The Patriots return to Gillette Stadium and will try to break a two-game losing streak against the Detroit Lions. The Lions have been scoring a ton of points and lead the league in points scored, averaging 35.0 points per game.
However, the Lions’ defense is dead last in the league, allowing an average of 35.3 points per game. Their games have been marked with big plays on both sides of the ball.
On Sunday, the Patriots will finally wear their throw-back uniforms with the red jerseys and white pants for the first time since 2012.
This week’s game will be broadcast on FOX and can be seen in the Boston area on WFXT-TV Channel 25. Kenny Albert will handle play-by-play duties with Jonathan Vilma as the color analyst. Shannon Spake will provide analysis 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 (1-3) are coming off of a tough road loss to Green Bay, falling 27-24 in overtime. New England was forced to start backup QB Brian Hoyer due to Mac Jones’ ankle injury. But Hoyer went down just on the second offensive series. Rookie Bailey Zappe came in and played well but couldn’t get the win in OT. The running game was excellent, gaining 167 yards.
The defense was gashed on the ground (more to that below), but the pass defense was very competitive against Aaron Rodgers.
The Lions (1-3) lost to the Seattle Seahawks 48-45. Much of the Lions’ factors in dropping their last two games will sound familiar to Patriots fans. Self-inflicted mistakes, communication breakdowns, and the difference of just a couple of plays here or there are the difference between 1-3 and 3-1.
We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2022 to give some quick analysis of some of the game’s key matchups and what you can look for in how the game plays out.
First up is the Patriots offense:
Patriots RBs vs Lions Front Seven – Edge New England
The Patriots running game has been very solid thus far on the season with the 1a-1b tandem of Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson averaging 128.5 yards per game. Last week in Green Bay, the team ran for 167 yards on the ground, with the tandem accounting for 152 of those.
Despite some very good players up front, Detroit’s run defense has been gashed for 165.5 yards per game. Last week, Seattle running back Rashaad Penny wracked up 151 yards with touchdown runs of 41 and 36 yards.
The Patriots will look to lean on the running game against the suspect Detroit run defense and control the tempo and the clock while keeping the Lion’s explosive offense on the bench. Alex Anzalone is the X-Factor here. He was terrible last week, overshooting gaps, missing tackles, and a liability in coverage. If he can’t pick up his play, the Patriots should be able to establish the run and then isolate him in passing situations, especially using play-action.
Patriots WRs vs Lions Secondary – Edge New England
Despite possibly having the third-string QB Bailey Zappe back behind center this week, this is another matchup that New England can win. While it is uncertain if Jakobi Meyers or Jonnu Smith will play, New England has the players to choose some mismatches they can use.
The Detroit secondary has been abused this season and given up 279.3 yards per game via the air. CB Amani Oruwariye began the season as the Lions’ top corner, he is now the #2. PFF has him graded as the lowest among qualifying cornerbacks. He also is tops among CBs in two categories (penalties and missed tackles) that highlight his struggles. Not helping matters is the Lion’s pass rush has only seven sacks on the season. Jeff Okudah is their top corner, and Mike Hughes is the nickel.
Look for the Patriots to use Nelson Agholor or Kendrick Bourne, depending on who the Lions line up against Oruwariye. Given his struggles, they’ll try to isolate him. Perhaps, we’ll see Hunter Henry as more of a target this week; Detroit has given up more than five catches for 65 yards per game against tight ends, along with three TDs.
Next up is the Detroit offense:
Lions RBs vs NE Front Seven– Edge Detroit
The Patriots’ run defense has been gashed two weeks in a row. While Lamar Jackson is a unique talent, the Green Bay tandem of Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillion ran for 193 of the Packers’ 192 yards. Lawrence Guy was out, and Davon Godchaux was playing hurt, but Christian Barmore was frequently doubled up, and Carl Davis and Deatrich Wise need to step up their game this week.
The Lions have D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams, who are an excellent tandem. Swift is averaging 8 yards a carry, while Williams has six rushing TDs. It looks like Swift will likely miss this game with a shoulder/ankle injury.
Even without Swift, this will be a tough matchup for the Patriots’ front seven to make the Lions one-dimensional. They’ll have to really up their game this week. But Detroit’s running game has been excellent, averaging 164 yards per game. Advantage…Lions.
Lions WRs vs NE Secondary- Edge Detroit
This Lions offense is stacked. They scored 45 points on Seattle with Jared Goff tossing four touchdowns without WRs Amon-Ra St. Brown (who may not play this week either) and D.J. Chark. Goff leaned on TE T.J. Hockenson and WR Josh Reynolds.
The Patriots’ pass defense has been better than expected through the season’s first quarter. But with Jalen Mills still nursing a hamstring injury, they’ll need him, Jonathan Jones, and Jack Jones to be on top of their games this week. It is probably time for Jack Jones to replace Myles Bryant as the third corner. Bryant has been getting picked on and would be a liability at this point.
Goff has been lighting it up this year (11TDs, 3 INTs) and has plenty of options to pick from, even being short-handed. New England will have to slow down Hockenson, who was excellent last week. They struggled against Mark Andrews and gave up a 20-yard TD last week to Robert Tonyan. The pass rush (Matthew Judon, Deatrich Wise) will have to be disruptive this week.
Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots STs got a shot-in-the-arm last week with Marcus Jones stepping in as the KR/PR, and he was electric, just as he was in college. Nick Folk is money inside of 50 yards, but Jake Bailey has to turn things around after two poor games in a row, putting four punts in the end zone.
Detroit’s kicker Austin Siebert missed last week with a groin injury. He’s back this week at practice but is limited. Punter Jack Fox has been very good, with a 49.3-yard average, with no touchbacks. The return game has been only so-so.
Next up, who wins and why…
This one should be a fascinating game to watch; Detroit’s offense has been borderline unstoppable, scoring 35 points a game. If they start clicking like that, the Patriots are not built to play that type of shootout game.
But the Lions’ defense is also giving up 35.3 points per game. That’s been their Achilles heel. If the Patriots can slow them down defensively a bit, then they will have a good chance of winning at home this week.
Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:
Control the Clock and Time of Possession — The New England running game has to take over this game and dominate time of possession, while continuing to move the sticks and going on scoring drives. The best way to slow down a high-scoring offense is by keeping them on the sidelines. Harris and Stevenson will have opportunities for some big runs. Those have to be successful this week to open up more play-action passing.
Discipline Is Paramount — This is not a week where their mental mistakes can continue. Blown assignments and miscommunication on offense, nor blown coverages or overrunning gaps on defense. The penalties, especially of the pre-snap variety, have to stop. They have to have a clean game this week.
Win the Turnover Battle — The Patriots have to start creating more turnovers while limiting their own. With an offense still in search of an identity, giving them a couple of short fields to work with would do wonders. They’ve moved the ball well but turnovers and penalties have been a killer.
I think this one could go in a variety of ways. If the Lions find their defense, much as they did a few years ago in Detroit, this one could get away quickly and become an ugly afternoon for New England. However, if the New England defense steps up and gets a couple of stops, the opportunities will be there for them to pull this one out.
It will another close one, and I’m going with the home team holding serve here in a tense, nailbiter. Patriots 30-28
Posted Under: 2022 NFL Season
Tags: Amon-Ra St. Brown Bill Belichick D'Andre Swift Damien Harris Detroit Lions Jack Jones Jamaal Williams Jamie Collins Jared Goff Kendrick Bourne Mac Jones Marcus Jones Matthew Judon Nelson Agholor New England Patriots NFL Patriots Rhamondre Stevenson T.J. Hockenson