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Bold prediction of the week: Backup receivers shine, but to no avail

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Going into the week of cuts, the second team receivers will likely put up a fight—but is it enough to warrant keeping a fifth?

NFL: Detroit Lions at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a new week, which means we have a new bold prediction of the week. Part of a season-long series, it will be exactly as the title indicates: one hot take every week about what will unfold on Sunday (or in this case, Thursday). With the Detroit Lions taking on the Cleveland Browns in the fourth week of the preseason, we will see a lot of last ditch efforts to make the 53-man roster. Let’s take a look at this week’s prediction.

Bold prediction of the week: Jace Billingsley and Brandon Powell each score twice, but it is too little, too late

For those who have been keeping up with Pride of Detroit’s weekly Bubble Watch, you’ll know that there has been much more controversy among the staff regarding cuts on offense compared to cuts on defense. The play among backup receivers, linemen, and tight ends has been a roller coaster this preseason, much less so than the defense. That means that going into Thursday’s final preseason game against the Browns, there are still roster spots to be won.

For the second team offense, it’s time to shine. Bubble Watch has been all over the place regarding who’s in and who’s out on the offensive lines, with Kenny Wiggins, Brian Mihalik, Corey Robinson, Wesley Johnson, and Leo Koloamatangi’s performances all varying by week. Third-string quarterback Jake Rudock, who likely won’t make the 53-man roster, will likely be trying to put together tape in hopes of getting scooped up after cuts. Odds are the offense will be a well-oiled machine this week.

For Jace Billingsley and Brandon Powell, that’s good news. Billingsley has been a fan favorite in camp every year since he joined the team, including earlier this preseason. Over the last two games, however, he seems to have disappeared (to be fair, he missed last preseason game with an injury). Powell is on the opposite trajectory, coming out of nowhere the last two weeks to win over fans with his performances on offense and this spectacular special teams play:

Thus with the offensive line and quarterback(s) looking to make a last ditch impression, there should be plenty of quality targets to go around. Billingsley and Powell have separated themselves from the rest of the backup receivers and should be the primary receivers Thursday night. With all that working in their favor, I see Billingsley using his shifty moves to find the end zone twice, and Powell doing the same—although one will come on special teams, just to make it sting a little more when he doesn’t make the roster.

Speaking of, it will not be enough to save either of them spots. I’m a firm believer that the Lions should only keep four receivers on the roster, and the recent emergence of Hakeem Valles has only reaffirmed that notion.

For Billingsley, the Lions know what they have in him from the last several years and one shiny performance against backups won’t be enough to sway their minds. For Powell, he has really stepped up in recent weeks which is showing his increased comfort with the offense as a rookie, but he lacks special utility. His skillset resembles a combination of a larger Jace Billingsley with the return specialty of Jamal Agnew. That being said, there’s a reason Billingsley hasn’t made the roster the last two years and Jamal Agnew has a firm grip on return duties. Combine that with the likelihood that Ameer Abdullah makes the roster and is next in line for return duties and there simply isn’t a need for Powell’s skillset on the 53-man roster.

As a consolation prize, it’s very much a possibility we see both guys return to the Lions via practice squad should they clear waivers. They can still help their cases for that Thursday; they’re just not necessary to the first-team offense at this time.

What are some of your bold predictions for this week’s matchup? Let us know in the comments.