The Detroit Lions host the Washington Football Team today in matchup of two teams in need of a victory to get back into the playoff race in the NFC.
Here are five things to watch out for in today's matchup:
The Lions will be without Pro Bowl wide receiver Kenny Golladay for a second straight game as he deals with a hip injury suffered early in the Colts game two weeks ago. Golladay missed practice all week and was ruled out for today's game on Friday's injury report.
The news is better for tight end T.J. Hockenson, who returned to practice Friday after missing Thursday's practice with a toe injury. Hockenson leads the Lions in receptions (34) and touchdown grabs (5). He's listed as questionable.
The other players questionable to play today for the Lions are: Offensive lineman Halapoulivaati Vaitai (foot), defensive tackle Nick Williams (shoulder), receiver/returner Jamal Agnew (ribs), guard Joe Dahl (back) and linebacker Jarrad Davis (knee).
Detroit's inactive list will come out 90 minutes before kickoff.
View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Friday Nov. 13, 2020.
CONTAINING WASHINGTON'S RUSH
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was pretty honest this week about how he views the Washington front four.
"It's as good a front as we'll face in the NFL, in my opinion," Stafford said this week. "Ultra-talented and really productive."
Led by Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen and Ryan Kerrigan – all first-round picks – Washington ranks fourth in the NFL with 27 sacks, only trailing Pittsburgh (32), Tampa Bay (29) and Philadelphia (28). Seven different Washington defenders have at least 2.0 sacks. Washington also has the league's No. 1 passing defense (185.6 yards per game).
It will be all hands on deck this week for Detroit's offense to try and keep Stafford clean in the pocket so he's able to make plays in the passing game.
"I think one of the things you don't want to do is get off track," Lions head coach Matt Patricia said Friday about facing that front. "If you get into bad down-and-distance situations, I think that's really where you run into a lot of trouble."
The Lions have lost their last two games for a number of reasons, but tops on that list would be that they've lost the turnover battle in each contest (2-0 vs. Indianapolis and 3-0 vs. Minnesota).
That five turnover swing the last two weeks currently ranks the Lions 20th in turnover differential at minus-2. Washington is a minus-6, which ranks 29th. Washington's eight fumbles lost are the second most in the NFL and their 15 total giveaways are the fourth most.
Washington quarterback Alex Smith, who is making his first start in two years today after suffering a devastating leg injury, replaced Kyle Allen last week and threw three interceptions in the loss to the Giants.
Turnovers are the key in just about every football game, but even more so today with a couple teams that have struggled with them as of late.
TAKING SOME SHOTS
This is a copycat league, and once defensive coaches find a proven recipe for success against a certain offense it's almost a guarantee teams will continue to see that defense until they prove they can beat it.
The Lions have seen a lot of Cover 2 this season as a defensive strategy to keep Detroit's big-play pass catchers in front of them. There was no better example of that than last week against Minnesota. Stafford attempted just one pass of 20-plus yards in the air as the Vikings forced him to continually check the ball down in the short and intermediate part of the field.
Washington's pass rush is so good that it's sometimes dangerous to hold the ball and let those big plays develop, but Detroit's got to scheme some one-on-one opportunities down the field to keep this defense honest.
The Lions need to run the ball effectively to begin the game and give themselves some opportunities to open up the play-action game and take some shots down the field. The Lions' offense is at its best when they get chunk plays in the run game and can make plays down the field in the passing game.
When the Lions do a good job stopping the run on defense, they've won football games this year. It's no coincidence that Detroit's three victories this season are against the three teams they've held to the fewest rushing yards.
In their five losses, opponents have racked up 275, 259, 164, 149 and 119 rushing yards. Detroit currently ranks 30th against the run, allowing on average 148.1 rushing yards per game.
Washington comes into this contest ranked 29th in the NFL in rushing (92.3), which offers the Lions a chance for success on defense today. Contain the run and make a quarterback starting his first game in two years beat you. Washington would probably like to run the ball effectively and keep the pressure off Smith. It's the job of the Detroit defense to flip that script today.