The Detroit Lions (5-4) had a great bye week and are now in first place of the NFC North. Detroit starts their post-bye 7 game playoff run at home with the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-7). The game is 1 PM on CBS. Jacksonville is having a terrible year in the 4th year under Gus Bradley. Despite many resources used in free agency, the Jaguars are struggling on both offense and defense. Let’s take a look at the matchups for this must win home game for Detroit.
Lions Passing Offense
Stafford is still 5th in QB rating with a 101.6 rating through 9 games. Stafford has 18 TDs and 5 interceptions and has been protected well for most of this year. Detroit got a big game from Golden Tate in Week 9 in the overtime win over the Vikings. Marvin Jones has disappeared the last two weeks but still has 661 yards and 4 TDs. Anquan Boldin has 286 yards but many crucial first downs along with 5 TDs. Eric Ebron has been strong in the last two games for Detroit after missing 3 games with injury. Theo Riddick is still a big threat as a receiving running back as well. Andre Roberts made another clutch catch against the Vikings in Week 9. Detroit has the firepower for success.
Jacksonville is 17th allowing a 92.6 rating on the season with 14 TDs and only 3 interceptions. The Jaguars have secondary talent with rookie Jalen Ramsey but Prince Amukamara, Davon House, Jonathan Crypien and Tashuan Gibson have severely underachieved in the secondary this season.
Jacksonville has only 16 sacks on the season led by rookie Yannick Ngokue (4 sacks). Malik Jackson has been good at DT but doesn’t have the dominant play he had last year with Denver. Dante Fowler Jr has showed some flashes at DE but must do more in his second year as a former 1st round pick. Detroit’s protection has been solid this season and much better lately (Week 5- Week 9). If Stafford is protected, he should have a big game.
The Jaguars only allow 6.2 YPA though and Detroit will have to work for their yards and YAC through the air. If the Jaguars can limit the YAC, they can limit Detroit’s offense.
However, Jacksonville is 25th in the league allowing 26.6 PPG. Detroit has a great chance to score big on Jacksonville at Ford Field in Week 11.
Lions Run Game
Detroit only rushes at 3.9 YPC. Theo Riddick has 4.0 YPC but has been inconsistent filling in for the injured Ameer Abdullah (since Week 2 injury). Zach Zenner and rookie Dwayne Washington are young but have a poor YPC on the season. Washington has shown flashes but not much production since returning from an injury.
Jacksonville is below average allowing 4.2 YPC. Detroit could have rushing success in Week 11 led by Theo Riddick. If Detroit has rushing success, they usually have a big day on offense.
Jacksonville Passing Game
Blake Bortles was supposed to break out in 2016. Instead, Bortles looks broken. He has notched only an 80.6 QB rating with 16 TDs and 11 interceptions. Bortles is completing 60% of his passes but at only 6.4 YPA. Jacksonville has allowed 21 sacks and poor pass protection for most of the season. Jacksonville is 27th scoring only 19.3 PPG. Detroit must take advantage of a weak Jacksonville offense.
The Lions hope to get top corner Darius Slay back (missed last two games with hamstring injury). This will help when facing Allen Robinson. Robinson has 549 yards and 5 TDs as Jacksonville’s top threat. Allen Hurns (452 yards and 2 TDs) and Marquie Lee (492 yards and 0 TDs) have some talent at number 2 WR and slot WR. The Lions have had trouble with tight ends and Julius Thomas (269 yards and 4 TDs) can exploit Detroit as well in the middle of the field.
Detroit is allowing a 112 QB rating with 74% completion, 20 TDs and 4 interceptions. Detroit must shore up their pass defense in the last 7 games. Slay back will help. Nevin Lawson has played well giving up only 35 yards or less in each game the last 8 games. However, Lawson had a foot injury late in Week 9. We’ll see if Lawson and Slay play this week.
Hopefully, the Lions can get DeAndre Levy and Jon Bostic back for LB support soon and Quandre Diggs can play better in the slot. Tavon Wilson and Rafael Bush have been liabilities at strong safety but Glover Quin is having another good year at free safety.
The key to the game will be Detroit’s pass rush. Kerry Hyder (7 sacks) has been a beast out of nowhere with consistent pressure. Ziggy Ansah has struggled since returning from his injury in Week 7 but showed signs of life at Minnesota. Devin Taylor is having a terrible year in a contract year. Detroit needs much more from Ansah and Taylor to turn around their pass defense. Those players have proven in the past they can be good and solid pass rushers. Detroit needs that to return to stop the Jaguars offense.
Jacksonville Rushing Attack
The Jaguars have been decent with 4.2 YPC rushing attack on paper. However, TJ Yeldon has only 3.6 YPC and Chris Ivory has 4.0 YPC. Bortles scrambles inflated their rushing game numbers.
Detroit looked good in run defense in Week 9 and must continue that success in Week 11. Yeldon and Ivory can be shut down. If Detroit makes Jacksonville a one-dimensional passing team, Detroit can have pass rush success. Detroit allows 4.3 YPC but have been improving in run defense. Haloti Ngata returned and played well and Stefan Charles has grown in run defense this season. Rookie A’Shawn Robinson has made some nice plays well. Levy returning would be a nice boost for Detroit. Tahir Whitehead is fifth in the league in tackles and must continue with run game production.
Detroit must keep winning and earn a playoff berth. It starts at home against Jacksonville. Detroit is having a much better season and must take care of a lesser team like the Jaguars. The Lions had a bye to prepare and get healthy. Detroit should win this game by double digits if they protect Stafford and stop the Jaguars poor rushing attack. Detroit wins 31-21 before a short week and huge Thanksgiving day rematch with the Minnesota Vikings.