The Detroit Lions look to snap a two-game losing streak and head to next week's bye on a positive note with a win today in Foxborough against the New England Patriots. It's a big early-season game for both clubs off to slow 1-3 starts.
Here are five things to watch out for in today's interconference matchup:
1. DEFENSIVE CHANGES
After the deep dive head coach Dan Campbell and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn did this week trying to rectify the team's poor start on defense, Campbell said we can expect some scheme and personnel changes. Neither Campbell or Glenn went into detail on what those changes could be, for obvious reasons, but the expectation is things could look a little different upfront along the defensive line and in the secondary.
The Patriots come into today's game ranked 23rd in points scored (18.5) and 18th in total offense (341.3). They also could be starting a rookie third-string quarterback in Bailey Zappe, who would be making his first career start.
2. PATRIOTS QUARTERBACK SITUATION
Starting quarterback Mac Jones is dealing with a high ankle sprain and most of the reports out of Boston are that he won't play, even though he did practice in limited fashion this week. Backup Brian Hoyer was placed on IR this week after suffering a concussion last week. That leaves Zappe as the healthy option for Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
Zappe did a nice job replacing Hoyer in last week's overtime loss to the Patriots. He was 10-of-15 passing for 99 yards and a touchdown. More importantly, he was turnover free. If it is Zappe today, it will be imperative Detroit does a good job containing the run and making Zappe beat them through the air. Detroit's front four needs to dial up the pressure and try to make Zappe uncomfortable. That's the best way to force him into mistakes.
3. KEEP IT ROLLING
This is one of the better defenses the Lions have faced early in the season, and Belichick is so good at taking away what an offense does best. There's a little bit of mystery leading up to today in terms of what Belichick and the Patriots view as Detroit's strength on offense, because the Lions have been really balanced throughout the first month of the season. Detroit enters today's contest ranked 1st in scoring (35.0), 1st in total offense (436.8), 6th in rushing (164.0) and 5th in passing (272.8).
Belichick will have a plan for them, no doubt, but OC Ben Johnson, quarterback Jared Goff and the offense will have a few tricks up their sleeve, and plan to throw some things at the Patriots they haven't seen yet either. Can the Lions' offense keep it rolling?
4. KEY MATCHUP
It seems like every week Lions offensive tackles Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell have a tough matchup with how this league rolls out talented pass rushers. But it's a particularly good matchup for both players this week against bookend Patriots pass rushers Matthew Judon and Deatrich Wise Jr. Judon is looking to become the first player in Patriots history to start each of the first five games of the season with a sack. Wise also has four sacks on the year. Those two have combined for eight of the Patriots' 11 sacks.
Both Decker and Sewell are playing at a Pro Bowl level early in the year. Decker's allowed one sack in four games and has been very strong in the run game. Sewell has been credited with allowing just a half sack, and is ranked as the top right tackle in football by Pro Football Focus.
View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Friday, October 7, 2022.
5. KICKING GAME
Detroit has struggled to find consistency in their place kicking the last two weeks, and now they hand over duties to Michael Badgley after waiving Austin Seibert on Friday. Seibert and Dominik Eberle, who kicked in place of the injured Seibert last week, combined to miss two field goals, two extra points and kicked a ball out of bounds the last two weeks. Eberle was released Monday.
Badgley is a five-year veteran, who has played for the Los Angeles Chargers, Indianapolis, Tennessee and Chicago. He made all four of his field-goal attempts filling in for the Bears last week. He's 74-for-91 (81.3 percent) with a long of 59 yards for his career. The Lions can't afford to give away points with missed kicks this week looking for their first road win since Dec. 6, 2020 at Chicago.