A Look At How The First Quarter Of This Year’s Season Might Pan Out For The Detroit Lions
Summer is upon us and with the nice weather comes a period of football withdrawal that we’ll all be dealing with for the next few weeks until training camp officially begins. Now that the Detroit Lions have their training camp roster put together, I figured it would be an appropriate time to give my thoughts on how the first four games of the regular season might go for a team that, other than a few swaps and switches at the bottom of the roster, will be set for the regular season opener on Monday Night Football. I’m a fan of the old Jim Caldwell philosophy of looking at the season in quarters, so I’ll be approaching my predictions for the season in a similar way.
Week 1: NY Jets @ Detroit Lions; September 10th 7:10 pm
Key Matchup: Matt Patricia vs NY Jets Offense
Since Matt Patricia began calling defensive plays for the New England Patriots in 2010, the Jets have been unable to beat one of his defenses on the road in the regular season. Patricia held an 8-0 home record against the Jets in the regular season with an average points allowed of 14.6 and only 9 points allowed the last two seasons. The Lions have much better personnel on the defensive side of the ball than New England and although it will be Detroit’s first game in a new system, expect the Jets (who added little offense outside of Isaiah Crowell) to struggle on offense while Jim Bob Cooter and Matthew Stafford put together a decent performance offensively. The Lions have also performed fairly well in Monday Night games at Ford Field, so expect a rocking atmosphere and a Lions W.
Prediction: NY Jets 13, Detroit Lions 27
Week 2: Detroit Lions @ SF 49ers; September 16th 4:05pm
Key Matchup: Jimmy Garappolo vs Detroit Lions Defense
Some people have been going as far as to call Jimmy Garappolo, who is now paid more than Matthew Stafford, an elite quarterback after less than half a season as a starting quarterback in the NFL. I will admit that his stats for the six games he started are somewhat impressive, but I’m definitely not ready to crown him as elite, especially after looking at the teams he faced in those games. A home loss to Seattle, followed by wins against the Bears, Texans, and Titans… and wins against Jacksonville and Los Angeles who were both prepping for the postseason after already having clinched their divisions. The 49ers downgraded at tailback by bringing in Jerick McKinnon to replace Carlos Hyde, but they did add a post-prime Richard Sherman on defense. You have to think that Matt Patricia and Jimmy Garappolo have some ideas on how to stop each other from their shared time in New England. Ultimately, this will end up being a game where we kick ourselves while the Lions are forced into too many field goals.
Prediction: Detroit Lions 19, San Francisco 49ers 21
Week 3: NE Patriots @ Detroit Lions; September 23rd 8:20pm
Key Matchup: Lions linebackers vs Rob Gronkowski
There’s a couple of interesting matchups to look at here, but I think that the most influential will be whether or not Jarrad Davis and company have improved their coverage abilities enough to at least limit some of what Gronk can do. Matt Patricia probably has the best idea of what it takes to slow down Gronk, but there’s only so much you can do to scheme for such a matchup nightmare. If there’s no improvement on that front, Tom Brady and the Patriots offense will tear up the Lions Defense all night. New England Linebackers coach Brian Flores appears to be the play-caller for the Patriots defense now and I assume the playcalling will be similar to what it was like under Lions coach Matt Patricia’s watch. Matt Patricia will be giving JBC all the clues he can on how to take down New England’s defense but if there’s no stopping the Pats offense it won’t be enough. I don’t root for players to get injured, but if Gronkowski’s annual injury occurs before this game, I like the Lions’ chances. It’s a bit early in the season for that though.
Prediction: New England Patriots 31, Detroit Lions 20
Week 4: Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys; September 30th 1:00 pm
Key Matchup: Detroit’s Multiple Front vs Ezekiel Elliott
I think we all turned away and tried to snap ourselves out of whatever bad dream we were in during the 2016 season when the Dallas Cowboys who should’ve been starting a rebuild saw two rookies lead them to first in the NFC. Fortunately, they came back down to earth in 2017. Zeke’s suspension didn’t help their cause, but it really showed that Dak Prescott, who people were hailing as elite after his rookie year, really feeds off of and is almost a product of Ezekiel Elliott’s production. Prescott averaged a meager 204.4 passing yards per game when Ezekiel Elliott did not rush for at least 100 yards last season. Elliott has never actually faced a Matt Patricia defense so it will be interesting to see if he succeeds against a coach who in eight seasons calling defensive plays, averaged the 14th best rushing defense in the league. Stafford and the Lions offense should thrive and put up enough points to outscore the Cowboys offense which will struggle because of how well the Lions secondary matches up with Dallas poor receiving corps. Neither Terrance Williams or Allen Hurns will outplay Darius Slay and whoever is lined up as our CB2 should do a solid job.
Prediction: Detroit Lions 28, Dallas Cowboys 17