Detroit Lions @ New England Patriots – A Highly Biased Game Preview
On Sunday, the AFE East leading Patriots host the NFC North leading Lions. The New England Patriots lead the series 6-4 going all the way back to 1971. When these teams have met in the regular season in recent years, they usually have a fairly entertaining game.
Who could forget about the Thanksgiving Day game in 2010? The New England trailed Detroit 17-10 at halftime only to have Tom Brady turn into a Pilgrim and carve up the Lions secondary for 4-second half touchdown passes.
What about the 2006 matchup? The Patriots trailed 21-13 with 13:07 left in the fourth quarter and scored 15 unanswered points to pull out the 28-21 victory.
This game highlights the Patriots number 2 scoring offense vs. the number 1 stingiest defense of Detroit. So in yet another futile attempt to be non-bias and analytical, both teams were broken down in key areas to see how they will match up against each other and which one may have the key to a victory.
Quarterback – Patriots: Matthew Stafford is a tough quarterback to evaluate. Now in his sixth year, injures have shortened two of those seasons and to date he is an under 60% career passer. This season, though statistically his best since 2011, still has him sitting near the bottom of the pile in Quarterback rating and barely in the middle of the pack in touchdown passes.
Running Back – Patriots: With the potential emergence of a power back in Jonas Gray to compliment the versatile Shane Vereen, Detroit’s running back situation, which has netted the 30th ranked rushing attack, is certainly not comparable at this point.
Wide Receivers – Lions: Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate are far better than any wide receivers that the Patriots have on their roster. However the Patriots do have a slight advantage in the depth department though.
Tight Ends – Patriots: The combine season stats for all of the Lions’ tight ends: 26 Catches, 242 Yards, and 1 touchdown. Rob Gronkowski’s stats from the last four games: 27 Catches, 393 Yards, and 5 touchdowns. Enough said.
Offensive Line – Patriots: Detroit’s Offensive Line has allowed Matthew Stafford to be sacked the second most times in the NFL (31) this season while at the same time blocking for the 3rd worst rushing attack in the league. The Patriots Offensive Line will have their hands full with Detroit’s Defensive Line, but clearly the Patriots are better than their counterparts.
Defensive Front Seven – Lions: Though both teams are relatively even with their sack totals, Detroit’s front seven is more consistent with applying pressure to the opposing quarterback while having the best run defense in the league.
Secondary – Push: Though New England may have the big names, both units have been fairly even statistically up to this point.
Special Teams – Patriots: The Lions’ kicker may have a better field goal percentage; however there is no dome in Foxboro.
Coaching – Patriots: A lot of credit needs to go to Jim Caldwell for what he has been able to accomplish so far in Detroit…especially when many media outlets were calling him the worst coaching hire of the offseason. However for an “offensive minded coach”, he certainly has not been able to get a fairly talented offensive roster to do anything consistently and his conservative play calling at critical times in a game has been a head scratcher.
If we assign 2 points for every category (1 point per team for draws) this is how it lines up:
On paper, the Patriots certainly look to be significantly better in many areas. However, key areas where the Lions have their strength, on the defensive side of the ball, is where this game will be won or lost. The key for the Patriots will be if their Offensive Line can provide enough protection for Tom Brady and if one game wonder Jonas Gray can provide just enough of a running game to keep the defense honest. For the Lions, it all comes down to points….can they put points on the board if the Patriots jump out to a quick lead.
In any case, this should be a great match up to see one of the NFL’s top scoring offenses go against the best defense in the league.
The Knuckles Prediction: Patriots 24 – Lions 20