The Detroit Lions are well rested as they come into another week in the 2020 NFL season, this time off their bye. The timing on that bye was good considering all of the team’s struggles in the first 4 weeks of the season.
This week, the Lions visit the Jacksonville Jaguars, another team which has fallen backwards a bit in the standings in 2020. Both the Lions and Jaguars need this win to turn around their fortunes and feel good about themselves moving forward.
What matchups will determine this game? Here’s a look at the top things to watch as Detroit returns to the field of play.
Lions Linebackers vs. Gardner Minshew
The Lions did a solid job against another running quarterback in Kyler Murray a few weeks back by moving him around and forcing him into mistakes. The team’s linebackers were a big reason why that game plan was able to play out the way it did for Detroit. Similarly, Minshew is a guy who likes to tuck the ball and run and extend the play. Pressure is on Detroit’s linebacking group to keep Minshew in check and force him into the kind of mistakes that can change a game on the defensive side of the ball.
Lions Defensive Line vs. James Robinson
Detroit has has trouble against opposing running backs this year and have a chance to flip that script this week if they get tougher in the trenches up front. Robinson has been a decent back with 333 yards and 3 touchdowns to his credit. The Lions have been one of the worst run units in the entire league and if they get pounded in the trenches this week, they will have to step up. As mentioned before, Minshew likes to run the ball as well, and he is Jacksonville’s second leading rusher on the season. The key to slowing the Jaguars lies in the trenches. If Detroit gets pushed around as they have so often this season, it will be another ugly afternoon.
Jaguars Wide Receivers vs. Lions Defensive Backfield
It might not seem like the Jaguars have much talent at wideout, but the reality is there are plenty of young players who can make a big difference at the spot. Between Laviska Shenault, DJ Chark and Keelan Cole the team has a talented trio of pass catchers that have combined for 709 yards and 7 scores this season. This is going to be a major test for Detroit’s defensive backfield, which has been put through the ringer this season already. This should be a game for the team to get healthy, but they will have a lot to contend with in these players.
Lions Offensive Line vs. Jaguars Defensive Front
If there’s one team that’s been worse this season at sacking the quarterback than Detroit, it’s Jacksonville. With only 5 sacks this year, the Jaguars just don’t get after the pocket whatsoever. They only have one player with over 2 sacks, and that’s linebacker Josh Allen who may not play in this matchup, giving the Lions an additional advantage. If the Jaguars start getting after the pocket it will be bad news for Detroit’s front. This should be a game where Detroit’s offensive line can have the upper hand, but it’s still worth watching to see if it plays out that way or not. The answer could determine who wins given Detroit hasn’t done a great job protecting the pocket at times this year.
C.J. Henderson vs. Lions Wideouts
Henderson has taken on the look of one of the best young corners from his draft class, but his hands will be full this week with Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola. It’s important for the Lions to be able to find more big plays and also important for Henderson to help prevent them from happening when he can. Henderson has been solid this season with 1 interception, and he will be put to the test against one of the deeper wideout groups he figures to face this season on the field.