The Detroit Lions (3-4) will come marching into North Florida this weekend to square off against the reeling Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6) in a non-conference matchup.
Jacksonville has lost 11 of its last 14 games dating back to last fall, while the Lions have begun to hit their stride at the right time, winning two of their last three games coming into Sunday afternoon's showdown.
Here we get you set with everything you need to know for Week 9's under-the-radar battle at EverBank Field.
Where: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, FL
When: Sunday, November 4 at 1:00 p.m. ET
Listen: 97.1 FM The Ticket (Detroit), 96.9 FM (Jacksonville)
Live Streaming: NFL Sunday Ticket
Betting Line: Lions (-3.5), according to Covers.com.
What's At Stake?
The Jaguars are in danger of dropping their fifth straight game on Sunday against the Lions, while Detroit can get to 4-4 and back into the picture in the NFC North with a win. The Lions have won two of their last three, but are just 1-3 on the road this season. The Jaguars are 0-3 at home in 2012.
Lions Injury Report (according to USA Today)
LB DeAndre Levy (Hamstring), questionable for Sunday
S Amari Spievey (Head), questionable for Sunday
CB Bill Bentley (Shoulder), questionable for Sunday
CB Jacob Lacey (Concussion), questionable for Sunday
CB Chris Greenwood (Abdominal), out indefinitely
RB Jahvid Best (Concussion), out for season
WR Nate Burleson (Leg), IR
CB Drayton Florence (Finger), IR
G Bill Nagy (Ankle), IR
Jaguars Injury Report (according to USA Today)
RB Montell Owens (Shoulder), questionable for Sunday
CB Rashean Mathis (Groin), questionable for Sunday
CB Derek Cox (Back), questionable for Sunday
WR Laurent Robinson (Concussion), questionable for Sunday
RB Maurice Jones-Drew (Foot), out for Sunday
LB Clint Session (Concussion), out indefinitely
WR Taylor Price (Foot), IR
LB Daryl Smith (Groin), IR
TE Brett Brackett (Knee), IR
C Jason Spitz (Foot), IR
C John Estes (Knee), IR
DT Drew Nowak (Foot), IR
TE Matt Veldman (Knee), IR
Fantasy Start 'Em, Sit 'Em and Sleeper
Start 'Em: Mikel Leshoure, Detroit Lions, RB
The Jaguars rank 25th in the NFL defending the run this season, and are giving up nearly 136 yards on the ground per week. Although Mikel Leshoure hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 3 at Tennessee, he will have plenty of opportunities to do so this weekend.
Leshoure has carried the ball at least 10 times in each of his five appearances this season, and has averaged more than 4.5 yards per carry in each of the past three weeks. He left last week's game in the third quarter, but it sounds like he should be a full go in Week 9.
Sit 'Em: Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville Jaguars, WR
Rookie wideout Justin Blackmon leads all Jaguars wide receivers in targets this season with 45, but is third in receptions with only 18, and has yet to score a touchdown or record more than one play of 20 or more yards.
In Week 9 he'll be pitted against the NFL's ninth-best pass defense in Detroit. Fantasy owners should seriously consider benching Blackmon this weekend.
Sleeper: Ryan Broyles, Detroit Lions, WR
Detroit's rookie wide receiver Ryan Broyles has found himself much more involved in the Lions' passing game in recent weeks, and should be a pleasant surprise for some fantasy owners on Sunday. The former Oklahoma Sooner has caught three balls in each of the past two weeks for a combined 88 yards and two touchdowns.
Jacksonville's secondary will be under fire from the start this weekend, as the Jags rank just 23rd in the league against the pass. With much of the attention being focused on Calvin Johnson and Titus Young, look for Broyles to have some success in Week 9.
What They're Saying
Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz is well aware that the NFL season is a marathon and not a sprint (via Detroit Free Press' Drew Sharp):
We've all seen the NFL and we've all seen situations that come up that you have to persevere over the course of 16 games. It's not just a 60-minute game. It's a 16-game season. Teams that do well over 16 games persevere through tough times or adversity.
After a dreadful 1-3 start to the season, the Lions can get to .500 with a win against the Jaguars on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey defended rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon after he drew criticism for what looked to be some uninspired play late in Jacksonville's Week 8 loss to Green Bay (via The Florida Times-Union's Ryan O'Halloran):
I didn’t see evidence of [not hustling], I do look for that and that is not acceptable in our offense or on our team to not finish plays.
Blackmon had four catches for 67 yards in the loss, but has yet to score a touchdown this season. The Jags will need a big effort from the rookie in Week 9 in order to snap their losing streak.
Lions Player to Watch
Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford holds all of the Lions' playoff and championship hopes in his right arm. Although he has struggled at times this season, he's still on pace for a 4,000-plus-yard season.
Stafford is without question the biggest key in Week 9 vs. the Jaguars. He is the engine that drives Detroit's top-ranked passing attack and will be by far the most entertaining Lion to watch. Stafford should have plenty of opportunities to make some big plays against a porous defense through the air on Sunday.
Jaguars Player to Watch
There hasn't been much to watch in Jacksonville so far this season, but if there's a bright spot it comes on defense, where linebacker Russell Allen has been playing his heart out this year. The fourth-year player is on pace for a career year, and already boasts 58 tackles through seven games.
Allen leads the team in total tackles, solo tackles and has successfully defended three passes this season. Keep an eye out for No. 50 whenever the Jaguars are on defense, which will likely be a lot on Sunday.
The matchup to watch for on Sunday afternoon will be that between the Lions' vaunted aerial attack and the Jaguars' susceptible secondary. Jacksonville is surrendering more than 250 yards through the air per week on average, while Detroit is racking up more than 310 passing yards per game.
If Jacksonville can slow Matthew Stafford and company this weekend, it will have a shot to pull off the upset, otherwise, the Jaguars will be 1-7 after nine weeks.
On the Hot Seat
Even a coach with a resume as impressive as Bill Belichick's would be on the hot seat after a 1-6 start to the season. But Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey lacks the credentials to survive a season as terrible as this one promises to be for Jacksonville.
A loss on Sunday would be Mularkey's fifth straight as coach of the Jags, and you can bet his seat would be scorching heading into Week 10.
So far the Jaguars' offense has only been explosive enough to beat one team in seven games. I can't pick a team that is averaging under 15 points scored per week, especially when its going up against the second-best passing attack in football. Give me the Lions this weekend. They'll win easily on the road against a team that's lacking lots of things—but mostly confidence.
Lions 31, Jaguars 17
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