Cleat Geeks

Sunday Night Football Preview: Lions vs Patriots

Week 3 of Sunday Night Football will see the New England Patriots (1-1) come to Michigan to face the Detroit Lions (0-2). Both teams are coming off of Week 2 losses and be looking to right the ship in this one. This will be New England’s 2nd straight road game. Last week, they lost to the Jaguars 31-20. The Lions return home, where they got thoroughly beaten by the Jets 2 weeks ago, after dropping a road game to the Niners 30-27 in Week 2.

As usual, kickoff will be 8:20 EST. This will be another dome game so weather will play no factor. Let’s dig into the match-up.

New England Patriots

The Patriots come into this game with an offense that falls in the middle of the league in points, passing yards, and rushing yards. However, this will be the easiest defense they’ve faced after tough matchups against Houston and Jacksonville. Tom Brady looks solid so far with over 500 yards, 5 TDs and only 1 interception. The Patriots committee of RBs; Sony Michel, James White, and Rex Burkhead, should be at full strength. It would appear that Michel and White will split the passing down work and Burkhead will be the goalline back. White has been a team leader for 3 years as the pass-catching RB so expect to see him get the most work. New England will be without Julian Edelman for 2 more games but made a splash addition of Joh Gordon from the Cleveland Browns. It remains to be seen if Gordon will be ready to suit in this game, both from a comprehension and injury standpoint. If Gordon is a no go, this corps will be led again by Philip Dorsett, who has 110 yards on the year, and Chris Hogan, who caught 2 TDs last week. The focal point of the offense, outside of Brady, is Rob Gronkowski. He was a monster in Week 1, snagging 7 balls for 123 yards and a TD in the Patriots win, but was held to 2 catches in their loss last week to the Jaguars. It would seem the success of this team truly rides on Gronks shoulders.

On defense, injuries are the story for the Pats. New England may be missing 3 starters on a defense that already ranks in the bottom 5 as far as yards allowed. In fact, they are among the worst 3rd of the league in both passing and rushing defense. They do have 4 takeaways over the opening 2 games and will be facing a QB that is showing turnover tendencies. If Tom Brady and the offense can get ahead early, it should be able to cover up some warts on the defense.

Key Injuries: T Marcus Cannon (Calf) – S Patrick Chung (Concussion) – DB Eric Rowe (Groin) – DL Trey Flowers (Concussion)

Detroit Lions

Kids, this is what a train wreck looks like. The hopes were high for this Lions offense heading into 2018 and so far those hopes have been dashed. Matt Stafford has thrown 4 interceptions already and the Lions offense hasn’t done much until the 4th quarter in both of their losses. Those gameplay trends tell the story of a team that ranks in the top 10 in passing but the bottom 3 in rushing on the season so far. Expect that to continue. The RB committee consists of LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick, and rookie Kerryon Johnson…none of them has more than 45 yards in a game this season. Riddick is however tied for the team lead in receptions at 14. Golden Tate leads the WRs with 14 receptions but has done so on 28 targets and a 50% catch rate isn’t getting it done for one of the better possession WRs in the NFL. Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay are the outside WRs. They each have 1 TD already but Golladay has outpaced Jones in yards 203-108. Golladay is actually the teams leading WR in yards. A large concern for the Lions is going to be missing players along their offensive line. Starting guard TJ Lang missed some practice time with a back injury and starting tackle Taylor Decker unexpectedly missed Friday’s practice. This is a big issue, as Decker’s backup is also likely to miss the game.

Again, injuries are the story on defense, as the Lions best pass-rusher, Ezekiel Ansah, and best cornerback, Darius Slay, both appear on the injury report.  Both have a chance to play but after a week of no practice, it’s tough to trust them against one of the league’s best offenses. Detroit is actually ranking dead last against the run but has a top 5 passing defense. This is probably a product of teams playing ahead on the Lions and just running the ball to kill the clock. An interesting note is that new Lions Head Coach Matt Patricia was the New England defensive coordinator last season. He and Bill Belichick are going to know each other very well and it could make for some interesting play calls to attempt to throw each other off. In that type of game, I’m betting on Belichick 10 times out of 10.

Key Injuries: WR Marvin Jones (Ankle) – G TJ Lang (Back) – Ezekiel Ansah (Shoulder) – CB Darius Slay (Concussion)

Match-ups to Watch

Matt Stafford vs Patriots Secondary
Matthew Stafford has played 6 quarters of ugly football and 2 quarters of garbage time gold in the Lions 2 losses this season. He has 4 touchdowns and 4 interceptions this year and the Patriots will look to keep him out of the former and add to latter. New England is allowing 267 passing yards per game and has 2 interceptions so far in 2018.

Gronk vs Detroit Linebackers and Safeties
Putting bluntly. I don’t think anyone of this Giants defense can cover Rob Gronkowski. The guys that are fast enough aren’t big enough and the guys that are big enough can’t keep up with him. Gronk was bottled up by the Jaguars defense after a huge Week 1 performance. Look for a bounce-back against a shaky Lions defense.

James White vs Theo Riddick
While they won’t actually face each other on the field, both of these RBs play similar roles for their respective offenses. These are 2 of the league’s premier pass-catching RBs. Both are currently in the top 10 of RB targets in the passing game and we should see both of them heavily involved on Sunday night.

Fantasy Focus

Which Detroit Lions deep threat WR will benefit from the game script? As you’ll see soon, I think the Pats will run away with this one and that could be mean a lot of deep shots by the Lions. This should mean either Kenny Golladay or Marvin Jones or both will have the opportunity for garbage time TDs. Jones is hurt and Golladay has almost 100 more yards so far this season, so my money will be on a big day for “Babytron” Kenny Golladay.

Prediction

This may be the most predictable of the Sunday night games so far in 2018. The Lions are reeling and the Patriots are a good team looking to rebound. I expect 2 quick TDs from New England and Detroit will spend the rest of the game playing catch-up.

Patriots 31 – Lions 21

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