The Detroit Lions return to the Meadowlands this Sunday to face off against the New York Jets. One of the week's most exciting matchups, it pits two teams on similar trajectories as they try to sneak into the playoffs. Both teams led by second-year head coaches have quickly turned around their team from top 5 picks to on the cusp of playoff spots. They have done it differently, but the present and the future look bright for the franchises after some bleak years. Let's dive in and preview this exciting matchup.
Detroit Lions Game Preview
With the Jets, the discussion has to start with their elite defense. The Jets have playmakers all over their defense, leading them to victories despite mediocre quarterback play. The leader of their defense is Quinnen Williams, a bonafide star and DPOY candidate. He is questionable after not practicing all week, but even if he isn't 100%, he will pose an issue for the Detroit Lions. If he can't go, the Jets have other playmakers on their defense.
Sauce Gardner and DJ Reed are one of the best duos in the league on the outside, locking up opposing receivers. On top of them, CJ Mosley is one of the better linebackers in the league who excels at stuffing the run. The defensive stars elevate the entire defense and allow their scheme to work.
Schematically, the Jets lean on their stars and excel at slowing down the pass. The Jets have some of the best pressure and sack rates in the league, but they blitz the least in the league. Williams and the rest of their defensive line excel at generating pressure up the middle and on edge with only four making life on the back 7 much more manageable.
While they drop 7, the Jets will leave the corners alone on the outside in cover 3. The corners' ability to take away the outside pass allows the rest of the defense to focus on the middle of the field, helping their okay safeties and nickel corners. It's a perfect marriage of scheme and players creating a tough defense to score on.
On the other side of the ball, the Jets have not had the same success. The Achilles heel of this team has been the play of former 2nd overall pick Zach Wilson. Wilson played so bad he was benched for Mike White, but Wilson will be back under center due to a rib injury. Wilson has all the traits in the world but is very inconsistent with his technique, decision-making, and leadership.
To be fair, Wilson does not have the best help around him. The Jets have had some bad injury luck losing their best two linemen, Mekhi Becton and Elijah Vera-Tucker, and their best offensive player, Breece Hall. They will be short-handed further this week without WR2 Corey Davis.
Without Becton and Tucker, the offensive line has not been very good and susceptible at the tackles. Zonovan Knight and Michael Carter are solid backs at the skill position, but neither is quite as dynamic as Hall. The receivers did not look good to start the season, but with White at the helm, Garrett Wilson balled out and showed why he was so highly touted leaving Ohio State.
The Jets' offense will revolve around protecting Zach Wilson. They will try and run the ball early and often with Knight to stay ahead of the sticks. They also will throw a lot of short passes to Carter, Wilson, or other receivers to get Wilson some easy completions. The Jets can get into trouble if they do get behind the sticks. Wilson has a bad habit of must-pass situations where he tries to do too much and makes a wrong decision. The Jets will need to win on first and second down to make Wilson's life as easy as possible.
Detroit Lions Game Prediction
On the hot streak, the Detroit Lions have not faced a defense close to the caliber of the Jets' defense. They have relied mainly on Jared Goff carving up mediocre pass defenses, but the Jets will pose a new challenge for Ben Johnson and the passing attack. The Jets should be able to slow down the passing attack, and it wouldn't be surprising if they forced Goff's first interception since Week 9. However, the offense won't be relied on to win this game.
If the Lions want to win, their defense must show up against a weak offense. The defense has proven they can shut down rushing attacks with great runners, limiting Saquon Barkley (23 yards, 1.5 YPC) and Dalvin Cook (22, 1.5 YPC). Expect the Lions to do the same and sell out to stop the run again. Once they have done that, Aaron Glenn can confuse young Wilson with coverages, and the pass rushers can pin their ears back and get to the passer. Wilson's struggles will continue, and the Jets' offense will stall.
The Jets' defense is phenomenal, but they can only stop the Lions for so long without an offense holding onto the ball. The Detroit Lions have too many playmakers with 4 good receivers to stop for an entire game. Eventually, Amon-Ra St Brown and the others will prove too much for the Jets' defense to contain for an entire game. It won't be a pretty game, but the Detroit Lions offense does enough, and the defense shines in a crucial 24-14 win to help the Lions' playoff odds.