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5 things to watch: Lions at Cowboys

Fresh off their NFC North clinching victory on the road in Minnesota last Sunday, the Detroit Lions are on the road again tonight in primetime in Dallas looking to make it three wins in a row and improve their seeding in the NFC playoff picture.

If Detroit wins tonight and next week vs. Minnesota, they can move up to the No. 2 seed. Depending on what happens with San Francisco in their final two games, the No. 1 seed is still in play as well. But first the Lions have to take care of business tonight vs. the Cowboys.

Here are five things to watch out for in this one:


If the Lions win tonight at AT&T Stadium, they'll be the first opposing team to do so this season. Dallas is 7-0 at home and is averaging a league-high 39.9 points per game at home. That is currently the third highest home scoring average since the NFL merger, trailing only New Orleans (41.1) and Green Bay (40.1) in 2011. The Cowboys have outscored opponents 279-108 at AT&T Stadium this season.

"I mean it's just something about them as far as man, listen, our tempo, our execution, the plays that they have. That shows up when you watch them on home games and away games of how they attack you," Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said this week.

"And I think it's because of the way the crowd responds to them in those situations. I'll tell you what, they're a very explosive team, and we have to be on our P's and Q's to start this game off. I mean they have been on a tear at home, especially starting the game."

Dallas is looking to go 8-0 at home for just the third time in franchise history, joining the 1980 and 1981 teams. Detroit has played pretty well on the road all season with a 6-2 record.


Lions running backs David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs have each topped 1,000 scrimmage yards on the season, becoming the fourth set of running backs in team history to do so.

2023 is the first time Detroit's had two players top 800 rushing yards in the same year and the first time two running backs have totaled 10 scrimmage touchdowns in the same year.

Can Montgomery (910) and Gibbs (872) reach 1,000 rushing yards this season? The way they are going it seems likely. Could they accomplish the feat together tonight? The Cowboys come in ranked 19th in rushing defense at 115.7 yards allowed per game.


Dallas linebacker Micah Parsons is one of the most dynamic defensive players in the league. He has 53 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 13.0 sacks and 30 quarterback hits on the season. The difficult part in trying to slow him down is that Dallas moves him all over the field. He's got 205 reps at left end, 182 at left outside linebacker, 170 at right outside linebacker and 80 at right end. He'll also play in the box as an off-ball linebacker.

"Oh yeah, he's a game-wrecker for sure," Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson said this week. "I was just talking to the guys upstairs, they move him around so much whether it's right side, left side, over either guard, over the center, he's just – every snap he's almost in a different location, so it's hard to get a beat a little bit to account for where he's at."

Detroit's offensive line will have to do a good job knowing where he is at all times. The Cowboys also have some other dynamic rushers that Parsons makes better because of the focus teams have to put on him. The 29 sacks the Lions have allowed this season are the fifth fewest in the NFL.

View photos from the Detroit Lions practice on Wednesday, December 27, 2023.


Amon-Ra St. Brown left last year's 24-6 loss in Dallas in the first quarter after taking a forearm to the head and looking a little woozy afterward. St. Brown passed all concussion testing on the sideline but wasn't allowed to return because of a change to the NFL concussion policy instituted earlier in the year that barred players from re-entering the game if they showed signs of ataxia.

St. Brown played just 10 snaps and had one catch for four yards as the Lions' passing game struggled all day. St. Brown is certainly looking forward to playing his part in Dallas this time around.

"Last year was kind of unfortunate what happened," St. Brown said this week. "I'm excited to go out and play. I was only able to play like what barely two drives that game, so I'm just excited to be back out there with the guys in primetime against a good team this late in the season ... a team that hasn't lost at home. It'll be fun."

St. Brown leads the Lions with 106 receptions and 1,281 yards. He's also chipped in eight touchdowns. He is 22 receptions away from tying the all-time record for receptions in a player's first three seasons. St. Brown has 302 and he's chasing Minnesota's Justin Jefferson (324). St. Brown had 12 catches for 106 yards and a touchdown in the win vs. the Vikings last week.


A big reason why the Lions were able to clinch a division title last week in their 30-24 win over Minnesota was their defense manufacturing four takeaways on four interceptions, none more important than safety Ifeatu Melifonwu's first career interception stepping in front of Jefferson at the Lions' 5-yard line in the final minute of the contest to preserve the win.

Dallas has scored at least 30 points in every game at home this year and they rank sixth in the NFL in total offense. Quarterback Dak Prescott completes 68 percent of his passes when blitzed and Dallas has just 13 giveaways all season, which is tops in the league.

Can the Lions' defense find a way to create some of the turnovers that were so big in their win over the Vikings last week? Glenn said it's been his experience that turnovers can come in bunches, so he hopes it continues that way.