LIONS INSIDER

GAME PREVIEW: Can the Lions get out of their own way?

Posted Dec 15, 2013

Tim Twentyman breaks down five keys for the Detroit Lions to come away with their 20th win in franchise history on Monday Night Football

The Detroit Lions aren't in a position where they can afford any more letdowns. The race for the NFC North title has come down to the last three games and Detroit, Chicago and Green Bay are still neck, neck and neck.

The defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens come to town this week winners of their last three games. This is a team in the thick of the AFC playoff race and they know how to win in December from past experience.

The Lions have the advantage playing at home in front of what’s expected to be a raucous Ford Field crowd in front of a national audience on Monday Night Football.

Can the Lions show the nation they’re real contenders in the NFC?

HISTORY

The Lions play the Ravens for just the fourth time. Baltimore leads the series 2-1.

The last time the Lions hosted the Ravens was back in 2005 when Detroit won 35-17 on the back of four rushing touchdowns.

These two teams have played a total of 46 Monday Night Football games combined. The Lions are 19-10 all time on Monday night, while the Ravens are 8-9.

A LOOK AT THE STATS

Record: 7-6, 7-6

Points per game: 26.6 (6), 21.4 (24)

Total yards per game: 409.4 (2), 310.2 (29)

Rushing yards: 112.5 (19), 82.3 (29)

Passing yards: 296.9 (3), 227.9 (20)

Points allowed: 24.7 (18), 20.1 (8)

Total yards allowed: 355.2 (17), 332.8 (9)

Rushing yards allowed: 99.3 (6), 101.2 (8)

Passing yards allowe: 255.8 (25), 231.7 (14)

Turnover ratio: -10 (28), -5 (26)

BY THE NUMBERS

1-5: The Ravens road record this season.

27: Passing yards needed by Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to record his third straight 4,000-yard passing season.

3: Fourth-quarter leads the Lions have given up in their last three losses.

Matthew StaffordQB Matthew Stafford (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

20: Lions turnovers in their last six games.

7: Receiving yards needed by Calvin Johnson to become the first player with 5,000 yards over a three-year span.

5 KEYS

NOTHING DEEP

The Ravens have a lot of speed at the receiver position and a big, strong-armed quarterback in Joe Flacco, who can deliver the ball anywhere on the field.

Baltimore is among the league leaders in offenses that throw the ball deep. They like to do so a lot of times off play action. They average 28 rushing attempts per game, so it’s effective.

The Lions have given up 14 passes of 40-plus yards this year. Only Baltimore (16) has given up more.

COVERAGE UNITS

Baltimore has been good on special teams for years. Since 2008, they’ve produced the NFL’s No. 1 kick-return average (24.9).

The Ravens have six return touchdowns since 2011 and the lead the NFL in punt-return average (14.8) this year.

The Lions have yet to give up a return touchdown this season and have been steady in that area all season long.

TACKLE PLAY

Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil returned to the practice field this week for the Ravens after missing time with an ankle bruise. He leads Baltimore in sacks (9.5) and his return gives that 3-4 defense two terrific edge rushers with former defensive MVP Terrell Suggs (nine sacks) on the other side.

Detroit tackles Riley Reiff and LaAdrian Waddle have a tough task ahead of them. The Ravens are also stout up the middle with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and others, which will likely make this the toughest task to date for a Lions offensive line that leads the NFL having only allowed 15 sacks this year.

TURNOVERS

It kind of goes without saying at this point, doesn’t it?

The Lions have 15 turnovers in their last four games and five turnovers in the fourth quarter in their last three losses.

If the Lions don’t hurt themselves they have a terrific chance to put up points and come away with a much-needed victory on Monday Night Football.

FIND THE SECONDARY WEAPON

The Lions missed Reggie Bush in last week’s loss to Philadelphia.

In the two games Bush has missed this year (Arizona and Philadelphia), the Lions have averaged just 280 yards of total offense.

They’re averaging over 409 yards per game on the season.

The Ravens have been tough to run on this season (101.2), but they do give up big plays in the passing game. Bush should have an advantage in the short and intermediate passing game against Baltimore’s linebackers and safeties.

Bush is averaging 95 rushing yards and has a 5.0 yards per carry average at home this year. Add another 49 receiving yards per game at Ford Field and the Lions have a pretty good secondary weapon to Johnson and the deep passing attack.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: LIONS

Jeremy Ross, WR/KR:

Ross returned a kickoff (98) and punt (58) for a touchdown last week in Philadelphia, becoming only the 14th player in NFL history with both in one game.

Ndamukong Suh, DT:

The Ravens are weak up the middle of their offensive line and have allowed 41 sacks this year. If Suh and fellow defensive tackle Nick Fairley can generate pressure up the middle, like they did on Thanksgiving against Green Bay, the Lions defense will be off and running.

Nate Burleson, WR:

The veteran receiver has a grand total of two catches for 18 yards over the teams last two games. The Lions need a third receiving option to emerge in this game behind Johnson and Bush.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: RAVENS

Jacoby Jones, WR/KR:

Jones had a 77-yard kickoff return touchdown last week against Minnesota. Since 2012, he has three kickoff-return touchdowns and one punt-return touchdown, which are tied for most in the NFL.

Marlon Brown, WR:

The rookie receiver had a career-high seven catches last week for 92 yards and the game-winning touchdown. Brown has six touchdowns on the year, which leads the Ravens.

Justin Tucker, K:

Tucker has made 27 consecutive field goals, which is the longest active streak in the NFL.