An In-Depth Preview Of The Lions Week Ten Matchup Against the Cleveland Browns
The Browns’ Season So Far
Starting the season 0-8 is hardly what the Browns had in mind for 2017. It has been really rough for the offense to get anything going consistently. They are the 2nd worst team in points per game and are also the 6th fewest yards per game. Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer is the nucleus of this offense and has played a big role in the Cleveland offense being stagnant so far this year.
Rookie struggles are common at the quarterback position and Kizer is no exception. He has thrown for just above fifty percent completion while sporting three touchdowns and five interceptions on the season. He has done this with one of the better offensive lines in the league and with a defense that has actually played well, despite their record. Even with the recent injury to Browns’ star left tackle, Joe Thomas, the unit is still strong. The interior line has blocked well and backup Spencer Drango has shifted over from guard well in Thomas’ absence at left tackle.
The other side of the ball is a different story. The Browns have some positives on that side of the ball that may give the Lions trouble. Half of their games this year have been decided by three points. In these close games, the defense gave up 20.25 points per game, while giving up 30.25 points per game in their blow out losses. Their talented defense kept them in games, even with an inept offense.
Matchups That Will Be Key In Week Ten
Lions’ Offensive Tackles vs Browns’ Defensive Ends
This matchup is going to likely be the biggest of the weekend. If Lions stud left tackle Taylor Decker can return from injury, it would be a huge break for the Lions’ line this week. Browns defensive ends Emmanuel Ogbah and rookie Myles Garret are very athletic and have displayed good hand fighting technique this year. Garrett has been battling injury issues throughout this season, but has four sacks in three games this year and has looked stout against the run on the edge. Ogbah has not racked up sacks the same rate as the rookie; he has been a force against the ground game.
This is why the Lions may be in trouble on offense without Decker. Last week Brian Mihalik had a decent game starting in Decker’s place for Detroit, but he did not face someone with Garrett’s athletic ability yet. If he has the start at left tackle on Sunday, he is going to have his hands full with Garrett.
On the other side, Rick Wagner will be trying to hold down to the edge against Ogbah for most of this game. The Lions’ right tackle has done well against the pass this year, but what could play a big impact in this game is that he has been struggling to run block well in his first year in Detroit’s scheme.
The Lions’ running game has been really hard to get going this season and the offensive line has been the biggest reason for this so far. They are going to need good games from both tackles in both the passing and running games to keep this offense going against the Browns.
Lions’ Wide Receivers vs Browns’ Defensive Backs
This matchup is strength versus strength. The Lions’ wide receivers have come alive the past several weeks. Both Golden Tate and Marvin Jones have been the receivers leading the way for Detroit. Golden Tate already has fifty receptions on the year and is currently second in “yards after catch” for wide receivers in the league, only behind Steeler’s Antonio Brown. Those 5o receptions rank tied for sixth in the league with Larry Fitzgerald and they came on a merely 65 targets.
Marvin Jones has been making tough catches in traffic during this time as well. He has averaged over 110 yards receiving in each of his last three games and has three touchdowns to add as well. He has started to find ways to beat man coverage consistently, which is where he has struggled in his career to this point. It is very promising heading into a matchup that will require catching in traffic yet again.
The Browns have an underrated secondary. Outside of rookie safety Jabrill Peppers, the secondary has been playing really well in coverage. Cornerbacks to watch for are Jason McCourty and Jamar Taylor outside, with Briean Boddy-Calhoun working the slot. McCourty is more of the ball hawk, with Taylor and Boddy-Calhoun winning more with good technique and positioning for knock down passes. These three combine for 21 passes deflected this season.
The Lions’ wide receivers will have their work cut out for them in this game. But attacking Jabrill Peppers in deep coverage may be the best spot for this Lions offense to thrive. Jones and Tate play in that area could be the deciding factor in this game.
Darius Slay and Glover Quin vs DeShone Kizer
Kizer has thrown nearly two interceptions in every game he has played this season. This has been key to every Browns loss this season. Their offense has not only struggled to be productive but also has struggled to not be a detriment to their team with turning the ball over. The Browns are currently tied for last place in turnover margin on the year and it has been most Kizer’s doing so far.
This is where the Lions need to capitalize. The Lions are 6th in this category and have benefited from Slay and Quin’s cover skills giving the ball back to an offense that rarely turns it over. Detroit’s defense has played better as the season has gone on, but have yet to take a game over. This should be a great chance for the defense to gain some confidence if they can take advantage of these mistakes.
Prediction: Lions Win 24-13
Ultimately I do not think this is a close game if the Lions’ offensive line can hold up. The Lions may be forced to pass again this game, but the way the Lions’ wide receivers have been playing lately, I give the edge to them. As long as Matthew Stafford is upright and healthy, I trust the Lions defense to keep Kizer and company at bay.