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The Cheat Sheet: Matthew Stafford vs. Jaguars’ red zone defense

Detroit Lions vs. Jacksonville Jaguars game preview and prediction.

New Orleans Saints v Detroit Lions Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions have scored 10 touchdowns on 18 red zone attempts through their first four games of the season.

They rank 22nd in the NFL with just over a 55 percent touchdown red zone scoring percentage. That’s up from 28th at the beginning of October when they were only scoring touchdowns at 46 percent.

And it was a particular focus of the Lions after the first few games of the season, too.

“It’s just execution,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said in late September. “Throwing and catching and blocking, making runs and run reads and all that stuff. We have enough players and personnel and coaches drawing up good plays for us, we just have to go out there and execute them.”

And it seemed to show up against the New Orleans Saints in when they converted 80 percent of their red zone trips into touchdowns.

Granted, take of the Honolulu blue glasses and you may realize the opponent had a lot to do with it too. New Orleans gives up the most red zone touchdowns in the entire NFL this season (85 percent).

If the Lions want a shot at winning on Sunday, Stafford will have to play better, and the Lions will need to continue to score when opportunities present themselves. It will be a challenge, though, for as bad as the Jaguars defense is, they are actually somewhat formidable in the red zone. They are only allowing 4.81 points per red zone trip, which is the seventh lowest mark in the NFL.

If there’s one thing we’ve seen so far in 2020, it’s that the Lions defense hasn’t been able to hold up their end of the bargain, so it will be up to Stafford and the Lions offense to put up six, not three.

Indianapolis Colts v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Opponent snapshot

The Jaguars started the season with a bang. But after shocking the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1, things have turned bad... Historically bad.

The Jaguars feel like they are simply the Florida version of the Lions.

  • They’re close in games, but struggle to win
  • They’ve been at or near the bottom in their division
  • The head coach is on the hot seat

Unfortunately it all rings to in Detroit too.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Tennessee Titans Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Jaguars’ biggest threat

Dawuane Smoot

You might not know who Smoot is, but you might find out Sunday if he has a similar performance to the one he had against the Houston Texans in Week 5. Smoot had six quarterback pressures and a sack against Deshaun Watson.

The Lions offensive line has played well in spurts, but Smoot is a guy to keep your eye on this Sunday.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Houston Texans Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Jaguars’ weak link


It feels odd to put the kicker as the weak link of a 1-4 football team, but it’s true. In a what could be a close game, the kicker could end up deciding the game. And, oh boy, have the Jaguars had kicking trouble this year.

First Josh Lambo got hurt.

Then they signed Brandon Wright. Who got hurt.

Then they signed Stephen Hauschka. Who got hurt.

THEN they signed Aldrick Rosas. WHO GOT HURT.

Now they’re down to Jon Brown who they signed to their practice squad earlier this week.

That’s five kickers through the month and half of the season.

Bottom line

Who ever loses this game might put themselves near the top of the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes. A win and you get a little glimmer of hope. A loss and everyone can start to pack it up.

I expect a shootout, with very little defense on either side.

I’m picking the Lions in a close one, but if they lose this one, it will probably be the last time I pick them all season.


Lions 30 Jaguars 28

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.