This week is going to mean a little extra to Detroit Lions fans. Not only is the team in desperate need of a win to avoid a 1-4 record at the bye week, but the New England Patriots are the source of a lot of frustration for Lions fans over the past few years.
In 2018, the Lions tried to bring “The Patriot Way” to Detroit, hoping that a more strict, all-business culture would be enough to make a mediocre team an elite one. Instead, Matt Patricia destroyed the team’s solid foundation, ostracized some of the team’s best players, and in three years, had absolutely nothing to show for it.
That left the Lions in a crater they have yet to pull themselves out of, and on Sunday, they’ll have a chance to exact their revenge. There’s even more intrigue in the matchup, as Detroit’s struggling defense has an opportunity to get right against a struggling Patriots offense led by Patricia himself.
So how do the Lions match up in what will undoubtedly be an emotional game for fans? Let’s take a closer look in our Week 5 scouting report.
New England Patriots
10-7 record (2nd in AFC East)
6th in points scored, 2nd in points allowed
Overall DVOA: 4th (9th on offense, 4th on defense)
Last year, the Patriots were a bit of a surprise team. With rookie quarterback Mac Jones, New England found themselves in the thick of the AFC East race, not far behind the surging Buffalo Bills.
They were a fairly balanced team between offense and defense, but when the playoffs came, it was clear they were not quite on the same level of the elite teams in the league. The Bills absolutely wiped the floor with them, winning 47-17 in a game that was already 20-0 halfway through the second quarter.
Key additions: WR DeVante Parker, WR Ty Montgomery (IR), LB Mack Wilson, S Jabrill Peppers
Key losses: G/C Ted Karras, G Shaq Mason, EDGE Chase Winovich, LB Kyle Van Noy, CB J.C. Jackson
2022 NFL draft picks:
Round 1: G Cole Strange
Round 2: WR Tyquan Thornton
Round 3: CB Marcus Jones
Round 4: CB Jack Jones
Round 4: RB Pierre Strong
Round 4: QB Bailey Zappe
Round 6: RB Kevin harris
Round 6: DE Sam Roberts
Round 6: G Chasen Hines
Round 7: OT Andrew Stueber
Key coaching changes:
- Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels hired as Raiders head coach
- Replaced McDaniels with combination of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge
Per usual, it was a pretty modest offseason for the Patriots, with arguably more losses than additions. The most significant changes came to the offensive line, where they lost two starters and replaced one with a first-round pick (Cole Strange) and the other with a former sixth-round pick (Mike Onwenu). Surprisingly, it’s been Onwenu who has been the far better player thus far.
Additionally, the Patriots have tried to improve their receiver room, trading for DeVante Parker, signing Ty Montgomery and drafting Tyquan Thornton in the second round. Unfortunately for New England, Montgomery and Thornton quickly went to injured reserve, while Parker has only had one productive game out of four.
The most impactful change, however, was probably in the coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels took a head coaching job for the Raiders, and the Patriots dragged their feet replacing him. Eventually, they decided on splitting his duties between Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, and the results looked disastrous in the preseason.
2022 season thus far (1-3)
- 23rd in points scored (18.5 PPG), 22nd in points allowed (24.5 PPG)
- 19th in overall DVOA
- 18th in offensive DVOA (28th in pass DVOA, 1st in run DVOA )
- 19th in defensive DVOA (10th in pass DVOA, 31st in run DVOA)
The Patriots offense is still certainly struggling, ranking in the bottom half of the league in points and DVOA. However, they seemed to have found an identity in the run game. New England is currently 10th in rushing yards (128.5 per game), 11th in yards per carry (4.5), and third in expected points added per rush.
They are led by a decent offensive line that ranks eighth in team PFF run blocking grade and 24th in ESPN’s team run block win rate.
Perhaps more impressive is their stable or running backs. Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson have basically split the load and both are averaging over 4.6 yards per carry, and both rank in the top 20 in rushing yards over expectation per carry.
That said, they are struggling to be efficient through the air due to poor quarterback play from Mac Jones (prior to his injury) and a lackluster receiving corps that features Nelson Agholor, DeVante Parker and Jakobi Meyers as their top options.
Defensively, it’s the opposite story. The Patriots have done a pretty good job defending the pass, allowing just 7.1 yard per attempt (13th) and a passer rating of 95.3 (22nd). That said, they don’t rush the passer particularly well (27th in pass rush win rate, 20th in PFF’s pass rush grade) and their secondary is suspect at times.
In terms of run defense, the Patriots have been downright awful. They’re allowing 5.1 yards per carry (30th) and tied for last in run defense success rate.
So this week, we have the No. 1 rushing offense by DVOA (Patriots) against the No. 32 run defense (Lions) and the No. 4 rushing offense (Lions) going against the No. 31 run defense (Patriots).
Get ready for a lot of ground and pound. At least, that’s what Lions safety DeShon Elliott is expecting:
“Shoot, (I) know what Bill (Belichick) gonna do. Bill gonna run that ball down your throat, bruh,” Elliott said.
Key injuries: WR Ty Montgomery (IR), WR Tyquan Thornton (IR), LB Ronnie Perkins (IR), QB Mac Jones (ankle), QB Brian Hoyer (concussion), WR Jakobi Meyers (knee), TE Jonnu Smith (ankle), DT Lawrence Guy (shoulder), CB Jalen Mills (hamstring)
The Patriots are dealing with a lot of injuries to their pass catchers. The latest injury is to tight end Jonnu Smith, who suffered an ankle injury on Sunday and did not return. That leaves just Hunter Henry as the only tight end capable on the team, although receiver Lil’Jordan Humphries has basically served as a blocking tight end for them.
Of course, the big news is at quarterback. Jones suffered an ankle injury in Week 3, and while he may be close to returning, it seems like he’s probably still a week away. Last week, backup Brian Hoyer suffered a concussion, and it’s unclear how much time he’ll miss. The Patriots did sign Garrett Gilbert to the practice squad this week, which is probably a sign New England expects both to be out this week.
That leaves fourth-round rookie Bailey Zappe to step in at quarterback on Sunday. Zappe did alright as a mid-game replacement against the Packers, completing 10-of-15 passes for a modest 99 yards and a touchdown, but it’s clear the Patriots tried to keep the ball out of his hands. With a full week of starting-level practice, however, New England will probably show more trust in him this week.
Biggest strength: Running game
What’s kind of phenomenal about the Patriots’ run game is how efficient they are despite the lack of any explosive plays. New England’s longest run of the season is just 18 yards, yet they are still averaging 4.5 yards per carry as a team. They will just consistently chunk you for 5, 6, 7 yards at at time.
Biggest weakness: Quarterback
While the Patriots run defense is certainly a candidate for biggest weakness on the team, thanks to a subpar defensive line—their quarterback situation is alarming—as it would be for any team on a third-string quarterback.
Bailey Zappe was the fifth quarterback taken in a weak draft class. He doesn’t bring much of any mobility and his arm strength is below average. He makes up for it with decent vision, but with New England’s depleted receiving corps and limited reps all offseason, the rookie quarterback is not exactly being put in a position to succeed—even against Detroit’s sloppy defense.
Vegas line for Sunday: Patriots by 3