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Lions vs. Patriots preview: Don’t sleep on New England’s defense

We preview Lions vs. Patriots with our 5 Question series with Pats Pulpit

NFL: New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers David Dermer-USA TODAY Sports

This is a big one for the Detroit Lions. Not only does the team have to avoid going into the bye week at 1-4, they have to go out and beat their former head coach Matt Patricia. It just has to happen. This game isn’t even about Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, it’s about revenge. Revenge that I’m not sure the Lions will be able to serve up.

The Patriots had some offensive woes early in the season that made everyone in Detroit laugh because it meant bad things for Patricia, but now it seems that the Patriots are beginning to get things with their offense under control. They now have themselves a prime opponent to show what they can do with the Lions 32nd ranked scoring defense coming to town.

Still, just like the Lions, the Patriots are at 1-3 and there are injury questions at quarterback. There’s so much we just don’t know about this team. So we reached out to Taylor Kyles of Pats Pulpit to get the scoop. Here’s what he had to say:

1. The Patriots are coming off a tough loss to the Packers in overtime and are 1-3. What are your thoughts on this teams season so far?

“You’re hearing the term ‘moral victory’ a lot this week in reference to that tough loss in Lambeau. Those obviously don’t count on the stat sheet, but the resilience New England showed after losing their top backup and being forced to play a fourth-round rookie with Aaron Rodgers on the other sideline was impressive.

“The defense really stepped up against Rodgers and made their share of big plays in key moments, though Aaron did his thing by making unbelievable throws and finding mismatches when they presented themselves. I thought the same was true against the Ravens and a potential MVP in Lamar Jackson, so the Patriots’ defense is safe from any major scrutiny.

“Offensively, the team has shown it has explosive potential as it shifts towards a more downfield passing attack (with Mac Jones under center). But turnovers, penalties, and miscues have severely hampered their ability to stay out of third-and-long and finish drives.”

2. Can you make sure Matt Patricia never leaves New England again and that nobody else gets hurt?

“I’m pretty sure Belichick locks his coaches in the basement after every shift, so y’all should be safe (for now).”

3. What are this team’s strengths and weaknesses?

“The Patriots have been the league’s best rushing attack through four weeks. Their offensive line is a large, athletic group that can take the fight to anyone. The dynamic backfield duo of Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson has capitalized on their line’s dominance with great vision, burst, and contact balance.

“Their pass rush has also been exceptional, led by Pro Bowler Matthew Judon, explosive DT Christian Barmore, and Deatrich Wise, who’s having a breakout year after flashing as a pass rusher since 2017.

“The passing game seemed to be building momentum under Mac Jones, but the playbook shrunk significantly last week when third-stringer Bailey Zappe was called into action, as the rookie seemed consistently spooked in his first start. Hopefully, a full week of preparation will make a difference, but I’d expect a lot of runs, play-action, and screens against the Lions. That predictability could come back to bite them against Detroit.

“The Packers were also able to run on the Patriots pretty consistently last week, but the hope is that signing old friend of both teams Jamie Collins will shore up that issue.”

4. Over or under? Do these two teams score a combined 80 points (Note: the actual over/under for this game is set at 45.5)

“I’d be stunned if either team scored 30 points, especially if the Lions’ injury issues are as bad as they seem.

“The Patriots will do their best to shorten the game on offense by consistently draining the play clock and majoring in the run game.

“Only Lamar Jackson and the Ravens have crossed the 30-point threshold against New England’s defense, but that took a bevy of turnovers and one of Lamar Jackson’s best performances to accomplish. I respect how explosive the Lions’ passing attack has been, but they haven’t seen a defense this well-coached since the opener against Philly.”

5. Who wins this thing?

“If the Lions have multiple key players on offense out, I don’t see them stealing this one in Foxborough. The Patriots run game should thrive against a Lions front that hasn’t been terribly stout, and I think the Lions’ guards will be a huge liability with the depth New England has at pass rusher. Detroit’s run game could make this one competitive, but I’m just not sure the Lions are equipped enough right now to pull off the upset.”

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