10 QUESTIONS WITH TWENTYMAN: What's causing red zone problems on offense?

Every week during the regular season Tim Twentyman will answer 10 good questions from his Twitter account @ttwentyman in a feature we call "10 Questions with Twentyman."

20man: Good question, and obviously relevant to this week. There was a trend.

The Giants beat Dallas Week 1 by limiting Ezekiel Elliott (51 yards), confusing Dak Prescott (25-of-45 passing with a 69.4 passer rating) and being very efficient in the red zone (3 for 3) in a 20-19 win.

Fast-forward 13 weeks to their Week 14 matchup and the common theme was Prescott not playing well again.

Elliott had 107 rushing yards, and New York's offense struggled to move the football, but they were very good again in limiting Prescott, who was under duress (three sacks) and confused by the Giants' secondary (17-of-37 passing with two interceptions and a 45.4 passer rating).

Only twice this season has Prescott had a passer rating under 80.0. Both were in losses to the Giants.

Unfortunately, Detroit hasn't been very good in that department all year. Opposing passers have a 102.1 passer rating against the Lions this season. Only Cleveland is worse (104.0).

20man: The Lions have really missed Riddick.

Since 2015, Riddick leads all NFL running backs with 133 receptions and is tied for first with eight receiving touchdowns. Taking a guy like that out of the lineup has had a big impact on Detroit's offense the last two weeks.

The bad news is that Riddick wasn't on the field at the open portion of practice Thursday. He was running off to the side, however. We'll have to monitor his progress Friday and Saturday, but that's not great news for the Lions' offense to start the week.

20man: The good news is there is a precedent here.

And it shouldn't be Jackson replacing Slay. Remember that Jackson plays in the slot. Slay is an outside corner.

Slay missed two games earlier this year in back-to-back games at Houston and Minnesota with a hamstring injury. Veteran Johnson Bademosi filled in for Slay, and I thought he held his own.

Houston's Brock Osweiler threw a touchdown and had an 83.4 passer rating in a 20-13 Houston win. Minnesota's Sam Bradford tossed a touchdown and finished with a 103.4 rating in Detroit's 22-16 overtime victory.

The Cowboys rank 20th in passing offense, but it has to be noted that they're second rushing the ball at more than 150 yards per game. That's where they make their hay. Cornerbacks have to be very good supporting the run, which Slay is. Bademosi will have to be equally as good, especially against a back like Elliott.

Prescott is very efficient (103.2 passer rating), but they don't make a ton of plays down the field compared to everyone else. They have the fourth-fewest 20-plus-yard passing plays this season.

It's obviously not ideal to be without Slay, who missed practice Thursday to begin the week, but Bademosi is a veteran who has filled in before this season.

20man: Here you go --

Detroit clinches NFC North division title with:

  1. DET win GB loss or tie OR
  1. DET tie GB loss

Detroit clinches a playoff berth with:

  1. DET win TB loss or tie OR
  1. DET tie TB loss OR
  1. DET tie TB tie ATL win OR
  1. WAS loss or tie TB loss ATL win or tie

20man: Right now it's the Lions.

Head-to-head is the first tiebreaker, but Detroit and Tampa Bay don't play against each other this season.

The second tiebreaker for two teams not in the same division for the wildcard is record vs. conference opponents. The Lions are currently 7-3 against the NFC. Tampa Bay is 6-4.

The Lions finish with Dallas (12-2) and Green Bay (8-5), both NFC teams.

The Bucs finish with New Orleans (6-8) and Carolina (6-8), also both NFC teams.

20man: A temporary problem is one game, maybe two. This has been an issue going on a month now. For the season, Detroit ranks 23rd with a red zone efficiency percentage of 51.2.

I think they've really missed Riddick the last couple weeks. He's such a weapon down in the red zone with his option routes and mismatches.

Detroit also suffers from the fact that they don't run the ball with any real consistency, and they don't have an elite receiver that can simply go up and get a jump ball or fade route.

Play calling and execution are part of it too. The Lions are 17th in STATS, INC.'s red zone successful plays chart.

A successful play is anytime the offense gains 40 percent of the yardage necessary for a first down on first down, 50 percent of the yardage necessary for a first down on second down or gains the first down on third or fourth down.

Having to settle for three points has been an issue, and it doesn't seem like it will be a recipe for success against the Cowboys or Packers.

20man: Very good chance, Michael, if the NFC North title is on the line.

It's the most intriguing matchup the final week of the season with potentially division and wildcard implications on the line for both teams.

The deadline to move that game from its 1 p.m. slot to the night game is next Tuesday morning, but we'll probably know Saturday night, if the Packers beat the Vikings earlier in the day. That sets up a Week 17 matchup for the division no matter what happens with Detroit on Monday night.

If the Packers lose, we'll know Tuesday, depending on what the Lions do.

20man: I noted in my Tim & Mike observations column this week that Marvin Jones Jr. has been pretty quiet over the last 10 games after that hot start.

Golden Tate caught eight passes for 122 yards last week in New York, which gives him 79 catches on the season for 942 yards. He passed Jones (838) for the team lead in receiving yards.

Jones has 49 receptions so far this season in 13 games. That ranks 70th in the NFL.

After starting the year on fire with 482 yards in his first four games, Jones has averaged just 45 yards per game over his last nine games (he missed the Saints game due to injury). It's been a little different for him. He started seeing shifted coverage and help over the top, something he hasn't received much at all throughout his career.

Look, the Lions are going to have to score points to beat Dallas and Green Bay. That's just the simple fact. Jones needs to find ways to get open and make some big plays to complement Tate.

The good news is that his best game of the season came against Green Bay in Week 3, when he caught six passes for 205 yards and two scores.

20man: This a true statement. I went back and looked over the team's first 10 games. Burton was averaging about nine snaps per game on offense. Over the last four, he's played a grand total of just six snaps.

Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter has never really been one to feature a fullback much. There are not a lot of two-back, I-formation sets on his play sheet.

At this point, I don't see how running behind a fullback would hurt anything, but it's just not something they feature in this scheme. The most Burton has played on offense this season was 15 snaps vs. Los Angeles. The Lions won that game.

In fact, Burton played 15 snaps vs. Los Angeles, 13 against Philadelphia and 10 vs. Indianapolis. Detroit won all three of those games.

Maybe you're onto something Péter.

@ttwentyman any chance of Abdullah returning this season? Maybe if we make playoffs? #10Questions — Ben (@CudiRed) December 22, 2016

20man: All I can really say is what I've been saying for the last couple weeks. Abdullah wasn't at practice to begin this week, but neither was linebacker Jon Bostic, the other realistic option for the Lions when it comes to designating a player for return from IR.

There still appears to be hope for Abdullah, but as head coach Jim Caldwell said a couple weeks ago, "time is running out."

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