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5 things to watch

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5 things to watch: Lions vs. Broncos

The Detroit Lions look to get back to their winning ways tonight as they host the Denver Broncos at Ford Field in primetime. The Lions haven't lost two games in a row all season and a win tonight, coupled with a loss by Seattle and losses by either Green Bay, Minnesota or Los Angeles this weekend would earn them their first playoff berth since 2016.

First and foremost, however, the Lions have to take care of business at home against a Broncos team that's won six of their last seven contests. Here are five things to watch out for in tonight's matchup:


Detroit enters the contest as the No. 3 offense in the NFL and No. 5 in rushing, averaging 137.5 yards per game on the ground. For only the fourth time all season they are likely to start a game with their top five offensive linemen available – Taylor Decker, Jonah Jackson, Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow and Penei Sewell. Detroit is at their best offensively when they establish the run and get their play-action passing game working.

Denver has played much better defense the last seven weeks after starting the season 1-5 but they still give up a lot of yards on the ground. They have the league's worst rushing defense at 144.0 yards per game.


Since Week 6, the Broncos have surrendered 16.0 points per game, which ranks second in the NFL during that time. One of the big reasons for that has been their ability to generate takeaways. Denver leads the NFL with 24 takeaways with 13 fumbles, which is also tops in the league. From Weeks 8-12, Denver's defense forced at least three takeaways in four straight games.

The Lions have 20 giveaways on the year, which ranks 20th in the league. The last two times they were at Ford Field, in a loss to Green Bay and a win over Chicago, Detroit combined to turn the ball over seven times. Detroit can't be careless with the football and expect to come out with a win tonight against the Broncos.


Detroit's defense has struggled at times this season containing dual-threat quarterbacks. Denver's Russell Wilson is the only quarterback in league history to pass for 40,000 yards and rush for 5,000. He's got 26 touchdown passes this season with a 98.3 passer rating but also has 315 rushing yards and a couple scores. Wilson is very crafty in the pocket and good at extending plays to either throw or run.

All four of Detroit's losses this season came against quarterbacks – Geno Smith, Lamar Jackson, Justin Fields and Jordan Love – who were able to get out of the pocket, extend plays and make plays with their legs.


Lions quarterback Jared Goff is coming off a performance last week in Chicago where he had his lowest passing yards of the season (161) and lowest passer rating (54.6).

Detroit was shut out in the second half against the Bears and their 13 points scored were the second lowest of the season.

Goff needs to get back to playing mostly mistake free football. When he's done that it's been a recipe for success not only for this Lions offense but for this team as a whole.

Goff's thrown a touchdown pass in 19 straight games at Ford Field. His 103.4 passer rating in home games since 2011 is fifth best in the NFL. His 48 touchdown passes at home are the fourth most behind only Dak Prescott (55), Josh Allen (54) and Patrick Mahomes (49).


Detroit's defense has been pretty good all season limiting big plays and the points scored outside of the red zone, but over the last four games they've allowed seven pass plays of 30-plus yards with two of those going for touchdowns.

Wilson has been one of the best deep-ball passers in the NFL over the last decade and he's got some receivers in Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and Marvin Mims Jr. who can all fly down the field and make big plays. Sutton has at least one 30-yard reception in five straight games. He's had touchdown grabs of 46 and 45 yards the last two weeks. Lions safety Kerby Joseph said this week he's expecting the Broncos to take some shots and he'll be ready when they do.