This is a game that most expect the Lions to lose. Detroit has a great defense this season, but their offense, as shown against the Arizona Cardinals, is just not producing. From the quarterback play, to the offensive line, to the running backs, even the receivers, the Detroit Lions are just nor executing. I spoke briefly with Justin Rogers of MLive regarding the Cardinals game. Originally, it looked like Detroit was playing right into the Arizona defense’s game plan. Every play call seemed predictable and it left us all blaming offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi. Rogers informed me that the play calling was not as poor on film as it seemed in real time. In fact, from what he saw, the Cardinals defense was just bottling up the Detroit receivers so well that they just could not get it done. The coaches called it poor execution, but what does that actually mean. Rogers said it did not look like the players did not know what to do on the plays run, and he said it did not look like they were playing effortless football either. The coaching staff’s line of “lack of execution” was exactly what they said. The players knew what to do, gave good effort, but did not do what they needed to well. Lombardi’s answer for this week was to limit the playbook so that they can focus on practicing the plays more and getting better execution out of the plays they choose to use. Will this help against New England? That remains to be seen.
- Detroit Lions Offensive Line vs. New England Patriots Defensive Line – The Detroit Lions offensive line has given up a ridiculous 31 sacks so far this season. That is the worst performance by the offensive line of Detroit in several years. Last week, Arizona ripped the Lions for 4 sacks and completely shut down the offense as a result of the pressure. New England is a decent pass rush team, netting 23 sacks on the season so far. With right guard Larry Warford out still, and right tackle LaAdrian Waddle still hurt, I struggle to find positives for the Lions in this match up. Edge Patriots
- Detroit Lions Tight Ends vs. New England Patriots Linebackers – New England has been beat up at linebacker to the point of making a mid-season trade to bring in Akeem Ayers. Ayers and Hightower will likely be on the field for the majority of the passing downs as Detroit loves to incorporate their tight ends. Lombardi even stated that he wants to use rookie Eric Ebron more. With Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria also healthy, Detroit could have an edge here both in the red zone and moving the chains. Unfortunately, Lombardi’s reliance on the rookie has hurt production from that position group as Fauria is not getting as many targets and Pettigrew is a glorified offensive lineman. Edge None
- Detroit Lions Wide Receivers vs. New England Patriots Secondary – This is the hardest call for me. Normally I would give Detroit’s receivers the edge over anyone. They proved last week that they are not as good as advertised. Calvin Johnson will be matched up against Darrelle Revis all day. Revis has shut Johnson down nearly every time they have faced each other. Brandon Browner will have the difficult task of containing Golden Tate, as well as Alfonzo Dennard. The problem for Detroit is that Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung are very good safeties so there will be very little room to squeeze the ball in if the receivers can get open. Edge Patriots
- Detroit Lions Running Backs vs. New England Patriots Run Defense – The Patriots are allowing 109 rush yards per game on average. Detroit cant seem to get the run game going this year, although Joique Bell played well last week. Even with Reggie Bush supposedly healthy, I still feel as if Detroit will be contained so well that the run game will be non-existent. Edge Patriots
- Detroit Lions Quarterbacks vs. New England Patriots Pass Defense – Matthew Stafford has been part of the reason for Detroit’s offensive failures. He has the talent to be a quality quarterback and Scott Linehan was able to get excellent production out of him in years past. This season though has been tough for Stafford. Whether it is adjusting to the new schemes, adjusting to his new responsibilities for play reading and audibling, or if it is just that Linehan was better at putting Stafford into a position to succeed, it seems as if he cannot be successful under Lombardi. Knowing Lombardi and Jim Caldwell, they will be working all offseason to make him more productive. As for now though, there is no reason to trust that Stafford can read and react to Bill Bellicheck’s defense. Edge Patriots
- Detroit Lions Defensive Line vs. New England Patriots Offensive Line – This is the toughest match up that the Detroit Lions defensive line has faced all season. The Patriots have always been known as a team with a good offensive line. This year is no different as the Patriots have only allowed 16 sacks on the season, 14 of them to Tom Brady. Detroit’s defensive line is the lifeblood of this defense and without them, they cannot be successful. I do not expect a high sack total, but I do expect Brady to alter his play this week due to the pressure the Detroit front four will put on him. Edge Lions
- Detroit Lions Linebackers vs. New England Patriots Tight Ends – If the Detroit Lions can shut down Rob Gronkowski they can take this game. Unfortunately, no team has been able to do that, and I do not see Detroit being able to either. DeAndre Levy is a top tier linebacker, and Tahir Whitehead has played well this season. The problem is, Gronk has shredded defenses with ease. Since Detroit has struggled to shut down opposing tight ends, and Gronk is one of the best, this match up goes against Detroit. Edge Patriots
- Detroit Lions Secondary vs. New England Patriots Wide Receivers – Detroit has faced better receivers and shut them all down every time. New England will get their yards, and they will score their points, but Gronk will be the primary reason for that. Brandon LaFell and Julian Edelman will do an average job but Detroit’s secondary should contain them well. Edge Lions
- Detroit Lions Run Defense vs. New England Patriots Running Backs – The Patriots have several capable running backs. They have Jonas Gray, who played real well last week, Shane Vereen who has been capable when needed, and they just signed LeGarrette Blount who was the hero for them last season. As a team they rush for 115 yards per game on average. Detroit’s defense though specializes in stopping the run, limiting opponents to 68 yards per game. While the Patriots will definitely get more than 68 yards rushing against the Lions, they will find running very difficult and need to rely on the arm of Tom Brady. Edge Lions
- Detroit Lions Pass Defense vs. New England Patriots Quarterbacks – Detroit’s pass defense has been real good all season. They are the best defense in general in part due to their stellar play against the run and solid play against the pass. They have faced Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees and shut both down. The problem is that Rodgers does not have a tight end that is the caliber of Gronkowski, and Brees had an obviously limited Jimmy Graham. Tom Brady is a hall of fame lock and a multi Super Bowl winning quarterback. It will be tough to stop this passing attack no matter how well Detroit plays. Edge Patriots
- The Patriots have a great kicker in Stephen Gostkowski. They have solid return men who can break a return but are not known for it. Detroit’s Jeremy Ross has been waiting for a breakout run all season. He’s played average all year, and would have had a game changing return last week if it was not overruled on the challenge. The Lions have been kicking real well since signing Matt Prater, but the kicking game is still gaining the coaching staff’s confidence. I cannot find one reason to give an edge here to either team so I will leave it a wash. Edge None
Lions 3 Patriots 6
The key for a Detroit Lions victory is two fold. They need to pressure Tom Brady relentlessly forcing him into turnovers and sacks like they did to Teddy Bridgewater. The difference is, Brady is an excellent quarterback who does not get rattled easily. Gronkowski is a great tight end and will likely be the downfall of the Lions on Sunday. I do not see the Patriots scoring 40+ on Detroit this week, but I also do not see Detroit’s offense matching the output needed to beat New England, especially with Darrelle Revis lined up on Calvin Johnson. New England wins what looks like a close one, but really is not. Detroit’s defense is the only reason this game is this close.
Detroit Lions 13 New England Patriots 21