The last time the Detroit Lions (0-2) played a primetime game they were embarrassed by the New York Jets at home. They lost that Week One matchup versus their AFC East opponent 48-17.
The next primetime matchup in Motown comes this Sunday against another AFC East foe. But this comes against the team that has won the division title for nine straight seasons, the New England Patriots (1-1). While this certainly doesn’t look like the Pats of old so far through two games, they are still a good team led by one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
Tom Brady, while struggling for most of the game in their loss last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, has still had a solid start to the season. Through two games, Brady has completed 67% of his passes while throwing for five touchdowns to one interception.
His QB counterpart, Matthew Stafford, hasn’t been as fortunate to start off 2018. Stafford was horrendous in the season opener against the Jets and, while he had a nice stat line, didn’t play well until the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers. Through those two contests, Stafford has went 61-99 with four touchdowns and four interceptions.
But while the Patriots have the better player at the QB position, the weapons around them are rather similar. The Lions may even have a slight edge.
The ground game for both teams this year has not been great. While the Patriots are averaging 102 rushing yards per game, they do not have a back that has scored a rushing touchdown. Rex Burkhead is the leading rusher with 86 yards on 24 carries for an average of 3.6 yards per tote.
Their best all-around back, James White, isn’t much of a factor on the ground with only 29 yards on the year. But he is a threat catching the ball out of the backfield as he is second on the team in receiving yards with 111 on 11 receptions.
The Lions do not have many threats out of the backfield either. Rookie Kerryon Johnson is the leading rusher with 60 yards on 13 carries. Offseason acquisition LeGarrette Blount, signed to be the bruiser to Johnson’s quickness, has disappointed so far. He has 35 yards through two games while averaging 2.9 yards per carry.
The one advantage the Lions may have in this game could be the receiving corps. Kenny Golladay has emerged as a nice wide out in his second season out of Northern Illinois to compliment 1,000 yard receivers Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr.
The Patriots, who are without veteran Julian Edelman for two more games while he serves a four game PED suspension, are trying to bolster the position. They traded a 2019 fifth-round pick to the Cleveland Browns on Monday for talented but troubled wide out Josh Gordon. Although Gordon missed the game last week due to an injured hamstring, he is expected to suit up against the Lions.
Everyone knows about the dangerous tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is leading the team with 138 receiving yards, but he can only do so much. When your two leaders in receiving yards are a tight end and a running back, your receivers have to step it up.
But while both teams are known for their offenses and will (probably) put up points in this one after being so-so through the first two games, the defenses may decide this one. The problem is that both are dealing with possible key injuries.
On the Lions side, Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay is questionable with a concussion after leaving the game last week against the 49ers. Linebacker Eli Harold, who recorded a sack of Jimmy Garoppolo, is also questionable with a hip injury. Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, who missed the game against the Niners, is questionable to play this week too with a shoulder issue.
As for the Patriots, they could be without safety Patrick Chung who is doubtful to play Sunday night with a concussion. Defensive end Trey Flowers is also doubtful as he is dealing with concussion issues as well.
Now onto the prediction. The Patriots are coming off a loss and poorly played game against the Jags and will look to move to 2-1 on the year. Brady always plays well after losses of double digits and will look to get back on track in Detroit.
While the Lions, and particularly Stafford, haven’t played well through the first two games of 2018, I think they will be itching to get Matt Patricia his first NFL win as a head coach. It will be especially sweet for Patricia to get a win against his former team.
But in the end, I think the Patriots will prevail and go over .500 while the Lions will stay winless. Stafford will play the best game of the season but it will not be enough to overcome Brady and company. While many are predicting this game to be a blowout, I believe this game will be closer than most think with the Pats pulling away late.
New England 38, Detroit 30.
All stats are courtesy of ESPN.com.