The Detroit Lions vs. Chargers: Inside the numbers paint a picture of a Week 10 matchup that is purely a toss-up.
When the Detroit Lions head to Los Angeles to take on the Chargers, they'll be facing a team that can give them plenty of fits. And, while their 4-4 record doesn't look necessarily great, they are a team that can provide matchup nightmares for the Lions' defense. We've already predicted a loss for the Lions 31-30, which after we flesh out the number entirely may either change our minds or convince you. Let's dive in.
A few quick notes on this matchup
As we get into the breakdown of the numbers there are a few things that are necessary to note. The Chargers are coming off a convincing win against the New York Jets on Monday Night Football. They'll be traveling back to the West Coast a day later than normal in preparation for a matchup with the NFC North leaders. In 2023, teams are 10-9 in the games following their MNF matchup. On the flip side, the Lions are coming off of their bye and will be traveling to the West Coast, which can present problems of its own.
Teams coming off a bye week in 2023 are 7-5 on the season. One of these two things is going to give this week, either the lack of rest for the Chargers will present issues, or the rust accumulated during the week off the the Lions will, which adds to the intrigue of this matchup.
Detroit Lions offense vs. Los Angeles's defense
This is where the game is going to be won or lost for the Lions. If they cleaned up the red zone issues they had against the Las Vegas Raiders, and if Jared Goff can outduel Justin Herbert then the Lions can secure a victory. And, while we'll get into when we talk about the defense, they have to play better against a quarterback that can actually throw.
Overall, the Chargers offense is scoring 25.1 points per game, good for 8th in the league. Their defense is surrendering 21.8 points per game which places them 21st in the league. For the Lions part, they are scoring 25 points per game (9th in the league) and surrendering 20.6 points, which is 14th in the NFL.
Lions' rushing attack vs. Chargers' run defense
The Lions are coming into this game fresh off of Jahmyr Gibbs breakout game on Monday Night Football two weeks ago. And, with David Montgomery and Frank Ragnow trending toward a return that increases the probability that the Lions can establish a firm run game to help take some pressure off of Goff. However, it won't be easy. The Chargers come into the game with the 6th best yards-per-game average (89.8) and only 3.7 yards per rush. The Lions are toting the rock for 4.3 yards per rush and 131.4 yards per game on the ground.
The last time the Lions faced a tougher rush defense they struggled against the Ravens. However, they were missing some along the line and were down so early and so much they had to abandon the run game. Hopefully, that won't be the case on Sunday.
Lions' passing game vs. Chargers' secondary
Now we come to where the rubber meets the road. If the Lions can establish something on the ground that will go a long way to helping Goff control the game through the air. At the end of the day, this game is really going to rest on the right arm of Goff, considering he's going up against the worst passing defense in the NFL statistically. The Chargers are giving up 286 yards per game and 7.2 yards per pass, good for worst and third worst in the NFL respectively. However, the offensive line is going to have to stand tall with Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa bookending the Chargers defensive line.
Detroit Lions' defense vs. Los Angeles's offense
Now, if the game really hangs on the offense's ability to take advantage of the Chargers through the air, the defense is going to have their work cut out for them. This week they're facing arguably the best quarterback, not named Patrick Mahomes, they'll face all season. Add a dynamic running back in Austin Ekkler and Keenan Allen as weapons for Herbert and the defense has its hands full.
Lions' run stoppers vs. the Chargers' ground game
The Charges will attempt to run the ball about 40% of the time on average. And, when they run the ball they average about 4 yards per carry. When you have a back like Austin Ekkler you tend to get him involved as much as possible. But as a whole their offensive line grades out 27th best in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. We'll see if the Lions' defense, which has been good against the run (#2 in the NFL in rush yards allowed per game) can take advantage of a deficiency among the front five of the Chargers and make it tough sledding for their run game.
Lions secondary vs. the Chargers' passing attack
This game is really going to come down to which quarterback can play the best against secondaries who are suspect. Yes, the Lions' have been “good” in the secondary, to the point that people don't think they're a question mark anymore. But, they are still a bit suspect, especially against quarterbacks that can sling the ball. Justin Herbert can sling it and he has weapons. If the Lions pass rush cannot get home, and they have to blitz like they did against the Raiders, Herbert can expose them. If the back five can stand on their head all game and not give much room, with the front getting pressure on Herbert the Lions can win this game.
The Chargers throw the ball about 60% of the time, which means they're fully confident in trusting the right arm of Herbert to lead them to victory. Of course, the Lions have some ballhawks in the secondary which can slow them down. Hopefully, they can improve on their eighth-best completion percentage against and make life difficult for Herbert and Co.
Alright, it's time for a correction. While the numbers still bear out a 50/50 toss-up game considering factors of travel and the Chargers' Monday Night Football game we need to amend our “way too early” prediction. That's why it's way too early. With the short week for the Chargers and the long layoff for the Lions, this will start as a sloppy game and the Lions will be playing from behind. However, they will recover, exploit the Chargers' secondary, and pull out a victory on the road. It'll come down to the right leg of Riley Patterson to knock a 35-40 yard field goal through the uprights and get the Lions out of LA with a victory 27-24.