The Detroit Lions are on the road for a second straight week against a very good opponent, this week in Baltimore against the Ravens (4-2). Detroit is trying to make it five wins in a row and improve their road record to 4-0 this season and 6-1 overall. Here are five things to watch out for in today's matchup:
1. STRENGTH VS. STRENGTH
Big test this week for a Detroit offensive line that is one of the best in football. The Lions rank in the top five in the NFL having allowed just 10 sacks all season and also rank in the top eight in the league in total pressures allowed.
Baltimore's defense is tied for the NFL lead with 24 sacks, and they get them a lot of different ways. A player at every level of their defense has at least 3.0 sacks on the season. There are 11 different Ravens defenders with at least 1.0 sack on the year. The Ravens' 72 blitzes are the eighth most in the NFL, so they come after teams.
Detroit has to be very organized upfront along their offensive line and the backs need to be very good at picking up pressure and allowing quarterback Jared Goff time to beat the blitz. When a team blitzes there are more one-on-one opportunities in the pass game if it's blocked up and the Lions will hope to exploit that later today.
2. CONTAINING JACKSON
New Ravens offensive coordinator Todd Monken's scheme asks quarterback Lamar Jackson to be more of a pocket passer than the designed runner we've seen in the past.
Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn still knows how dangerous the 2019 NFL MVP can be with his legs, and he said being disciplined upfront and the front seven trusting each other to do their job and nothing more will be key in trying to limit Jackson.
"I think any team would rather do that, but you also have to know that he's a growing thrower in this league," Glenn said of Jackson. "So, there's a number of ways that he can hurt you. I mean, this guy was a former MVP and he was there for a reason. So, we're fully aware of that."
Glenn said he still expects Jackson to use his legs when he sees an opportunity. The Lions' defense has to really guard against limiting those opportunities and team tackle when Jackson decides to take them.
3. REPLACING MONTGOMERY
Running back David Montgomery has been terrific in Detroit's backfield to begin the season but he's going to miss some time with a rib injury suffered in last week's win over Tampa Bay. The expectation is for rookie Jahmyr Gibbs to return to the lineup today after missing the last two games with a hamstring injury.
The last time Montgomery missed a game with Gibbs healthy and in the lineup was Week 3 vs. Atlanta. Gibbs carried most of the load that day for Detroit's run game with 17 of the team's 31 carries gaining 80 yards (4.7 avg.). Craig Reynolds has been dealing with hamstring and toe injuries, but was able to practice in limited fashion Thursday and Friday. If Reynolds plays, the expectation is for the two of them to carry most of the load. Baltimore comes in as the No. 10 ranked rushing defense in the NFL.
4. RUSHING STREAK
The Lions have the No. 1 rushing defense in the NFL after six weeks. They are allowing just 64.7 yards per game on the ground and haven't allowed a single opponent to gain over 100 rushing yards as a team this season.
Now they face a Baltimore offense that is averaging 144.8 yards per game on the ground and is looking to extend their streak of 100-yard rushing games to 22. To put that number in a little bit of perspective, San Francisco is second on the list with 12 straight games of rushing for at least 100.
Which unit keeps their streak alive today?
View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Thursday, October 19, 2023.
5. CAN GOFF STAY HOT?
There are a lot of players and units that deserve credit for Detroit's 5-1 start, but Goff's play through the first month and a half of the season is high on that list.
Goff ranks in the top five in every major statistical category we use to measure quarterback play. He is distributing the ball all over the field, making big plays down the field, and taking care of the ball. He's in complete command of coordinator Ben Johnson's offense and is playing like an MVP-caliber quarterback right now.
The Ravens' defense is No. 2 in the NFL in total defense (260.8), No. 4 in scoring defense (15.2) and No. 2 against the pass (163.2). They have playmakers at all three levels, and this will be the toughest test to date for Goff and the passing game.