***Article photo by G. Smith, www.detroitlions.com****
Jacksonville (3-5) is coming off two straight losses to struggling teams, an Oct. 26 loss to Cleveland and a loss to previously winless Cincinnati last Sunday. This week, they play a Detroit (0-8) team that is off to its worst start since 2001, when they started the season 0-12, and have dropped 15 of their last 16 games.
The Lions are coming off another disappointing week that saw them blow a 23-10 halftime lead to the division rival Bears. Despite scoring 23 points in the second quarter, the Lions failed to score for the remainder of the game.
Quarterback Dan Orlovsky was also hurt in the game and is not expected to play this week. That means that either second-year man Drew Stanton or recently signed Daunte Culpepper will get the start for the Lions.
The last time these two teams met, Jacksonville beat Detroit in overtime, despite a record-setting day by Lions punt returner Eddie Drummond, who was the first player in NFL history to return two punts for touchdowns in one quarter. That game also marked the second career start for Jacksonville QB David Garrard, who threw for 198 yards and two touchdowns in Jacksonville’s 23-17 win.
Detroit will win if...
The defense continues to play better.
Despite being ranked dead last in the NFL, Detroit’s defense has played surprisingly well over the past few weeks. Last week, they forced multiple turnovers and put the offense in good field-position situations all game long. Detroit’s stable of young defensive players are getting on the field more often and are making their presence felt.
The Lions are still not stopping the run and are still missing too many tackles, which will have to change against Jacksonville and their potent rushing attack. Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor are a dangerous duo and keeping them bottled up will be a key to this game.
Jacksonville’s passing attack does not strike fear in anyone’s hearts so the Lions will have to pin their ears back and sell out against the run.
The QB comes up big.
We aren’t sure who the QB will be at this point and Coach Marinelli doesn’t want to give Jacksonville an edge by letting them know who it will be, but one thing is certain; whoever it is better make some plays.
Last week, Dan Orlovsky played pretty well overall but missed too many opportunities when star receiver Calvin Johnson was wide open with reservations for six. Daunte Culpepper is widely remembered for his aerial assault while playing in Minnesota with Randy Moss.
Stanton, while not as prolific a passer as Culpepper, also has the ability to throw downfield. Chances are Calvin Johnson will be open early and often as is the case in most games. Culpepper or Stanton will need to hit on those plays for the Lions to be successful. If they do, The Lions might pick up their first victory of the season.
Detroit will lose if...
The Jags run wild.
There is no mistaking the strengths of the Jaguars offense. As the running game goes, so does the team.
This season, they are averaging 176.7 rushing yards in their wins, but only 70.0 running yards in their losses, accentuating the importance of establishing their running game. Fortunately, the Lions are yielding 161.8 rushing yards per game this season.
They kill themselves with penalties and turnovers.
If I told you that last week, the Lions did not commit a penalty until the fourth quarter, you’d call me crazy. Well, it’s true. All year they have been a sloppy team on both sides of the ball, committing 92 penalties through eight games, but last week they played significantly better. They still had three costly turnovers in the form of two Orlovsky interceptions and a late-game fumble by tight end Michael Gaines.
After being blown out the first four games of the season, the Lions have improved in all facets of the game and have lost by an average of 5.8 points per game over their past four games. If they play sloppy and commit turnovers, they don’t have a chance against the Jags.
They don’t establish the run.
The Lions have a tremendous young running back in Kevin Smith, the nation’s leading rusher last season at UCF, but haven’t been able to establish the run enough this season.
Aside from some highlight-reel plays, like the 50-yard run against Minnesota and the 26-yard touchdown run against the Texans, Kevin hasn’t been able to really get going or amass 20 carries in any game this season.
While some of that has to do with the Lions playing from behind, it also has been due to the ineffectiveness of the Offensive Line and the Offense as a whole.
The Jaguars are giving up 114.4 rushing yards per game and have yielded six runs of 20+ yards.
The X Factor
Calvin Johnson. Not much needs to be said here, this guy is open like 7-Eleven, which is 24/7. It will be up to the Lions’ linemen to give the QB time and the QB to make the throws. If they get him the ball, he will make an impact.
This is a home game for the Lions, which doesn’t mean as much for them as it does some other teams. The fans are great and still come to the games, but they are likely to have their second local television blackout this week, meaning the stadium won’t be at capacity.
Both teams are going to play hard, and the Jaguars will likely not be looking past the Lions after being stunned by Cincinnati last week.
This is a must win for the Jaguars, as their postseason hopes are fading fast while the Lions are still seeking their first win.
I think that the Lions' offense will make some plays, especially if Daunte Culpepper gets the start, but regardless of who starts, it will be their first start for the Lions and that doesn’t bode well for them.
It might not be a pretty game, and I think it will be close again, but the Jaguars are the better team at this point and will likely pull this one out.
Jaguars 27, Lions 24
For the Jaguars take by esteemed Jacksonville writer, Aug Auguste, check it out here: