Both the Detroit Lions (3-3) and the Seattle Seahawks (3-3) have had pretty similar seasons so far through six games. Besides the identical records, they have even got them in similar fashions. The Lions and Seahawks started off the year with two straight losses. But since then, they have won three of four games to get back to .500.
Both teams, at least on the offensive side of the ball, have focused on improving the same thing: the ground game.
Over the past four games, the Seahawks have averaged 157 yards rushing. This is due in large part to Chris Carson. He has topped the century mark twice on the year and is averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Backup Mike Davis has also topped the 100-yard mark once this season and has filled in nicely when Carson or rookie back Rashaad Penny have missed time due to injuries.
As for the Lions, they are relying on their second-round pick this year, running back Kerryon Johnson, to lead the way. Last week against the Dolphins, Johnson rushed for a career-high 158 yards. Like Carson, that was the second time Johnson had hit triple-digits on the ground this year. He is averaging 6.4 yards per carry.
They are also getting valuable yards from LeGarrette Blount. While he is only averaging 2.9 YPC, he has three touchdowns on the season and has been a massive improvement from last year in short yardage and goal-line situations.
An improved run game has allowed both quarterbacks, Russell Wilson and Matthew Stafford, to flourish. On the year, Wilson has 1308 yards, 13 touchdowns and four interceptions. Stafford has 1602 yards, 12 TDs and five INTs. Over the last four games, when the rushing attacks started to show improvement, both play callers have eight TDs to only one interception.
Detroit is averaging 26.2 points per game while Seattle is averaging 23.8. So while the Lions may have an advantage scoring, this could still be a very similar game on the offensive side of the ball.
As for the defenses, Seattle may have the advantage. While the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom is gone, their secondary has played surprisingly well. The defense as a whole has played better than most people expected, especially after the loss of veteran safety Earl Thomas. He broke his leg against the Arizona Cardinals in the fourth game of the year.
Even without the heart and soul of their defense, Seattle has stepped up to the challenge. They are giving up 19.5 points per game, which is 4th best in the NFL behind only the Los Angeles Rams, Dallas Cowboys and Tennessee Titans. They are a top-five team in yards allowed per game through the air, which could force Stafford and Co. to rely even more on Johnson and Blount.
The Lions defense, while improving, is still shaky. They are giving up 26.3 PPG and that comes from their inability to stop the run. They are 30th in the league in rush yards allowed per game (139.3) and dead last in the NFL in yards per rush (5.32). But GM Bob Quinn addressed that problem on Wednesday, trading for Damon “Snacks” Harrison from the New York Giants in exchange for a 5th-round pick. Harrison, a former All-Pro, is one of the best run-stoppers in the NFL. At 355 pounds, he should help shore up the Lions run defense.
Now time for the prediction. While Seattle is 5-3 coming off their bye week under Pete Carroll, I think this week will be different. With the Seahawks four games back in their division (behind the undefeated Rams) and the playoffs a longshot, I think the Lions will be more prepared and ready to play in front of their home fans at Ford Field. Detroit is still in the running for the divisional crown, as the Minnesota Vikings lead the NFC North at 4-2-1.
I think they will want to win this game to have momentum heading into next week when they travel to Minneapolis to take on the Vikings in a divisional showdown. Stafford and Johnson will both have good games and outduel Wilson and Carson. The addition of Harrison will motivate this defense just enough for the Lions to pull out the victory in the Motor City.
Lions 24, Seahawks 20.
All stats are courtesy of ESPN.com.