The Detroit Lions’ 2019 season is hanging on by a thread. Some early-season losses (and a tie) have put the team well behind in the NFC playoff race, and they’ll have no choice but to string together some wins to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Here’s a list of Lions players that need to step up to come back to Detroit with a winning streak.
As I mentioned in my preview, the only clear advantage the Lions have in this Week 9 matchup is when the Lions are passing the ball. That means, for the 34902374098th time in Stafford’s career, he’ll have to carry the team to victory this week.
The Raiders pass defense ranks in the bottom five in most categories, including passer rating (115.5) and yards per attempt (8.9). They are particularly susceptible to giving up big plays, and that’s exactly what Matthew Stafford has been exploiting all year. It’s a great matchup for Stafford and he needs to take advantage to the fullest.
Along the same lines, it will be on Golladay to repeat his two-touchdown performance from last week. Golladay is tied with Marvin Jones Jr. for the most 20+ yard plays on the team (eight), and he leads all non-Marvin Hall Lions receivers with a whopping 16.4 yards per catch.
Golladay has never put up back-to-back 100-yard performances in his young career. Sunday is the perfect opportunity to do that.
With Graham Glasgow already declared out, it will be up to Wiggins to be the full-time starter at right guard on Sunday. While Wiggins has been getting regular rotation in the Lions’ offensive line, this will be his first start of the season, and it won’t be an easy one.
The Raiders boast a powerful defensive interior that has been responsible for a solid run defense all year. Veteran defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins has four tackles for loss on the season, while P.J. Hall barely trails him with three.
The Lions will undoubtedly try to get the run game going this week, even without Kerryon Johnson or Tra Carson (both now on IR). Wiggins will need to be at his best for the Lions to even have a shot.
Hand put up a phenomenal performance in his 2019 debut last week and was part of the reason Detroit’s run defense looked good again. They held Saquon Barkley to just 64 yards on 19 carries, and Hand played a big part in that.
This week, the Lions will face just as big of a challenge in Oakland and rookie running back Josh Jacobs. Jacobs is averaging 5.0 yards per carry and has rushed for 313 yards in the past three games.
The Raiders’ offensive identity is to grind out yards in the run and short passing game, and Hand’s return should complement the Lions’ strong interior defensive line next to Damon Harrison Sr. and A’Shawn Robinson.
As teased by our own Alex Reno, Tavon Wilson could be the most important defensive back on the field Sunday, even with the expected return of Darius Slay. With no Tracy Walker, the Lions will have to try to figure out how to stop Raiders tight end Darren Waller with a different strategy. Outside of putting a tall corner like Rashaan Melvin opposite him, the most likely man-to-man player to face off against Waller is the physical Tavon Wilson.
Though his strength is in run defending, Wilson has the veteran experience to cover a guy like Waller—especially over the option of the taller, but much, much younger Will Harris. It’s not an ideal matchup for Wilson, and you have to think the Lions will try to give him some help, but the 29-year-old safety will certainly have to be at his best to lead this shorthanded safety unit.