After a last-minute loss last week, both the Detroit Lions and "On Paper" dropped to a disappointing 1-1 record. This week, the Lions are in Washington to face the Redskins, which know all about disappointment in 2013. The Redskins are 0-2 and have given up the second-most yards through the first two weeks in NFL history.
This week, we throw 2012 statistics in the garbage and focus solely on 2013. It's time for some mini-charts.
Lions pass offense (7th) vs. Redskins pass defense (23rd)
Awwwww. Wook at the cute wittle chawt. Who's a cute wittle chawt? You are! YOU ARE!
Uh... anyway. The Lions pass offense has been a pleasant surprise after a disappointing preseason. Not only are the Lions ranked high in yardage (7th), but they are also fifth in passer rating (102.2), 10th in yards per attempt (8.0) and seventh in completion percentage (65.8%). Matthew Stafford has looked like the 2011 Stafford we all know and love.
A lot of his success, however, has relied on the hands and feet of Reggie Bush. Bush is the Lions' new home-run threat in the passing game. He has already totaled 145 receiving yards (105 yards after the catch) through two games, including two receptions of 20 yards or more. Bush's playing status is uncertain this week after suffering a knee injury in Arizona.
The Redskins pass defense has struggled early in the season, to put it lightly. Opponents are completing 73.1% of their passes (highest percentage in league), for 10.2 yards per attempt (worst in league) and a passer rating of 135.4 (highest in league). Now, the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers have two of the best passing offenses in the league, but as you can see from the charts, the Redskins haven't exactly held them near their averages, aside from the Eagles' yardage total.
From watching tape, it seems the Redskins are susceptible to quick throws, and their kryptonite is speedy receivers. DeSean Jackson tallied 7 catches for 104 yards and a touchdown... in the first half, and Randall Cobb had 9 catches for 128 and a touchdown. Normally, this would be great news for the Lions, but with their two speediest options ailing (Bush and Patrick Edwards) it remains to be seen whether they can take advantage.
Player to watch: Ryan Kerrigan. Kerrigan already has 3 sacks on the year and 1 forced fumble. He's been a menace to opposing quarterbacks and could give Corey Hilliard fits.
Advantage: Lions +2.5 with Bush, Lions +1.5 without Bush. Yes, he makes that big of a difference. Either way, however, this is an advantage the Lions need to take advantage of. If Bush is out, Joique Bell better get his hands ready. Last week Bell dropped three passes, which won't fly this week, as he's expected to be a frequent target.
Lions run offense (22nd) vs. Redskins run defense (32nd)
Perhaps I was a bit hasty in congratulating the Lions offense for having a rushing attack again. Granted, the Arizona Cardinals have a pretty stout defense, but 49 yards on 2.5 a carry is not acceptable in any game, especially a game in which the Lions held the lead for a long period of time.
I don't think Bush's absence will affect the Lions running game as much as it will the passing game. Bell has looked more than acceptable in his limited carries and actually has a higher yards per carry (4.0 vs. 3.8) and has a 20+ yard carry, while Bush does not.
Giving up 263 yards to the Eagles is somewhat forgivable, especially without any tape on their new offense. However, giving up 139 at 5.8 a carry to the Packers should be quite worrisome to Redskins fans. In addition to giving up the most rushing yards of any team, they've also ceded the most rushing touchdowns (3) and the second-most rushes of 20+ yards (4).
Player to watch: Bell. If you haven't noticed by now, I don't have a good feeling about Bush's availability this week. If he isn't able to go, it'll be on Bell to carry the workload. Bell has done well as a change-of-pace back, but we've never really seen him carry an entire workload. His most career carries in a game is 13.
Advantage: Lions +1. I am willing to overlook the yardage totals the Redskins have given up in two weeks; after all, they were down double digits in both games for a long period of time. However, they are giving up 5.5 a carry, which is second-worst in the NFL. The Lions should be able to take advantage here, even without Reggie.
