FanPost

On Paper: Lions vs. Patriots

 I'd like to start off this week by offering a big thank you to everyone who voted for me for Best Recurring Fanpost.  As I'm sure Sean, Kdawg and anyone else out there who devotes a lot of time to make this site great will tell you, it can be really hard to motivate yourself to keep on writing when times are as tough as they currently are.  It's good to know that there are people out there just as insane as I.  I am truly humbled that Lions fans keep coming back to this site and are interested in the research I do.  You guys are the best.

Anyways, onto our annual Thanksgiving Day game.  I thought it was awfully cruel for the NFL to schedule the Patriots for this week, but despite their record, the Patriots certainly have some faults that the Lions may just be able to take advantage of.  Will it be enough to give them the advantage on paper?  Ch-Check it out

Lions Pass Offense (6th) vs. Patriots Pass Defense (31st)

(Teams in bold were the home team)

Opponent

Opponent's

Passing YPG

Passing Yards vs. Patriots

Opponent's

Season QB Rating

QB Rating vs. Patriots

Bengals

249.6

345

82.3

92.5

Jets

220.0

220

83.9

124.3

Bills

203.7

247

83.5

92.4

Dolphins

230.7

302

77.1

81.4

Ravens

231.6

285

92.2

119.3

Chargers

306.5

336

105.0

85.1

Vikings

218.3

285

71.0

80.1

Browns

190.1

174

79.2

101.6

Steelers

207.3

387

96.3

97.9

Colts

299.6

396

94.2

96.3

Wow.  This could be one of the best matchups in Detroit's favor all year.  The Patriots' pass defense is as bad as the ranking shows.  Opponents have posted higher-than-average QB ratings against the Patriots in nine out of ten weeks.  They have had above-average days in terms of yardage in eight of ten weeks.  They are sixth worst in opponents' QB rating and they have allowed the fifth most plays of 20 or longer (but have allowed the least amount of plays of 40 or longer).

Detroit may be missing a few weapons as Tony Scheffler is most likely out this week after injuring his ribs, and Jahvid Best will no doubt be limited by his turf toes.  However, despite those injuries, the Lions pass offense has continued to be productive and, at times, stellar.  Considering the Patriots also don't pass rush that effectively (24th in sacks), Detroit should not really have a problem moving the ball through the air.  Lions +3.

Lions Run Offense (31st) vs. Patriots Run Defense (17th)

Opponent

Opponent's

Rushing YPG

Rushing Yards vs. Patriots

Opponent's Season Avg YPC

YPC vs. Patriots

Bengals

96.6

87

3.8

3.5

Jets

145.9

136

4.4

4.3

Bills

113.7

134

4.5

5.6

Dolphins

97.9

95

3.8

4.8

Ravens

116.6

99

3.7

2.9

Chargers

111.7

38

4.0

2.0

Vikings

118.5

125

4.5

4.5

Browns

113.3

230

4.1

5.2

Steelers

118.0

76

4.1

4.8

Colts

88.5

71

3.6

3.6

The Patriots run defense is very average in almost all stats.  They are 17th in rushing yards allowed, 16th in yards per carry allowed, and 16th in rushing TDs allowed.  Their opponents were held below season averages in yards in seven of ten weeks and held below yards per carry in four of ten weeks. 

But, in the end, it doesn't really matter how good the Patriots run defense is.  Detroit hasn't been able to get the running game going against good, terrible and average run defenses.  And with Best ailing as bad as he has been all year, there is virtually no chance of the Lions getting it done this week.  The only reason I'm not giving New England a bigger advantage is because I don't think the Lions are going to rely much on the run game.  Patriots +2.

Patriots Pass Offense (16th) vs. Lions Pass Defense (13th)

Opponent

Opponent's Passing YPG Allowed

Passing Yards Allowed vs. Patriots

Opponent's Season QB Rating Against

QB Rating Allowed vs. Patriots

Bengals

223.0

258

80.4

120.9

Jets

220.0

248

79.8

72.5

Bills

208.9

252

99.1

142.6

Dolphins

196.8

153

84.1

107.1

Ravens

210.0

292

78.9

69.5

Chargers

183.9

159

74.8

82.7

Vikings

218.0

240

91.5

100.8

Browns

243.4

224

85.0

90.5

Steelers

239.1

350

79.6

117.4

Colts

207.7

186

85.2

123.1

While the Patriots passing offense ranks a mere 16th and they only outperformed season averages of yardage in six of ten games, their passer rating tells a much truer story.  Overall they rank 2nd in QB rating and they outperformed season averages in eight out of ten games this season. 

