Another week, another great test for New England as the Patriots play a team that has big play potential on offense and boasts the number one ranked defense in both yards per game and points allowed in the Detroit Lions. This match is a potential Super Bowl preview and let’s see just how they match up.
|Category||Patriots rank||Lions rank|
|Margin of victory (avg)||10.5||3.2|
Just based on sheer stats, these two teams match up pretty close in nearly every stat. Statistically, the Lions defense ranks better, but I think the two are closer than the numbers suggest.
Where the Lions may have the advantage is in the 4th quarter if the game stays close. The Lions average margin of victory is a lot less than the Patriots meaning they have been in much closer games. If the game comes down to the final drive, it may be a position that the Lions are more comfortable with than the Patriots.
Lions players to watch:
Key players to watch are the tight ends Eric Ebron, who leads their tight ends with 14 receptions and Brandon Pettigrew. Not because they are stellar, but RB’s and tight ends going out for passes has been a weakness of the Patriots for years. Fleener made Browner look bad last week in coverage and Jamie Collins has struggled in coverage this season although he’s seemed to turn a corner of late.
Joique Bell is the Lions all purpose guy and watching him out of the backfield is crucial as well for the same reasons as the tight ends. The problems that Patriots linebackers have in coverage is well noted, but this team should be no more difficult than Denver so I don’t think the Patriots will be lost out there. Bell has 20 receptions this season for 10 first downs. He’s also the Lion’s leading rusher with 442 yards on the season.
The Lions defensive line can be dominant, but I’m over being nervous for our offensive line in pass protection. They’ve come together and played well through 6 games now and it’s time to trust them. Where it will be difficult is how well the Lions stop the run. The Patriots were able to establish the run early against Indianapolis, but without that ability, the game will likely be closer and be put more on Brady to make multiple plays in tough situations.
New England needs to be able to trust their studs on the outside as well. Revis on Calvin Johnson is so obvious I almost don’t even want to mention it, but I have to. I think Revis should do a relatively good job on Johnson. It comes down to complimentary players like Golden Tate, who leads the team in receptions with 68.
Players to watch for Pats:
I think the potential is there for Danny Amendola to have a good game. In 2012, Amendola caught five balls against the Lions for 70 yards. The time before that in 2010, Amendola caught 12 balls for 95 yards. It’s a different Lions team from those times, but with how well they are playing on defense, their game plan will be to take out Gronkowski first, then Julian Edelman leaving Amendola and LaFell an opportunity.
Brandon Browner struggled at times last week so I’m going to look for him to bounce back in this game. He plays with an edge and that edge will be helpful in the long run, but will hurt him at times. Browner’s bigger body may mean he’ll match up with Calvin Johnson with some safety help while Revis takes Golden Tate one-on-one. Whether it’s Browner on the tight ends, or Browner on one of the Lions explosive receivers, the Patriots are going to need a good game from him.
Jamie Collins has been playing well the last month as he’s racked up double digit tackles in 3 of the last four games. Collins was thrust into an unfamiliar position, especially when Jarrod Mayo went down and he had to be more disciplined in plugging gaps. Since his early struggles, Collins has been able to help stop the run and be helpful in the passing game. He’ll need to continue his progress against a quarterback that can chuck the ball around.
The ball is in the Patriots court to get home-field advantage these playoffs, but it will be up to Tom Brady to shake off a crappy first half last week. This team isn’t the Colts. Giving them points on bad throws will lead to a loss and Brady needs to build on his success from the second half and make the first half of last week’s game an aberration. It’s hard to get on Brady because he’s had a solid season, but his decision-making is what separates him from Matthew Stafford. I’m interested to see how Brady does if his run-game isn’t working and it likely won’t this week.
Some are calling this a potential Super Bowl preview, but I think the more likely Super Bowl preview is next week against Green Bay. Nonetheless, this is a lose-able game for the Patriots if they don’t win the turnover battle.