On Sunday, the Detroit Lions will take on the Baltimore Ravens in another first-place matchup from M&T Bank Stadium in one of Detroit’s toughest tests of the season thus far. The Lions come into this contest boasting the league’s third-best total offense while the Ravens are second in total defense. Something’s got to give. Here’s what Detroit will need to do if they want to get off to their best start to a season since 1956.
Lions at Ravens Preview: Detroit’s Keys to Victory
Contain Lamar Jackson
Easier said than done, of course, but this will be crucial for a Detroit defense that’s playing at a high level this season.
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is playing like his former MVP self six weeks into the NFL season, and while his numbers aren’t particularly eye-popping, he’s still on track to throw for over 3,500 yards which would be a career-high. Jackson still remains a threat with his legs, ranking second in runs of over 10 yards and ninth in yards per rushing attempt.
While Jackson is currently completing passes at a higher percentage than he ever has in the past, he’s still most dangerous when he escapes pressure in the pocket and extends plays with his legs. If the Lions’ defense can keep containment on Jackson throughout the game, get pressure, and force him into making difficult throws, then they’ll have a great chance of extending their current win streak.
Keep Jared Goff Upright
Despite a number of injuries to Detroit’s offensive line, they continue to gain national attention, most recently from Pro Football Focus who ranked the Lions’ unit No. 1 in the NFL.
The Detroit offensive line has only allowed 10 sacks all year, sixth-best in the league, and as a result, Lions quarterback Jared Goff is playing some of the best football of his career. Goff has thrown for over 1600 yards, 11 touchdowns, and only three interceptions with a QBR of 73.3, which ranks fourth-highest among qualified quarterbacks. Goff has operated from a clean pocket all season, but Detroit will be up against a defense that’s as good as any in getting to the quarterback.
Baltimore has already tallied 24 sacks this season which is tied for the most in football through six weeks. With left guard Jonah Jackson sidelined again at practice this week, his status for Sunday is in doubt, meaning Kayode Awosika would be in line to make his second-straight start. The offensive line will have to be at their best to give Goff time to throw on Sunday, which he will be doing a lot of, as Detroit continues to deal with a banged-up running back room.
Limit Baltimore in the Red Zone
For as good as the Ravens’ offense has been this season, one area they’ve struggled lately is in the red zone.
Through the first five weeks of the season, Baltimore was the best team in football at capitalizing in the red zone. However, over the last two weeks, the Ravens have struggled in converting red zone trips into touchdowns. Last week against the Tennesee Titans, Baltimore got into the red zone six times but only scored one touchdown. The week prior in their loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens scored one touchdown in three red zone trips.
Nine red zone opportunities over that two-game stretch were the best in football, but converting at a 22% rate isn’t going to cut it, especially this week against a defense like Detroit’s that’s good enough to keep the Ravens out of the red zone completely on drives. If Baltimore does get to the red zone, Detroit will have to do a better job Sunday than they have this season. The Lions rank 21st in the NFL in red zone defense, with opponents scoring a touchdown nearly 58% of the time they’re inside the Detroit 20.
This is Detroit’s toughest test since Week 1 when they went into Arrowhead Stadium and took down the Kansas City Chiefs. They’re built to win games like these — on the road, shorthanded, in a tough environment. We’ve seen it time and time again this season. Sunday is another chance to prove it.
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