top corner Darius Slay (hamstring) which is a huge blow. Slay blanketed Bryant in their last matchup. Nevin Lawson and Johnson Bademosi will have their hands full with Bryant and Terrence Williams. Asa Jackson has been terrible filling in for injured nickel back Quandre Diggs (IR). Cole Beasley could have a huge day for Dallas out of the slot. Detroit is 10th in PPG allowed but gives up a 101 QB rating. Dallas could have success unless the Lions can pressure Prescott.
Ziggy Ansah is dealing with a shoulder injury but finally notched a sack last week. Devin Taylor has been disappointing but Kerry Hyder has had a season for Detroit. The Lions must have their best pass rush day of the season in this game. Halotia Ngata, Kyrti Thornton, A’Shawn Robinson, Stefan Charles and Tyrunn Walker need to bring more pass rush from the interior. Ngata is dealing with a quad injury but should play.
Cowboys Run Game
Ezekiel Elliott is a monster. He has run for 1,551 yards and 13 TDs at 5.0 YPC. Dallas has a great offensive line that opens big hole for Elliott. Elliott makes teams pay the price. Prescott is a mobile threat with 238 yards rushing. Alfred Morris only has 3.8 YPC and Darren McFadden only notched three carries on the year. The Lions allow 4.2 YPC and may have a tough time stopping Elliot. Dallas is 4th in the league in points scored per game and Elliott and Prescott are huge reasons why they are so good.
Dan Bailey is an accurate kicker and Chris Jones is a solid punter. Prater and Martin are having great years as the kicker and punter for Detroit. Andre Roberts has two punt return touchdowns and the Lions kick and punt coverage has been good in 2016. They will have to bottle up a solid returner in Lucky Whitehead.
Detroit will know more about clinching the division since they play on Monday. If the Packers lose on Saturday, Detroit will have huge motivation to win this game to clinch the division before Week 17. If Tampa Bay and Washington lose and Atlanta wins on Saturday, Detroit will have a playoff berth locked. Otherwise, Detroit will be playing hard against Dallas to keep their wildcard hopes alive too, in case the Packers flukily beat Detroit in Week 17 to win the North. Detroit has the talent to win in Dallas. We’ll see if they execute. Detroit 27 Dallas 24