Lions-Cowboys Final Thoughts: Stats, and status, rising for Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay, Jeff Driskel getting comfortable and Random Thoughts – Cowboys' schedule, historic running back duel, sticking with my pick and more:
Golladay has climbed the ladder in some obvious receiving categories to have a spot in the top tier with his contemporaries, and there are other stats that put him in the company of the all-time greats.
In spite of everything that has happened to the Lions this season, including a change in starting quarterbacks with Driskel taking over because of injuries to Matthew Stafford, Golladay has continued to produce.
He has 38 catches for 697 yards, eight TDs and an average of 18.3 yards per catch. The eight TD catches lead the league, and his average of 18.3 yards per catch is third highest in the league among receivers with at least 30 catches.
Touchdown catches obviously is an important statistic for Golladay. It doesn't matter if it's a 47-yard catch, like the one he made in last week's loss to the Bears, or a one-yard catch.
"A touchdown is a touchdown," Golladay said as the Lions closed out the practice week in preparation for Sunday's game against the Cowboys at Ford Field.
"It can be a reception for one yard, it's still a touchdown. It's still helping the team. It's putting points on the board."
He also looks at targets – the number of passes thrown to him – as a key indicator of his performance.
"Not just how many targets I get," he said. "I want to make sure it won't be 10 targets and two catches. I want it to be at least around eight to 10 catches.
"Every receiver wants yards. Every receiver wants touchdowns. I guess I've been fortunate to get those this year."
According to available research, Golladay is one of five players since 1970 to have at least 135 receptions, 16.4 yards per catch and 16 receiving TDs in their first 35 games. Among the others in that category are Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Randy Moss. Greg Jennings and John Jefferson are the others.
Golladay has 136 catches, 16 receiving TDs and a 16.4 yards per catch average.
"They dug deep for that one, didn't they?" Golladay joked. "It's an honor."
QB comfort: It doesn't guarantee a better performance, but Driskel should benefit in his second straight start at quarterback from having a full game behind him and a full week of practice as the No. 1 quarterback.
His athleticism – topped by a 40-yard dash time of 4.56 seconds – was evident in his 2016 Combine workout before the 2016 draft. The more comfortable he is with the offense, the better able he is to use his athleticism and react instinctively.
"Repetition always helps," Driskel said this week. "Everything helps, the more you do it."
Vision, and reacting to what you see, is important at any position.
"I think with repetitions, a lot of players start to settle down, and I think what happens is their vision changes," said head coach Matt Patricia. "That's probably one of the biggest things for guys, no matter what position you play.
"When that starts to happen, usually players talk about their vision opening up on the field. You start to see a lot more."
Advantage Cowboys ... but: My primary thought for today's game is that if the Lions win – and I'm sticking with the Cowboys as my pick to win – it will be their biggest upset of the season.
Having said that, the Cowboys are beatable – by anybody, including the Lions, for the following reasons:
Record: The Cowboys' 5-4 won-loss record includes a 24-22 road defeat by the Jets, who were 0-4 at the time and had lost their first four games by a combined 62 points. The Jets rank last in the league in total offense, averaging 231.3 yards per game, but they put up 382 yards on the Cowboys.
Quality wins: The Cowboys have one – 37-10 at home over the Eagles, who are also 5-4. The Cowboys also have beaten the Redskins (1-8), Dolphins (2-7) and Giants (2-8) twice. In other words, they've padded their record with four wins over three teams that have a combined won-loss record of 5-23.
From the vault: It was 25 years ago that the Lions and Cowboys had a duel of running backs that captivated the entire NFL.
It was Barry Sanders vs. Emmitt Smith at Texas Stadium on Monday Night Football in Week 3 of the 1994 season.
Final score: Sanders 194 yards, Smith 143. A good game by Smith, a great one by Sanders.
And incidentally, a 20-17 win for the Lions in overtime that seemed almost anticlimactic.
Witten, familiar old hands: Tight end Jason Witten is still productive in his 16th season, with 36 receptions and a career total of 1,188 in a certain Hall of Fame career. He's back with the Cowboys after spending last season in the TV booth as the Monday Night Football analyst.
He's as productive as ever getting open on option routes.
Current Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni coached the Cowboys' tight ends in 2005 and was credited by Witten in a Monday night game last year with improving his blocking.
Sticking with my pick: I'm skeptical about the strength of the Cowboys' won-loss record, but not of them being favored today. The Lions need to get turnovers and help from their return game if they're going to pull an upset. The Lions have played well against better teams than Dallas.
Prediction: Cowboys 27, Lions 23.