The Patriots passing game is the same as has been for the past ten years, explosive when it needs to be, and modest, but efficient the rest of the time.  New England does a great job protecting the quarterback, allowing only 14 sacks (3rd), and Tom Brady takes care of the ball, throwing only four interceptions all season (3rd).

Now the Patriots don't have much of a downfield threat with Randy Moss gone.  They rank 20th in pass plays of 40 or longer and 13th in plays of 20 or longer. However, this is not the Patriot's style.  They play a low-risk, highly efficient game, as evidenced by their high completion percentage (6th) and average yards per catch (15th). 

Detroit has actually moved into the top half of the league in pass defense.  They've slowed a bit in their sack production as of late, but overall this has been a pretty average defense.  Still, the Patriots passing attack can be productive against pretty much any defense in the league (see Steelers).  Patriots +1.5.

Patriots Run Offense (16th) vs. Lions Run Defense (26th)

Opponent

Opponent's Rushing YPG Allowed

Rushing Yards Allowed vs.

Patriots

Opponent's Avg YPC Allowed

YPC Allowed vs. Patriots

Bengals

118.3

118

4.4

5.1

Jets

90.3

52

3.5

2.6

Bills

163.5

200

4.7

5.3

Dolphins

112.7

119

3.9

3.7

Ravens

101.8

127

4.2

4.9

Chargers

86.8

51

3.6

2.3

Vikings

99.1

122

3.7

4.5

Browns

116.4

68

4.0

3.4

Steelers

63.0

103

2.9

4.3

Colts

136.7

168

5.0

4.9

The Patriots put up above average yards in six of ten games while rushing for a higher yards per carry in five of ten games.  BenJarvus Green-Ellis Sanford and Son has been leading the way with his partner in crime Danny Woodhead picking up some extra slack as of late. 

While the running game doesn't seem that threatening, the thing I'm worried about most is New England's balance.  The Patriots average 26.6 running plays and 33.1 passing plays (to compare, the Lions average 43.8 pass plays and 23.3 running plays).  The balance of this offense is bound to keep the Lions defense guessing, specifically the linebackers.  That makes me (and anyone else who knows the status of the Lions' linebackers) very nervous.  Patriots +2. 

Turnovers

The Patriots have the 4th best turnover margin in the league, with +9, while the Lions are 14th with a +2 margin.  Brady is extremely careful with the football and has not turned it over since week six.  While they don't force a large amount of turnovers (13th overall), their ball security is enough to give them the edge in this matchup.  Patriots +1.

Special Teams

Detroit is now first in the league in kickoff returns and sixth in punt returns.  Meanwhile New England is 19th and 15th respectively.  Kickoff coverage has been a different story for the Lions.  Though they currently rank 8th, they have been struggling as of late.  Detroit's punt coverage plummeted to 25th this week after the fluky Dallas TD punt return last week.  New England ranks 17th in kick coverage and 7th in punt coverage. 

I think we're left with a situation where it's unlikely for either team to break a long one.  The Lions have been consistent in their kick returns, but their returns have not been game-changing.  I'm calling this one a draw.

Penalties

Well, the Lions did it!  They are finally (co)last in the league in penalties per game.  The Patriots, meanwhile, as you may expect, are 7th in the league.  I don't expect this game to be decided by a penalty, but I do expect to learn some new stupid rule that is bound to make shove my hand in the mashed potato bowl as to not punch a hole in the wall.  Patriots +0.5.

Overall

The Patriots end up with a +4 advantage.  I would call that advantage significant, but not definitive.  The Patriots, on paper, have a pretty average team despite their 8-2 record (which, of course, is the only thing that matters).  The Lions have a pretty big advantage in the passing game, and if they can capitalize on that opportunity, they have more than a shot to win the game.  However, outside of that matchup, things aren't all that promising. 

I think people have finally stopped saying that silly myth that the Lions somehow play better on Thanksgiving but I still am holding out hope for an upset.  It's not out of the question, but in all honesty, I'm not expecting it to happen.  I mentioned in the comment section, but I'm really terrified of a blowout here.  It just seems like the natural progression of the season: look good for most of the season, drop a notorious game against a winless team, then embarrass yourself when everyone is watching.  But I don't write these things to express my fears and hunches; I'm here to be as objective as possible, and the numbers point to another somewhat close loss for the Lions.  Lions 17 Patriots 27.  Now go stuff yourselves. 

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Pride Of Detroit or its writers.

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