The Detroit Lions and the New England Patriots are set to square off on Sunday Night Football. HC Matt Patricia will face his former team for the first time and I’m sure there will be a little extra motivation to get that first win as a head coach. The Patriots are one of the great teams of our generation but make no mistake, they have some flaws. Here are five matchups that the Lions must win:
1. QB Tom Brady vs Lions Defensive Backs
Brady has not had the best year so far. To be fair, he has had to deal with a receiving core of castoffs because WR Julian Edelman is not back from his suspension yet. Unfortunately for the Lions, the Patriots bolstered their weakness and traded with the Browns for WR Josh Gordon this week. Now Brady has his best deep ball threat since Randy Moss and the Lions best cornerback, Darius Slay, is questionable to play with a concussion.
With Slay’s health in question, that means Lawson, Shead, and Tabor are going to have to step it up.
2. WR Kenny Golladay vs CB Stephon Gilmore
Golladay has shown so far this year that he is the teams No. 1 receiver. Golladay is averaging over 100-yards per game, however, he will face one of the better corners in the league this week. Gilmore is the Patriots best cover guy and tends to follow the best receiver. Normally that would be Jones, but I doubt the Patriots have failed to notice Golladay’s emergence. With SS Patrick Chung and CB Eric Rowe listed as out, Gilmore will have to lock down his wide receiver.
3. Lions Pass Rush vs Patriots O-Line
The Lions have stepped up in a big way when it comes to rushing the passer. The Lions eight sacks this year is good enough for fourth most in the league. Seven of those eight sacks came from linebackers but whether it’s a linebacker or a defensive end, all that matters is the play was made.
The Patriots have allowed four sacks so far, so although Brady can get rid of the ball quick, pressure has been able to get home.
4. Lions Run Game vs Patriots Run Defense
The Lions run game has seemingly not improved after spending a first round pick on LG Frank Ragnow and a second round pick on RB Kerryon Johnson. So far this season, Johnson leads the Lions in rushing with only 60-yards. The low yardage total may be more circumstantial as the Lions have so often had to play catch-up. Another factor could be using three running backs and none of them can get into a rhythm. No matter the case, the Lions need to establish a run game to control the clock and keep Brady off the field. New England’s defense is susceptible to the run and the Lions must take advantage.
5. LG Frank Ragnow vs Patriots D-Line
Ragnow has allowed more pressures than any other O-Lineman in the NFL. After dominating the first two games of the preseason, the rookie is the weak link along the offensive line. Ragnow said in the offseason you can’t win games with your QB on his back, which I believe we all agree with, but Ragnow needs to step up and follow through on those words.
The Patriots have a couple nice interior lineman, but this should be Ragnow’s easiest week so far. What better time than now to flash that first-round potential.