Redskins pass offense (8th) vs. Lions pass defense (15th)
This chart may be confusing to some. The Redskins have the eighth most passing yards, after all. But while the Redskins have high raw numbers, they have also faced the 30th and 31st ranked pass defenses and have fallen short of their opponents' averages in both games. Also, looking a little deeper into the stats, they aren't all that impressive. The Redskins rank just 16th in yards per attempt (7.3), 17th in completion percentage (62.9%) and 16th in passer rating (89.6). I think it's fair to say Robert Griffin III and the Redskins passing offense have been fair in 2013.
This may come as a shock to many of you, but the Lions pass defense has actually been pretty great so far. The Lions rank sixth in passer rating allowed (68.3), 15th in completion percentage allowed (60.3%) and have the second-most interceptions in the league (4). However, there are some reasons to temper expectations. First, the Lions have faced Christian Ponder and Carson Palmer, two quarterbacks who are not in the prime of their respective careers. Also, the Lions have been susceptible to the big play on defense. They have given up 7 plays of 20+ yards (tied for 14th most) and 2 plays of 40+ yards (tied for third most). Still, they have held two offenses at or below their averages through the first two weeks.
Player to watch: Pierre Garcon. Garcon currently ranks 11th in the NFL in receiving yards, and he possesses just the kind of speed that could get the Lions secondary in trouble. Also, watch Darius Slay, because he's likely to make some huge mistake in this game.
Advantage: Push. I'm not quite a believer in the Lions pass defense yet, but they are starting to win me over. Washington has plenty of offensive threats; they just haven't figured out yet how to use them. I think the Redskins will again tally up some yardage, but the Lions may force a big turnover or two.
Redskins run offense (19th) vs. Lions run defense (15th)
Between Alfred Morris and Griffin, the Redskins have the potential to be a solid running team. But falling behind in games has caused them to abandon their running game. The Redskins have attempted just 35 rushes, which is fifth-least in the NFL. However, they are averaging 5.3 a carry, which ranks them tied for third. I'm expecting a heavy dose of the running game this week.
This is a pretty confusing and misleading chart. We all know what happened in Week 1. The Lions stuffed Adrian Peterson all game... except for that one time. Last week, they seemed to struggle without the help of Nick Fairley. However, they actually held the Cardinals almost exactly at their season averages.
On paper, this should be a good run defense, but in practice... well, I'm not sure how they've been. They're giving up 4.1 a carry, which ranks them 21st overall, but take away that one Peterson run, and that number drops all the way to 2.5. Of course, we can't just pretend the Peterson run didn't happen, even if I try to every night before I go to bed.
Player to watch: Both defensive ends. Jason Jones and Ziggy Ansah have been fairly quiet in the first two weeks. Their patience and discipline will be tested, as the Redskins occasionally run some read-option and like to utilize their outside running game.
Advantage: Redskins +0.5. I think the Redskins are going to try and emphasize their running game early and often in this game. With Fairley likely back this week, the Lions should be better than last week, but Morris is a tough runner and will likely give the Lions some trouble, especially if he gets to the second level.
HEY GUYS, DID YOU KNOW THE LIONS HAVEN'T EVER WON IN WASHINGTON? Has anyone ever told you that? Oh, what's that? That's pretty much the only thing you've heard this week? Well, guess what? You're going to hear it again: THE LIONS HAVE NEVER WON IN WASHINGTON. LIKE, NEVER-EVER. In fact, I heard that no Lions fan has ever even won a pick-up game in Washington, D.C. And when Gerald Ford was president, he once tried to play a game of pick-up in the White House courtyard and tore his ACL (don't look that up).
Desperation. The Redskins will be playing with all the desperation in the world, as falling in a 0-3 hole would be devastating. The Lions could use another NFC win, especially after falling to the Cardinals, but the win would mean more to the Redskins at this point.
Though the Redskins hold the advantage in the intangibles, the Lions hold a convincing +2 or +3 advantage on paper, depending on Bush's availability. This article is all about objectivity, so intangibles don't carry too much weight with me. Therefore, the Lions should win on Sunday. Lions 31, Redskins 20. Do it for President Ford!