The Bevell Bump turned out to be real and suddenly Detroit Lions fans have new life. Sure, the postseason remains a distant dream, but Lions football may actually be fun to watch in December! Matthew Stafford was uncorked last week, and it resulted in one of Detroit’s best offensive performances of the season, despite going up against one of the best defenses.
Unfortunately for the Lions, they are also now entering the toughest portion of their schedule. They have the toughest stretch of games of anyone in the NFL, and it all starts Sunday with a Green Bay Packers team that is just absolutely destroying teams right now. Of their nine wins, seven of them were by multiple scores. Their average margin of victory is a staggering 13.0 points.
So, can the Lions pull off the significant upset and make Bevell look like a serious head coaching candidate? Let’s take a look at the matchup On Paper.
Lions pass offense (18th in DVOA) vs. Packers pass defense (18th)
As previously mentioned, interim head coach Darrell Bevell unleashed Stafford, and just about everyone on the team benefitted. Part of it had to do with Chicago’s hubris—playing single-high safety often when just about everyone has killed Detroit’s offense by going two-high—but it’s clear Bev wants Stafford to take his shots, too.
The question is simply how long this bump will last. Stafford is still obviously prone to some bad mistakes, and this team will almost certainly be missing Kenny Golladay again this week—as well as right tackle Tyrell Crosby.
So, while this pass offense is certainly trending in the right direction, I’m not exactly ready to call it fixed yet.
I think it’s fair to call this pass defense average, but they, too, are trending in the right direction. They’ve only held three quarterbacks significantly below their passer rating average, but those all came in the past four weeks. Granted, all three of those games came against teams with quarterback shuffling (Jake Luton, Mitchell Trubisky, Jalen Hurts/Carson Wentz)). Still, the Packers deserve some credit.
Overall, they rank 22nd in passer rating allowed (95.9), 21st in yards per attempt (7.4), and 13th in completion percentage (64.6). They do have a significant pass rush with Za’Darius Smith currently tied for third in sacks (10.5) and the team is currently tied for 10th in overall sacks (31).
Player to watch: Jaire Alexander. Alexander is PFF’s third-best cornerback this year with a solid 82.4 grade. He only has seven passes defended and one interception, but that’s because quarterbacks have stopped looking his way.
Advantage: Lions +1. I’m going to give the Bevell Bump some credit here. I do think the Lions would have an above-average pass offense this year if they had played with the same loose attitude all season. And considering this is just an average pass defense, the Lions get a slight advantage with only a slight amount of confidence, given the novelty of the Bevell Bump.
Lions run offense (22nd) vs. Packers run defense (25th)
Can anyone tell when D’Andre Swift left the lineup? Anyone? If you guessed after the Washington game, congratulations on being able to read a chart correctly.
It does appear Swift is trending in the right direction to play this week, but it’s unclear how big his role will be and how healthy he’ll be feeling. While last week Bevell said they’d limit his role if he could play (he didn’t), this week the Lions interim coach hinted that he could be given his full share if he practices enough this week.
“If you only get to practice on the end of the week on a Friday, then it’s probably going to be a little bit more of a limited role. If you get a full week’s practice, then there’s going to be, obviously, more opportunity for you to do more,” Bevel said.”
In other words, this matchup again hangs in the balance of Swift’s availability. That being said, back-to-back weeks with two Adrian Peterson rushing touchdowns ain’t too bad.
One thing to also consider, the last time these two teams played, Swift only had five rushes (but five catches for 60 yards). So take that data point with a grain of salt.
The Packers run defense has been pretty bad all season. They’ve given up 100 yards in each of their past four games, and they’ve ceded at least 4.2 yards per carry in eight of 12 games this year.
Overall, they rank 25th in yards per carry allowed (4.6) and 31st in percentage of runs earning first downs (30.0%).
Player to watch: Frank Ragnow. Ragnow is PFF’s third-best center, and we all saw what he did to one of the best run defenders last week. And, yes, I am just looking for an excuse to post and watch it again. Say hello to the turf, Akiem Hicks:
Advantage: Lions +2. Detroit’s running game was just getting going when Swift left with an injury, and you have to think this is the perfect week to get him back. The Packers are vulnerable here, and Detroit would be wise to run the ball a lot to keep Green Bay’s offense off the field, because...
