5 things to watch: Lions vs. Chargers

The Lions are back home in the friendly confines of Ford Field today for their home opener vs. the Los Angeles Chargers. Detroit is coming off a disappointing tie in Arizona last week and are looking for a win to get the bad taste of last week out of their mouth.

The Chargers are a talented football team and the Lions will have their hands full today trying to ink one in the win column.

Here are five things to watch out for in today’s game:

PROTECTION ISSUES

Quarterback Matthew Stafford saw pressure on nearly half of his drop backs last week in Arizona. In fact, Detroit’s 22 pressures allowed were the second most by any team Week 1, per Pro Football Focus statistics.

The Chargers have two terrific edge rushers in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram that Detroit will have to do a better job of containing than they did last week against Arizona’s Chandler Jones and Terrell Suggs.

This is a big game for Detroit’s offensive line. They didn’t play well last week. Can they bounce back and pick up their game, or will they continue to be one of the big question marks on this football team?

BANGED UP CHARGERS

Los Angeles comes into Detroit today banged up. They’re already without starting left tackle Russell Okung (illness), star running back Melvin Gordon (holdout), Pro Bowl safety Derwin James (IR), and cornerbacks Michael Davis (hamstring) and Trevor Williams (IR).

Starting tight end Hunter Henry suffered a fractured tibial plateau in his left knee last week and is out for the foreseeable future. Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn seemed concerned about the knee injury No. 2 wide receiver Michael Williams suffered last week against Indianapolis.

The Chargers are dealing with a lot on the injury front early in the season. How might it affect them this week?

HOCKENSON ENCORE

The rookie tight end was great in his regular season debut for the Lions last week with six catches for 131 yards and a touchdown. He made some key blocks, too, and all and all had a great game.

The Chargers also saw that performance on tape and will have a plan for trying to contain Hockenson today. Los Angeles’ defense is pretty stingy when it comes to allowing big plays – Indy had only two pass plays of 20-plus yards last week – but the soft spot of the Cover 3 scheme the Chargers play is in the intermediate middle of the field. That’s where Hockenson, Jesse James and Co. could find areas to make plays.

FOUR QUARTER GAME

Detroit looked great on offense and defense for three quarters last week vs. the Cardinals. The offense was getting explosive plays in the passing game, the defense was forcing 3 & outs, and the Lions had a 24-6 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Everything changed in the fourth quarter. The offense sputtered and the defense couldn’t stop rookie quarterback Kyler Murray. When it was all said and done, they left Arizona with a tie that felt like a loss.

Football is a four quarter game. Detroit will need a 60-minute effort today if they’re going to beat one of the AFC’s better football teams.

SLAY VS. ALLEN

It’s not a given the Lions will travel Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay with Pro Bowl wide receiver Keenan Allen today, but it sure would be fun to watch.

With the status of Williams in question, Los Angeles could be short at the receiver position. In that case, it could make sense for the Lions to put best on best and force Allen to beat Detroit’s best cornerback, or make someone else beat them.

Allen is one of the great receivers in the game. Slay is one of the league’s best cornerbacks. That could be one of the key matchups in this one today.

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