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On Paper: Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks

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Our statistic-heavy preview looks at the matchup between the Lions and the Seahawks.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

We have arrived at Week 4, and if you're still interested in reading all of this, congratulations on being one of the few survivors of Weeks 1 through 3. It has been an extremely tough start for the Detroit Lions (0-3), who are already throwing coaches under the bus and looking towards next year. The Seattle Seahawks (1-2) looked to be headed in a similar trajectory, but a pleasant visit from the Chicago Bears helped the Pacific Northwest regain some optimism. Before we get into our preview, please note the following changes this week:

  1. Please save your predictions for our Staff Picks article that will be posted on Saturday. If you'd like, you can still add your predictions in the comment section here, but you will not be entered into the weekly fake contest.
  2. When noting the rank of each unit, I will no longer be measuring by yardage. I've always hated using yardage, as it is an extremely poor evaluation tool. Instead, unit ranks are based on Football Outsiders' DVOA rankings. To learn more about Football Outsiders and DVOA, visit their site.
  3. 2014 data is gone. I've lit fire to those charts, and you'll never see them again. This week, and from now on, we are only working with 2015 data. And since we only have three weeks of data, that means....

Lions pass offense (18th in DVOA) vs. Seahawks pass defense (22nd)

lions pass o

...baby charts! Look at that wittle baby chart. You don't even have object permanence yet, do you, chart?

Uh, anyway, like the many seasons before them, the 2015 Lions are all about yardage and uninterested in efficiency. Throw the ball a ton and something good will happen. Unfortunately, a lot of bad things happen, too. While the Lions enter Week 4 with the 10th-most passing touchdowns (five), they also the second-most interceptions (five) and the 15th-most sacks allowed (six).

Additionally, the Lions rank 26th in yards per attempt (6.4), 24th in passer rating (78.7) and 17th in completion percentage (64.1 percent). For anyone who has watched Detroit this year, those stats come as no surprise; the Lions have been bad at throwing the ball.

But let me end with some hope: the Lions have faced three very good statistical defenses thus far. Denver and San Diego rank first and third respectively in passing yards allowed and all three opponents rank in the top 12 in terms of passer rating allowed. Detroit has been bad, but the road has not been easy for them, either.

seattle pass d

Seattle's pass defense has been...confusing this season. After an abysmal start against the Rams, they seemed to have righted the ship a little. Still, holding Aaron Rodgers to a 116.9 passer rating doesn't really feel like an accomplishment, and how do you justifiably draw any conclusions from their performance against the Chicago Bears and Jimmy Clausen?

I don't know what to expect from the Seahawks pass defense, and after looking at the raw statistics, it doesn't get any clearer. Seattle ranks 23rd in yards per attempt allowed (7.9), 23rd in completion percentage allowed (67.5) and 27th in passer rating allowed (104.3). Seems pretty bad, right? But also consider that the Seahawks have allowed the fifth-fewest passing touchdowns (three) and the second-fewest passing yards (186.0 yards per game).

When it comes to the Seahawks' pass defense, we just don't have enough data to really draw any conclusions. Their defense has faced the fewest passes through three weeks, and their statistics are all over the place. Let's just call them average for now.

Player to watch: Michael Bennett. In case you've been avoiding nearly everything I have written in the past two weeks, the Lions' offensive line is bad and should feel bad. According to Pro Football Focus, Detroit has given up the most pressures through three games, and Bennett is the most likely candidate to add to that total.

Advantage: Seahawks +0.5. You would think this matchup would be much heavier in Seattle's favor, but if we're just basing this off of 2015 data, Seattle's defense doesn't look quite as daunting as it did last year. However, the Seahawks can still bring the pressure, and the Lions still can't stop it, so that tips the scale in Seattle's favor.

Lions run offense (32nd) vs. Seahawks run defense (16th)

lions run o

Good God, Lemon. This is as ugly as a three-columned chart gets. The Lions' run game is as bad as advertised. The sadest part is Detroit has even played two poor run defenses in the Vikings and Chargers, and still couldn't get anything going.

All you need to know is the Lions rank last in yardage, last in yards per carry and last in DVOA. Even the Ameer Abdullah silver lining is starting to rust as the rookie managed just 2.9 yards per carry against the Broncos last week.

seahawks run d

Seattle's run defense is just as average as their DVOA rank suggests. They did a good job holding Matt Forte and the Bears well below their season averages, but the Packers controlled the game on the ground the prior week.

The Seahawks are allowing 3.7 yards per carry (t-12th), 100.3 rushing yards per game (17th) and have only allowed one rush of 20+ yards.

