The Lions offense put together its best performance of the year against one of the NFL’s toughest defenses. The Seahawks were allowing less than 16 points per game and were ranked in the top eight in the NFL in total yards, passing yards and rushing yards allowed per game.
Matthew Stafford led the way with a performance that brought back memories of last year's record-setting season. He consistently threw accurate passes into tight windows, made the right decisions in the red zone and showed his mobility by escaping the pocket.
Stafford finished 34-for-49 with 352 passing yards, three touchdowns and one rushing touchdown. Titus Young was the primary beneficiary of Stafford’s strong play, racking up 100 yards receiving and catching two touchdown passes, including the game-winner.
Even though they sit last in the NFC North at 3-4, the Lions are still in the playoff hunt. The 2011 New York Giants (9-7) and the 2010 Green Bay Packers (10-6) both showed that a team can get hot at the right time and go all the way.
Putting together a string of wins rests largely on the shoulders of Matthew Stafford and the Lions’ offense. They need to build on their solid performance against the Seahawks and show that last year wasn’t a fluke. They can start by winning big against the 1-6 Jaguars in Jacksonville on Sunday.
The Jaguars are ranked 27th in the NFL, having allowed an average of 26.9 points per game. However, last week against a potent Packers offense the Jaguars defense gave up only 17 points, with the Packers' other seven points coming via special teams.
The Green Bay offense was missing several key players, including Cedric Benson, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, which could account for some of their struggles. Detroit’s offense is healthy for the most part, with the obvious question mark being Calvin Johnson. Johnson has yet to practice this week and is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.
With that said, fans should expect the Lions offense to control the game, regardless of whether Johnson is healthy or not.
Success in the passing game starts with strong play from the offensive line. The Lions have allowed only 14 sacks on the season, despite attempting 326 passes, the most of any team in the league. They should have little trouble shutting down the Jaguars pass rush which has a measly seven sacks on the year.
Stafford should have plenty of time in the pocket to complete passes to a variety of different receivers. Stafford hit seven different receivers at least three times against the Seahawks and he should have no problem spreading the wealth against the Jaguars.
One positive aspect of the Jaguars defense is that they don’t often give up big plays in the passing game. However, the Lions have 27 passing plays for 20-plus yards and five for 40-plus yards this season. Even if Stafford is effective with his short and medium passes he’s bound to take a few shots downfield Sunday.
Titus Young could be Stafford’s primary target depending on Megatron’s health, while tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler will look to move the chains in short-yardage situations.
With Nate Burleson out for the season, rookie Ryan Broyles and the newly acquired Mike Thomas (a former Jaguar) will provide the Lions with depth at the wide receiver position.
Stafford and a talented group of young receivers have the Lions ranked second in the NFL in passing yards per game. The Lions also have a pair of young running backs who help balance the offense.
With Jahvid Best shutdown for the season, the Lions will rely on Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell to carry the load in the run game. Leshoure missed practice early in the week for the birth of his son, but is expected to play Sunday.
Leshoure leads the Lions with 305 rushing yards on 76 attempts, while Bell and veteran Kevin Smith each have 116 yards on 30 carries. Expect the Lions to rotate backs again Sunday, at least until one RB shows he has the hot hand.
If the Lions can get a big lead early they may look to Leshoure and Bell to carry the ball more often against a Jaguars defense that gives up 135.7 rushing yards per game.
Regardless of how they move the ball, the Lions should turn in a dominant performance against the Jaguars. Not only are the Jaguars ranked near the bottom of the NFL statistically on defense, their offense is ranked dead last in points scored and yards per game.
This should be one of Detroit's easiest games of the season. A win would give them a 4-4 record on the year and put them in better position to possibly sneak into the playoffs with a 9-7 record.
Prediction: Lions 30, Jaguars 17