Hope is fleeting if it hasn’t already flown the coop already. The Detroit Lions are 3-5-1, they’re missing their starting quarterback, their defense is regressing at a concerning pace, and fan confidence is at an all-time low.
It’s a horrible week for Detroit to come home and host one of the best offenses in the league, and the boo-birds could certainly make an appearance early and often on Sunday.
But if these five players step up to the challenge this week, the Lions have a real shot at the upset. It truly is “Any Given Sunday” in this league, so if these players rise to the occasion, look out.
With starting right tackle Rick Wagner already declared out, it will be on the Lions’ reserve swing tackle to help stymie an impressive Cowboys pass rush. Whether he’s dealing with All-Pro DeMarcus Lawrence or Cowboys sack leader Robert Quinn, he will have his hands full.
The Lions are likely to find themselves in a shootout on Sunday, so pass protection is key. If Crosby can step up in his duties, then Detroit may have a chance to put some points on the board.
And the man responsible for putting those points on the board will mostly be Driskel. The Lions don’t have much of a chance establishing the run, and given the way the defense has played most of the year, they may be playing from behind early.
That puts a lot of pressure on Driskel, who is making just his second start of the year. But unlike last week, when he was a last-minute replacement for Matthew Stafford, Driskel has had a full week to prepare—and more importantly, the Lions have had a full week to develop a game plan that fits his skill set best.
Rashaan Melvin/Justin Coleman
Darius Slay will have his hands full with one of the best receivers in Amari Cooper, but where the Cowboys can really kill you is with their receiver depth. Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb have combined for 910 yards and five touchdowns this season.
So while Cooper will likely get his fair share of looks, Dak Prescott would be wise to use those other weapons against Detroit’s struggling cornerbacks. After a hot start Justin Coleman has struggled over the past few weeks, and while Rashaan Melvin has been mostly a pleasant surprise this year, he is a clear step down from the likes of Darius Slay.
Damon Harrison Sr.
Stopping Ezekiel Elliott is a tough task for any player, but it’s even tougher when you’re facing a big, physical Cowboys offensive line. Luckily for Harrison, he may be lined up opposite the weakest point in that line. Starting left guard Connor Williams is out this week, giving Harrison all the room he needs to potentially break through this normally impenetrable wall.
Of course, run defense is a combined effort, and it will take some of the other defensive linemen and linebackers to win their matchups to stop Zeke, but we know how much of an impact Snacks can be when he’s playing at his best.
Another defensive lineman that will have to win some matchups on Sunday is Detroit’s best pass rusher. Because the Lions’ secondary looks outmatched this week, it will be on the front seven to make Prescott uncomfortable. While he’s a quarterback that can be very dangerous out of the pocket, he’s also somewhat mistake prone. Only three quarterbacks have more interceptions than Prescott on the year.
However, pressuring Prescott is easier said than done. Dallas has only forfeited 11 sacks on the entire year, fewer than any other team. Flowers is starting to heat up, tallying 4.0 sacks in the last three games, but this will be his toughest task of the season.