Quarterback Matthew Stafford isn’t gearing up for a Sunday shootout at Ford Field in a personal duel with Patrick Mahomes, but there’s an intriguing matchup within the game between the Detroit Lions’ veteran and the Kansas City Chiefs’ young star who seems destined to rewrite the NFL record book.
Regardless of who might be pulling the trigger -– Stafford vs. Mahomes – it’s an interesting battle between two unbeaten teams.
The Chiefs are 3-0 and riding Mahomes’ magic passing arm to another big season, as they did last season when he was the league’s MVP.
The Lions are 2-0-1, with two straight wins over the Chargers and Eagles after an opening-game tie with Arizona. The Lions are trying to keep pace in the NFC North, where all four teams have winning records.
For Stafford, the game is the thing, but he’s clearly aware of his counterparts on opposing teams.
“Obviously, I know who the quarterback is for the opposing team – most of the time,” Stafford said at his weekly media session. “I’m just going out there playing my game, trying to play whatever style we need to play to help our team win the game.
“I’m a fan of the game. I watch games when they’re on TV, and peek at those guys. Pat’s going a great job for them, and he’s a super talented kid.”
Quarterback vs. quarterback aside, the Lions’ offense can help its defense by sustaining drives, scoring touchdowns and not settling for field goals and not committing turnovers. Getting the run game going – against a Chiefs defense that ranks 27th in the league in stopping the run – would be a big help.
“It’s definitely not good to hold the ball and not score,” Stafford said. “You have to score points. Points are at a premium every time we go out on the field, especially against a team that can put up points in a heartbeat like these guys can.
“It’s a big advantage for us in all phases of our team to come out and have a good game. I think we’ll see how the game is going. That’s the way it is every week, but at the end of the day the goal is obviously to try to have more points than they have at the end of the game.
“However we get them, we’ll take them. Last week we had a kick return that went to the house. That counts. Any way you can get points against a team like this, the better.”
Series history: The Chiefs lead, 8-5, but the Lions have won the last two meetings at Ford Field – 25-20 in 2007, and 48-3 in 2011. The Chiefs won the last meeting, 45-10, in London, in 2015.
2015 game fallout: The Lions were 1-6 going into the game. Before the team left for London offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi was fired and replaced by quarterbacks coach Jim Bob Cooter. After the loss, team president Tom Lewand and GM Martin Mayhew were fired.
2011, weird injury: Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles went out for the season with a knee injury sustained when he stepped on the first-down marker as he ran out of bounds. Charles had rushed for more than 1,000 yards the previous two seasons, and he had three straight 1,000-yard seasons when he returned from the injury.
On the run: It’s a matchup to watch, with no clear favorite based on the following:
Offense: The Lions are averaging 98.7 yards per game, to 94.7 for the Chiefs. That’s a wash, but the Chiefs have almost a half-yard edge in yards per carry – 3.8 to 3.4.
Defense: The Lions have given up 125.3 yards per game to KC’s 137.7. That’s a slight advantage for the Lions, but a bigger one is yards allowed per carry – 4.8 for the Lions to 6.2 for KC.
Big plays: The Lions have one run of 20 yards or longer – a 44-yard run on a reverse last week by J.D. McKissic. The Chiefs have three.
KC Focus, real McCoy: LeSean “Shady” McCoy doesn’t mind being in the shadows and off center stage as the star of the offense.
“Football’s fun again,” he told reporters after last week’s win over the Ravens.
As part of the rotation, McCoy leads KC in carries (29) and rushing yards (158 and is averaging 5.4 yards per carry). Despite playing on an injured ankle, he gained 54 yards on eight carries and had three receptions for 24 yards in last week’s win over the Ravens. He scored on a one-yard run and on a 14-yard reception.
The 11-year veteran, who signed with KC on Aug 31 after being released by the Bills., had four 1,000-yard rushing seasons and a rushing title with the Eagles, and two 1,000-yard seasons with the Bills.
McCoy likes being surrounded by talent.
“I’m truly blessed to have an opportunity to come out here and contribute to an offense that’s already one of top one’s in the league,” McCoy told reporters. “There are so many talented players the defense have to watch.
“This is the first time I’ve been there where I’m not the best guy on offense. I can fully get in there, do my thing, and have a good game quietly. There are so many weapons.”
Prediction: A lot has to go right for the Lions to win this game. For example: Winning the turnover battle. Getting turnovers and converting them to TDs, not field goals. No breakdowns on special teams. Cut down on penalties. The running game awakens.
Bottom line: Play well, and everything takes care of itself.
Pick: Another week, another battle. Ford Field’s decibel count should mean something, but not quite enough the way the Chiefs are rolling.
Chiefs 26, Lions 24.