Lions vs. Patriots: How Underrated Weapons Could Key Major Road Win

Jack Fox Scott Daly

Getty Jack Fox celebrates a fumble recovery with Scott Daly in 2022.

The Detroit Lions are in need of a win in a big way heading into Week 5, and a trip to take on an old nemesis beckons given a date with the New England Patriots.

Matt Patricia will look for his revenge against the Lions, while Detroit will look to upend Patricia and get their season turned around before a Week 6 bye will give them a chance to catch their breath a bit.

So what are some keys to this game, and how will things play out? Here’s a look at a preview and prediction for an important bounce-back week.

Will Lions Shut Down Bailey Zappe?

It looks as if the Lions are trending to face a third-string rookie in Zappe, who didn’t play that poorly on the road in Week 4. Still, it’s a rookie at quarterback, and the Lions have to take advantage.

Detroit’s defensive front needs to sack Zappe and get in his face, and the secondary needs to take advantage of a rookie slinging the ball around on the field and generate some turnovers. Last week, the Lions allowed a marginal Geno Smith to control the game. That cannot happen this week. If it does, the team will likely suffer another defensive embarrassment.

Can Detroit Force New England to Punt?

Aaron Glenn has his work cut out for him this week in terms of tightening the screws on defense. It starts with shutting down the run, and also, finding a way to generate more of a pass rush.

Famously, Seattle never punted in Week 4. The Lions can’t have this kind of easy performance again, so they need to find a way to establish momentum right away and shut down the New England attack early. The Lions have to gain some confidence on defense, and that could mean some early stops.

Who Steps up at Wide Receiver This Week?

Last week, the trio of Tom Kennedy, Josh Reynolds and Kalif Raymond impressed Jared Goff stepping in for injured targets. Arguably, Reynolds was the most impressive with a big game as well as a touchdown.

This week, will that trend continue for the Lions? Perhaps Kennedy will have a starring game as he goes out east. Raymond will try to atone for a costly fumble in his last game, and Reynolds will try to remain the big-play target for the team. If the Lions could get all three players to dominate again, it would go a long way toward scoring a road win, especially if they are needed.

How Many Injured Stars Will Lions Play?

The news hasn’t looked great for multiple Lions this week, even as some have returned to practice and clearly been resting. With a Week 6 bye on the horizon, the Lions could theoretically maximize the rest time of all their key injured players.

So who will end up playing when all is said and done? The smart money is on the Lions remaining smart about who suits up and what they are able to do on the field. Still, if the Lions cut some players loose, it could certainly help them win. How much do the Lions value health over a potential win? The starting lineup may tell folks a lot about that.

Does Detroit’s Special Teams Get Marginally Better?

Bill Belichick often waxes poetic about the importance of special teams in the game, so you can count on his being rock solid. What about Detroit’s? Last week, the Lions botched a pair of extra points en-route to a narrow loss.

Detroit got a nice fumble recovery on special teams and it helped them score. More plays like this could be the key to winning on the road.

This week, whether it’s Austin Seibert or the sneaky good Michael Badgley, the Lions have to get better kicking as well as their usual solid punting from Jack Fox. In a close game, special teams can mean the difference between a win and a loss as Detroit learned in Week 3. It’s time the team stop living on the edge with such mistakes and have a solid performance.

Prediction: Detroit 31, New England 21.

Defense will be optional in this game for the Lions and Patriots, but Detroit will be able to do just enough on offense to find a win on the road. Wins in New England are never to be taken for granted, especially those that come with a thin roster. The Lions get the job done heading into the bye week and will try to heal up.

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