The New England Patriots head back out on the road for a prime-time matchup against the Detroit Lions on Sunday Night Football. The marks the beginning of three games in four weeks on national television.
Former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is now the head coach of the Lions and is looking for his first win and would love to do it against his old boss and mentor Bill Belichick. The next win by New England will be the 300th
This week’s game will be broadcast by NBC and can be seen locally on NBC 10 Boston. Al Michaels will handle play-by-play duties with Cris Collinsworth as the color analyst. Michele Tafoya will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.
The Patriots (1-1) lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars 31-20 last week. Tom Brady completed 25-34 for 234 yards and two TDs to Chris Hogan but the defense allowed Blake Bortles to pass for 377 yards and four scores.
The Lions (0-2) Lost to the San Francisco 49ers 30-27. The Lions gave up 190 yards on the ground but Matthew Stafford completed 34-53 passes for 347 yards with three touchdown passes.
We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2018 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game.
The Patriots and Lions are meeting for just the 12th time in the regular season. The Patriots have a 7-4 edge overall including the last four meetings. Detroit hasn’t beaten New England during the Tom Brady era. The last meeting was back in 2014, a 34-9 Patriots win in Foxboro.
Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge. First up is the Patriots offense:
Patriots RBs vs Lions Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots running game misses Jeremy Hill who is gone for the year with Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel just working back from injuries. But the combination of Michel, Burkhead and James White should still find room to run against what has been a porous Lions run defense early this season.
The Lions run defense has surrendered 168 and 190 yards respectively in the first two weeks of the season. They are allowing an average of 5.7 yards per rush and have allowed two 60+ yard touchdowns on the ground this season.
Look for the Patriots to get Michel very involved in the running game early in this one. They’ll look to run inside and break things to the outside, where the Lions have had issues on the second level. This will open up the play action passing and get Tom Brady time to throw and look for open receivers.
Patriots WRs vs Lions Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots passing game had issues getting the ball to their wide receivers in Jacksonville last week, but have the best tight end in the game with Rob Gronkowski and a trio of running backs who can be productive in the passing game. Tom Brady will look to spread the ball around to everyone on the field.
Detroit has one of the best corners in football in Darius Slay but he suffered a concussion in the 49ers game last week and his status will be up in the air until late in the week. If Slay doesn’t clear the concussion protocol, the Lions will roll with Teez Tabor and Nevin Lawson. Tabor is a talented corner who was benched briefly last week for blowing coverages. The Lions pass rush, however, is something to watch for. They sacked Jimmy Garoppolo six times last week. The Patriots will have to watch for the Lions blitzing their linebackers and pick up the rushers.
Look for Brady to get Gronkowski involved early and often in this one after last week’s down performance where he had just two catches. The “X-Factor” this week is second-year tight end Jacob Hollister and not newcomer Josh Gordon who could be in line for a big day against the Lions linebackers and safeties worried about Gronkowski. Lions fans, however, are worried about Gordon’s matching up with Brady.
In a poll on-line Lions fans were asked how many touchdowns Gordon would score on Sunday night. In an amazing look at the pessimism in Detroit right now, 23 percent thought he’d score two touchdowns and 29 percent thinks he’ll score three or more. I really doubt he even suits up. But we’ll see.
Next up the Detroit offense:
Lions RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England
The Lions have struggled to run the ball for quite some time. This year they signed former Patriot LeGarrette Blount to help pound the ball inside. They drafted Kerryon Johnson from Auburn in the 2nd round of the 2018 NFL Draft. And they also have Theo Riddick who is very good in catching the ball out of the backfield.
The Patriots have struggled to stop the run again in 2018. They were gashed by both Houston and Jacksonville in the running game and need to step their game up this week, against one of the poorer running teams in the NFL.
This is a big key to the game this week. The Patriots defense has to make Detroit one-dimensional on offense. If they consistently get into second and short or third and short situations, Matthew Stafford has the weapons to make it a long night for the Patriots defense. Look for the Lions to mix it up and try to keep the defense off balance. Johnson, who hasn’t been a big factor yet, could be Detroit’s “X-Factor” this week. He can run and catch the ball out of the backfield.
Lions WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Detroit
The Lions have a group of good wide receivers and can give the Patriots a lot of trouble on the back end of the defense. Stafford has thrown for 4000 or more yards for the past several years and has plenty of weapons with Golden Tate, as well as Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay, who both can win the one-on-one matchups and get open. Stafford has Riddick and Johnson out of the backfield who can make life miserable for opposing linebackers.
The Patriots will likely enter this one really shorthanded with some of their best players on the shelf. The top defensive player on the roster Trey Flowers went down with a concussion last week. As did safety Pat Chung. Defensive End Deatrich Wise injured his hand late last week and his status is unknown. The Patriots had big time issues getting after the QB last week and if two of their best DL are out, it doesn’t bode well with changing that.
Look for Stafford to get Tate and Jones involved early in this one. Golladay is the Lions’ leading receiver with 203 yards. If he can start stretching the field with them, it will open up a lot of room for Riddick and Johnson to work underneath against the linebackers which is a mismatch.
Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots’ Special Teams has had a big turnover this season and is still looking for their groove. This may be the week. Ryan Allen has been solid thus far and averaged 55.5 yards per punt last week. Stephen Gostkowski is always reliable. Cordarrelle Patterson is a dynamic return man and this may be the week for him to break out.
Detroit’s coverage units have already allowed a 90-yard kickoff return, and a 74 and 43 yard punt returns. Look for Patterson to make a splash this week.
The Lions have the normally reliable Matt Prater at kicker and Sam Martin at punter. Jamal Agnew has done a good job with kickoff returns averaging 28.5 yards per return.
Next up, who wins and why…
After getting their lunch handed to them in Jacksonville last week, the Patriots are back on the road and are trying to right the ship. One thing that has been remarkably consistent thru the Brady/Belichick era has been their ability to bounce back after a loss. The Patriots are 45-6 after a loss since 2003. And they’ve been tremendously successful against the NFC. Since realignment in 2002, the Patriots are 51-13 against NFC opponents, the best interconference record in the NFL.
After a 9-7 season a year ago, the Lions felt like they needed a new culture and brought in Patricia after firing Jim Caldwell. There have been big changes in everything the Lions do and there are already rumblings against Patricia from the media and in the locker room.
With this in mind, it is imperative for New England to get out to a very good start. The last thing they want is for the Lions to start feeling like it is their time to pull an upset and give them a reason to believe. It will also get the crowd sitting on their hands and make things easier for the Patriots offense to work.
I look for Brady and Josh McDaniels to mix things up this week, getting the running game going and hitting play action passes. Look for them to work the tight ends, Gronkowski and Hollister to attack the middle of the field and use the running backs on the perimeter.
Matthew Stafford will have a big day throwing the ball. With potentially three starters missing on the Patriots defense, I look for him to have success going to Tate, Jones, and Golladay. Riddick could be a big factor in the passing game again this week. But in the end, Brady will be the difference and they’ll keep the Lions offense on the sideline with a balanced attack. Patriots 35-24
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