Preseason Deep Dive: Patriots vs Lions – Key Matchups to Watch

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A breakdown of the Lions’ week three preseason matchups against the Patriots

What Matchups to Watch This Week

Week three of the preseason is the best week for fans to watch to get an idea what to expect from their team this season, as starting players will play for the first half the game. In this game, the Lions host the reigning Super Bowl Champions the New England Patriots. With the Patriots mostly improving their roster this offseason, this matchup should serve as a gauge on the Lions’ potential heading into the 2017 regular season.

Matthew Stafford vs New England’s Defense

The New England Patriots defense was the best defensive unit in 2016, allowing merely 15.6 points per game. New England retained a couple defensive veterans this off-season with Malcolm Butler and Dont’a Hightower, also signing former Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore. With the previous season’s best defense looking like it will only improve, Matthew Stafford could show that he has continued to improve, as well.

For the Lions, their divisional championship hopes ride on Matthew Stafford returning to form, following the hand injury that hurt Stafford’s performance during the Lions’ three-game skid to end the season. Stafford’s continued growth in the game would be a good sign for Lions fans. Before the injury, Stafford was in the conversation for MVP. With new weapons added on offense this off-season and an improved pass-blocking offensive line, Stafford is set up to bounce back in 2017 in a big way. If Stafford can find success early and often against New England in the first half, it will be a sign of good things to come for the Lions 2017 season.

Eric Ebron vs Patriots’ Linebackers

The transition to the NFL has not always been an easy one for Ebron. After struggling with drops and staying healthy in his first three seasons, this is a big season for Ebron to prove he can put these issues behind him and become the premier talent he was drafted to be.

Tight ends typically take longer to develop in the NFL as they have to learn blocking technique like linemen while developing their route running and catching ability. Ebron is no exception. However, he needs to show more consistency in hanging on to the football to prove he able to take the next step in his development.

Eric Ebron’s week three matchup is a good one for Ebron to show this growth. Patriots middle linebacker Dont’a Hightower is regarded around the league as one of the best at his position. While he more of a classic “thumping” linebacker, Hightower moves very fluid for a man that weighs 265 lbs. Combined with solid instincts in coverage, Hightower has been able to cover athletic tight ends like Ebron throughout most of his career. However, this would be a great chance for Ebron to succeed where he has not in the past. Ebron’s ability to get open against Hightower consistently in this game could help showcase Ebron’s development heading into the 2017 season.

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