Lions-Ravens Key Matchups: T.J. Hockenson Offers Huge Advantage

T.J. Hockenson

Getty T.J. Hockenson catches a pass against the Packers in 2021.

The Detroit Lions are coming off a short week, and have to figure out a way to bounce back effectively off a major beating on Monday Night Football during a rough second half.

This week, the Lions at least have the benefit of the home crowd to rely on as they try to snap a two game losing streak early in the season. The test coming is a formidable one in the form of the Baltimore Ravens, and the team will have to measure up in several ways in order to come out with a win.

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Which matchups will be the ones that determine this game in the end? Here’s a look at the rundown for Week 3 of the season.

Lamar Jackson vs. Lions Linebackers

Detroit struggled with containing Aaron Jones this past week, and if Jones was a problem, Jackson could be an even bigger problem. The Lions hope they can find a solution by inserting in a faster linebacker in rookie Derrick Barnes and also getting snaps from Jalen Reeves-Maybin. Detroit will have to see a better game overall from Alex Anzalone as well, and the pressure will be on the linebackers to not only play the run well, but stick to their responsibilities in the passing game. Jackson can make life tough, so Detroit will have to be disciplined in their first line of defense to the second level.

Detroit’s Offensive Line vs. Ravens’ Defensive Front

The Ravens have thrived historically on creating havoc in the opposing backfield, but it’s also been a major challenge for them in recent seasons. Knowing this, the Lions’ front will have to be as consistent and good as they have been so far this season for yet another week on the field. Detroit’s line has played well fueled by rookie Penei Sewell, and they must give Jared Goff time to make confident decisions in the pocket. When Goff has struggled in the first few games, it has been when the pocket has collapsed. That simply can’t happen this time around against a solid group that loves to blitz and turn up the heat to force mistakes.

D’Andre Swift vs. Ravens’ Linebackers

Identifying Swift out of the backfield in the passing game has been an issue for Detroit’s opponents the last few weeks, as the runner already has 12 receptions for 106 yards and 1 touchdown thus far in 2021. Baltimore’s banged-up secondary didn’t allow Kansas City to get this going, but Swift and Jamaal Williams are a different animal in terms of their ability to almost become extra receivers. It will put pressure on the Baltimore linebackers and safeties to be able to identify them. Swift is shifty on the ground, but he is just as good through the air which can stress a defense out.

T.J. Hockenson vs. Ravens’ Secondary

Thus far this season, there’s been nobody hotter in the league catching passes than Hockenson, and he has scored a touchdown in both of the team’s games so far this year. Baltimore, meanwhile, has allowed the tandem of Darren Waller and Travis Kelce to go for 214 yards and 2 touchdowns. That’s good news for Detroit and Hockenson considering how solid he has looked so far this year. He’s been a safety valve for Goff, and has looked like one of the best tight ends in football along the way. Hockenson has a chance to make the Ravens pay and continue their cold streak against elite opposing tight ends on defense.

Marquise Brown vs. Lions’ Secondary

The Lions are going to be challenged in this game by their lack of depth with the loss of Ifeatu Melifonwu as well as Jeff Okudah in the first two games of the year. Knowing this, Brown has a big chance to impact the game in a huge way against a backfield full of young players and journeymen. After a solid 113 yard, 1 touchdown performance, Brown could be trending in the right direction for a heat-up. With the Lions struggling with depth and playmaking on defense, this could be a big matchup for him and Sammy Watkins to get on track together if the Lions cannot step up.

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