5 things to watch: Lions vs. Cowboys

The Lions return home today to face a high-powered Cowboys team trying to hang on to first place in the NFC East. Detroit’s trying to snap a two-game losing streak and protect home turf, where they’re 2-2 on the year at Ford Field.

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

ROUND TWO FOR DRISKEL

Quarterback Jeff Driskel was put in a tough spot last week not learning officially that he’d start in Chicago until the morning of the game. On the road, against that defense, he didn’t play too bad. He gave the Lions a chance to win.

There’s obviously some things he needs to clean up, but this week has been different for him in the fact that Matthew Stafford hasn’t practiced and Driskel’s taken first-team reps. That wasn’t the case heading into Chicago.

“Repetitions always help,” Driskel said this week. “I’ve been putting myself in position all year mentally to be ready when called upon, and getting a few extra repetitions here and there definitely helps. Getting in and out of the huddle with these guys, calling the plays, everything helps the more you do it. So, yeah, I think for sure.”

The Cowboys' defense is top seven in the league in points allowed (18.9), total defense (323.3) and passing defense (219.8).

COWBOYS' OFFENSE

The trio of quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott and wide receiver Amari Cooper is one of the best in the league.

Prescott, in particular, comes into this game red hot. Through nine games, he ranks third in the NFL in passing yards per game (308.6). His 40 completions of 20 yards or more ranks second (behind only Stafford’s 41) and he’s third in the league with nine completions of 40 yards or more.

Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes (9.0) is the only quarterback averaging more yards per attempt than Prescott’s 8.7. His 18 touchdown passes are tied for third in the NFL.

Detroit’s defense has a tough task in this one. They’ll have to play much better than their current defensive rankings – 30th overall, 28th against pass and 26th against the run – if they hope to contain this explosive Dallas offense.

GOLLADAY VS. COOPER

Today’s contest will feature two wide receivers – Kenny Golladay and Amari Cooper – playing at an elite level right now. Golladay has an NFL best eight touchdown receptions on the season. Cooper’s seven ranks second.

Cooper had 11 receptions for 147 yards and a touchdown last week vs. Minnesota. Since joining Dallas in Week 9 of the 2018 season, he leads the NFL with 13 receiving touchdowns and ranks fourth in yards (1,573).

Golladay, like Cooper, has four 100-yard performances on the season. Golladay is looking to catch a touchdown pass in a fourth straight game.

Don’t be surprised if we see both of these quarterbacks look to make plays down the field to these two big-time playmakers. Cooper is second in the NFL with 14 receptions of 20-plus yards and also second with five catches of 40-plus yards. Golladay is fifth with 12 receptions of 20-plus and also fifth with four going for 40-plus yards.

CAN FLOWERS STAY HOT?

After missing all of training camp rehabbing an injury and starting the season a little slow due to that fact, defensive end Trey Flowers has really picked up his play in recent weeks.

He recorded a sack last week of Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and aims for a fourth game in a row with a sack. He’s got eight quarterback hurries over his last three games and has two forced fumbled in his last three games at Ford Field.

It will be no easy task getting to Prescott today, however. Dallas has allowed just 11 sacks all season, tops in the NFL.

KEY MOMENTS

The Lions are one of three teams in the NFL this season (49ers & Chiefs) that have led in every game they’ve played. With a 3-5-1 record, that makes this a pretty strange season so far for Detroit. They’ve had opportunities to win more games, but simply haven’t made enough of the key plays that separate wins and losses in this league. And both sides of the ball deserve the blame.

Can Detroit’s defense get a key stop or big turnover today? Can one of these backup running backs step up and take some of the weight off Driskel? Detroit’s receivers certainly can play a lot better than they did last week for Driskel. Can the Lions find a way to make winning plays that turn the tide? They haven’t made enough of them up to this point.

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