Player to watch: Abdullah. With Joique Bell's availability in question, it's almost certain that Abdullah will get more than eight carries (his previous high). He will be the Lions' workhorse on Monday.

Advantage: Seahawks +1. Again, the Seattle defense doesn't look as scary as it did a year ago, but the Lions' running game is a travesty right now. Abdullah gives a little hope, but Detroit needs to show something real before I can even consider a draw in this section.

Seahawks pass offense (23rd) vs. Lions pass defense (24th)

seahawks pass o

It doesn't seem to matter who Russell Wilson is playing against, he'll put up somewhere near 200 yards and a passer rating of 90-100. His stat lines for each game this season are nearly identical. His numbers do not wow, but they are steady and adequate.

Overall, Seattle ranks t-18th in yards per attempt (6.9), 13th in passer rating (94.2) and seventh in completion percentage (70.3). Again, adequate, but not explosive.

lions pass d

The Lions' offensive struggles have been the story of the team thus far, but the defense isn't doing the franchise any favors, either. For all three weeks, the opposing quarterback saw varying degrees of success against Detroit.

The Lions rank 29th in passer rating allowed (107.1), 30th in yards per attempt allowed (8.7), and 31st in completion percentage allowed (78.2 percent). Those are some ugly numbers to go with an ugly chart.

Player to watch: Jimmy Graham. Graham finally seemed to be a part of the Seahawks' offensive game plan last week, hauling in seven catches for 83 yards and a touchdown. If the Lions get DeAndre Levy back this week, it could help immensely in coverage, but if Levy sits another week, look out.

Advantage: Seahawks +0.5. Seattle doesn't have a scary passing attack, but they know how to be efficient. With the Lions pass defense looking horrible so far, I'd expect Wilson to perform as modestly and efficiently as he has all year. He won't torch the Lions, but he'll manage a decent game.

Seahawks run offense (6th) vs. Lions run defense (14th)

seahawks run o

Before we get into Seattle's rushing attack, let me begin with a caveat: Seattle has played all three games against bottom-eight ranked run defenses (by yardage), and two games against bottom-six ranked run defenses (by yards per carry).

As you can see from the chart, when factoring in how bad these defenses are, Seattle has only rushed the ball with average efficiency. Though they are averaging 134.0 rushing yards per game (fifth-best) and 4.7 yards per carry (t-third), when you consider how poor the defenses they have faced so far, that's exactly how they should be expected to perform.

Marshawn Lynch has had a slow start to the 2015 season, rushing for just 128 yards in 2.5 games at just 3.4 yards per carry. Lynch is 50-50 to play on Monday, but his replacement Thomas Rawls almost had as many yards in one game (104) and averaged 6.5 yards per carry last week.

lions run d

It may be surprising to see but, Adrian Peterson aside, the Lions have done a good job holding the opposing running backs in check this year. It's too early to tell if this success is for real, or if teams are just choosing to successfully pass the ball instead.

Still, statistics point to the Lions' run defense being somewhat legit. They have only allowed 3.7 yards per carry (t-10th), and are only allowing first downs on 21.7 percent of carries (t-12th).

Player to watch: Levy. Again, if Levy can go, this changes the entire dynamic of this matchup. Additionally, another player struggling with injury, Ezekiel Ansah, has also been key in stopping the run. If the Lions have the services of both players, they have a great chance to win this matchup. If both spend the night on the bench...well, let's not talk about it.

Advantage: draw. The two injuries mentioned above will determine the winner of this matchup. Detroit's run defense has been good so far, but they'll be even better with Levy on board. That being said, if they lose the services of Ansah, it'll be a huge hit to the defensive line and Detroit could be in for another Peterson-like day.

Off paper:

CenturyLink Field. Perhaps you've heard of Seattle's amazing home-field advantage or their rowdy, 12th-man fanbase. Throw in a Monday Night Football crowd and you have a real disadvantage on your hands as an away team.

Last week's prediction:

On Paper finally got on the board, after I predicted a very accurate 23-10 victory for the Broncos. The prediction was so good, in fact, that no one in the comment section was closer to the actual 24-12 final score. Which means there are no winners this week. Just me. Bah humbug.

This week's prediction:

Though Seattle has the advantage in three of four matchups, the total is just a mere +2 advantage. As I mentioned on this week's PODcast, I think this is a pretty good matchup for the Lions, even with their struggles. I do think the offense will continue to look pretty bad, but the Seahawks don't have a dynamic offense either. I fully expect this game to be competitive throughout the majority of the game, with an end result somewhat similar to last week's game against the Broncos. Lions 16, Seahawks 24.