Packers pass offense (2nd) vs. Lions pass defense (29th)
Aaron Rodgers is back and maybe even better than ever. Here’s a look at Rodgers’ stats this year, and how they rank among his previous seasons.
- 68.9 completion percentage (first)
- 8.2 yards per attempt (fifth)
- 118.5 passer rating (second)
- 8.7 TD percentage (second)
- 84.5 QBR (t-first)
If we’re comparing Rodgers to the rest of the NFL, he’s in the top five of all of those categories.
He’s also getting sacked less frequently than ever. Oh, and Davante Adams is also having the best year of his career. There is no weakness here to exploit.
The Lions pass defense is very bad. Very, very, very bad. Here’s a quick recap of what they’re bad at:
- Passer rating allowed: 102.2 (27th)
- Yards per attempt allowed: 7.9 (29th)
- Completion percentage allowed: 66.7 (23rd)
This week, they’ll be shorthanded again at secondary with Jeff Okudah not expected to play and Desmond Trufant already on IR.
Player to watch: Davante Adams. Back in Week 2, the Lions held Adams to just three catches for 36 yards, but he left the game early with an injury and the Lions were in better injury shape. Unfortunately for Detroit, Adams is currently in the middle of an absolute tear.
In the past seven games, Adams has 776 yards and 11 touchdowns. Yikes
Advantage: Packers +4. A maximum advantage in these previews is +5, and I got pretty close to giving Green Bay that much of an advantage this week. My only reservation is that Detroit has managed to play Aaron Rodgers fairly well over the past few years. Still, he should have his way on Sunday.
Packers run offense (7th) vs. Lions run defense (28th)
Though they’ve been a bit inconsistent at times, the Packers run game is almost as threatening as their passing game. Particularly terrifying is their performances against NFC North teams. Let me pull those performances out of the chart for dramatic effect:
Week 1 vs. Vikings: 158 yards, 4.9 YPC
Week 2 vs. Lions: 259 yards, 7.4 YPC
Week 8 vs. Vikings: 109 yards, 4.5 YPC
Week 12 vs. Bears: 182 yards, 4.7 YPC
Aaron Jones is averaging over 5.0 yards per carry for the third year in his young career.
This preview is turning in an ugly direction. Let’s hope that this next chart is...
The Lions run defense was certainly trending in the right direction, but last week’s performance should be considered a significant data point. It was Detroit’s first game without Danny Shelton, and it was up against one of the worst run offenses in the league. The Lions were able to clean things up in the second half against Chicago, but we all saw with our own eyes what they were able to do in the first half. That was no mirage.
The other relevant data point, of course, is that Week 2 matchup in which Jones had a season-high 168 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Even if you were to take away his 75-yard run, he still had 93 yards on just 17 carries (5.5 YPC).
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Player to watch: Jones. He’s very good and has 220 yards on just 32 carries (6.9 YPC) in the past two games.
Advantage: Packers +2.5. If the Lions can settle in quicker than they did last week, there’s a chance they can recapture some of that post-bye week magic. However, I’m quite skeptical of this defensive line without Shelton and Trey Flowers. I just don’t think they have enough good players against a solid Packers offensive line.
Last week’s prediction:
On Paper whiffed pretty significantly last week, but only because I didn’t see the Bevell Bump impacting the Lions passing offense so much. I gave the Bears a +1 in that matchup, thinking their solid defense could probably still overtake a small Bevell Bump. But we got a BIG Bevell Bump. I’m not adjusting too much this week, because the sample size remains relatively low, but Detroit does get an advantage in the passing offense.
The best prediction from the Pride of Detroit family this week came not from the comment section, but from our “expert” picks. Our own Mike Payton predicted a 35-28 Lions victory, which was far closer than anyone else. Per tradition when a staff member wins, I offer them an opportunity to request a photoshop. Here’s what Mike wanted:
I have no words.
This week’s prediction:
The Packers come out with a pretty significant +3.5 advantage. Each team’s offense has an edge in each individual matchup, which typically means we’re in for a shootout. Of course, because both teams may be more willing to run the ball, and that could also mean longer possessions and lower scoring.
But if Green Bay is smart, they’ll air it out early and often, forcing Detroit to abandon the run and play Staffordball again. The Lions may be able to keep up for a while, but I don’t think the Packers punt more than two or three times in this game. Meanwhile, the Detroit offense has proven to be mistake-prone this year. The Bevell Honeymoon ends this week. 38-21 Packers.