The Detroit Lions are looking to put their first notch in the win column this afternoon as they host the Baltimore Ravens at Ford Field for this Week 3 inter-conference matchup.
Here are five things to keep an eye on in today's contest:
1. LAMAR JACKSON SHOW
The 2019 NFL MVP is coming off a three touchdown performance in Baltimore's win over Kansas City last week, a performance that included him throwing for 239 yards and rushing for 107. It was the ninth 100-yard rushing performance of Jackson's career, which is one shy of Michael Vick's all-time record for a quarterback at 10.
Jackson puts a ton of pressure on opposing defenses with his run and run-pass options and the way he's terrific with ball fakes. The Lions talked all week about being disciplined on defense against Jackson and this stout Ravens rushing attack, especially when it comes to filling gaps in the run game.
The Ravens are looking to rush for 100 yards as a team in their 42nd consecutive contest. To be successful, Detroit has to put Baltimore in some long second and third down and distance situations to force Baltimore to use their passing game to beat them. Baltimore ranks No. 3 in total offense (443.5), first in rushing (220.0) and 21st in passing (223.5).
2. 60 MINUTE CONTEST
The Lions are 0-2 to start the year, but they've shown some good things at times, including an ability to be physical upfront along the offensive line, run the ball with some consistency and make plays in the passing game. Detroit's defense has been able to pressure the quarterback some and have stretches of good play. But all of that hasn't been done consistently enough or for long enough stretches.
Detroit played a terrific second half in the Week 1 loss to San Francisco. They also played a really nice first half Monday night in Green Bay.
But the Lions needed a great second half Week 1 because of a disastrous first half that saw them fall behind 31-10. A scoreless second half in Green Bay turned a 17-14 halftime lead into a 35-17 defeat.
Can Detroit find a way to put 60 minutes of more consistent football together to give them a chance to win today?
3. NEW LOOK AT LINEBACKER
The Lions have moved on from veteran stacked linebacker Jamie Collins Sr. and intend to play the younger, speedier and more explosive combination of Jalen Reeves-Maybin and rookie fourth-round pick Derrick Barnes next to veteran Alex Anzalone.
Reeves-Maybin and Barnes are more explosive athletes, and the Lions are hoping they can play better in space and hold up better against the pass than what Collins showed the first two weeks.
Barnes definitely showed that ability in the preseason, and Reeves-Maybin is one of the best open-field special teams tacklers in the league, so the hope is that translates over to playing in the middle of the defense.
There's going to be some mistakes made that come along with inexperience, especially when we're talking about the rookie Barnes, but there's more potential for some playmaking in there too, and that's something the Lions' defense needs more of.
4. BIG-PLAY POTENTIAL
The Ravens are an aggressive, blitzing defense that likes to come after the quarterback. In fact, Baltimore leads the NFL in blitz percentage (44 percent) after two weeks. While bringing that kind of pressure can certainly make things hard on opposing quarterbacks, it also puts their secondary in some Cover 0 situations with players in the backend left out on an island.
Every blitz could get gashed if it doesn't get home. The Lions offensive coaches and players have seen that opportunity present itself on film. Detroit's offensive line has played pretty well these first two weeks. They'll need another good performance today.
Blitz pickup by the backs will also be important. If the Lions can block up those blitz situations, the Raves rank last in the NFL in pass defense, allowing 376 yards per contest through the air. There will be opportunities for the Lions to make plays down the field in this game. Can they hit on a few of them?
5. GOFF'S PERFORMANCE
Lions quarterback Jared Goff has made some plays and is playing with a lot of confidence, despite the 0-2 start. He's averaging 292 passing yards per game and has five touchdown passes. That's the most touchdowns he's had in any first two games of a season in his career. He's had time to throw, and when given the time, has distributed the ball all around and been able to move the sticks.
He does need to clean up the turnovers. He threw a costly pick-six Week 1 vs. San Francisco, and had another interception last week in the loss to the Packers. He also had a critical fumble deep in Lions territory that led to a Packers score.
Goff would be the first to admit two interceptions and two fumbles (one lost) are too many in two games. It's hard for this young team to overcome the turnovers and mistakes to beat good football teams. Goff needs to continue to play the way he's been playing, but just limit some of the mistakes.