The Detroit Lions return to action after a much-needed bye in Week 9 as they head across the country to take on a Los Angeles Chargers team coming off back-to-back wins. Below, we’ll look at some headlines going into this matchup between two playoff contenders.
Three Notes Heading into Lions at Chargers
Lions Are Finally Healthy
For most of the season, the Lions have dealt with their fair share of injuries. However, this week’s injury report has been relatively light. On Thursday, Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Levi Onwuzurike were not seen at practice after being present earlier in the week, but players like Frank Ragnow, Jonah Jackson, and David Montgomery are all on track to play against the Chargers on Sunday.
Detroit’s offensive line has been banged up in recent weeks and the return of Ragnow and Jackson will go a long way in helping the run game while protecting quarterback Jared Goff. The bye week could not have come at a more perfect time for the Lions, who will look to make a push for the conference’s No. 1 seed down the stretch in the second half of the season—being healthy helps.
David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs Set to Split Carries
As mentioned above, Montgomery is set to return after missing the last two contests with a rib injury. Montgomery was off to a fast start in his first season with Detroit before going down, rushing for 385 yards on 94 carries while scoring six touchdowns through five games. Rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs broke out against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 8, accumulating 189 all-purpose yards while scoring a touchdown on a 27-yard scamper in the second half.
Detroit fans had been pleading for Gibbs to get more opportunities, and after his outburst on Monday Night Football, head coach Dan Campbell confirmed that Gibbs would continue to receive more work. Of course, with Montgomery back in the fold, he’ll get more touches on early downs, short distances, and the goal line. Gibbs may not get 30+ touches again like he did against Las Vegas, but that’s okay — he and Montgomery will form one of the most potent backfields in the NFL.
Looking for First Post-Bye Win Under Dan Campbell
While Campbell and his staff have done a remarkable job in turning around the Lions franchise quickly, one area they’ve struggled with is immediately out of the bye week. In Campbell’s first season at the helm, the Lions tied against the Pittsburgh Steelers in a rainy, low-scoring affair. Last year, Detroit fell to the Dallas Cowboys 24-6 at AT&T Stadium.
Like the Steelers in 2021 and the Cowboys in 2022, the Lions will face another formidable opponent out of the bye this year in the Chargers. Los Angeles is currently on a two-game win streak and sits at 4-4, firmly in the AFC playoff race. They have their weaknesses, though; the Chargers rank 30th in total defense in the NFL, and against the pass, they are dead last. Detroit must take advantage of a weak Los Angeles secondary and get Amon-Ra St. Brown, Sam LaPorta, and their other weapons early. For whatever reason, the Lions have come out flat following a week of rest under Campbell. That will have to change this year if Detroit wants to maintain its lead in the NFC North, with the Minnesota Vikings rapidly approaching them in the standings.
With under ten games remaining in the regular season, each one now feels all that more important. If the Lions want to finish the season strong, just like they started, it must begin with a win against the Chargers on Sunday.
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