Just under a month ago, Detroit Lions running back Jamaal Williams walked into MetLife Stadium and claimed it as his own. He rushed for three touchdowns that day as the Lions took down the then-red hot New York Giants, and Williams began to separate himself as the league’s leading touchdown scorer. A month later, not much has changed—the Lions are fresh off of manhandling the red-hot Minnesota Vikings and Williams sits at 14 rushing touchdowns, two ahead of Nick Chubb in second place. Let’s hope more things stay the same Sunday, and Williams can repeat his performance from last month in East Rutherford.
Bold prediction of the week: Jamaal Williams rushes for 2+ touchdowns against the Jets
There are a lot of moving pieces in play Sunday. While I don’t think the Jets are the best team the Lions have faced since their hot streak began in early November, I think they are the worst matchup for how this Lions team is built. They live and die by their defense, starting with the pass and the pass rush. That’s bad news for the Lions, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens when an unstoppable force in Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson meets an immovable object in Jets head coach Robert Saleh.
That means the Lions will likely have to turn to the ground game, and it just might work out in their favor. The Jets may be without defensive lineman Quinnen Williams, who hasn’t practiced all week. Williams has come into his own as a pass rusher, with 11 sacks so far on the season, but he’s also one of the better interior defensive linemen in this league and plays well above his 303-pound frame. If the Lions are looking to capitalize on Williams’ potential absence, it’s likely they turn to the interior ground game for a large portion of Sunday. Should the Lions’ passing offense struggles against the elite Jets secondary, then they may not have a choice.
Even if the Lions find success up the middle should Williams be ruled out, it’ll take a lot for them to make it to the red zone against the Jets. From this week’s On Paper:
Speaking of elite defenses, this Jets teams is scary good. For the entire season, they’ve allowed just a single opponent to eclipse 250 net passing yards, and they haven’t allowed 200 net passing yards since before Halloween. Putting aside the first three games of the season, while the Jets defense was still getting its bearings, just one quarterback has eclipsed a 90 passer rating against New York this season.
Sunday’s matchup will be one of Ben Johnson’s and Jared Goff’s toughest matchups yet. They’ve crumbled against tougher matchups earlier in the season, but that was without several of their best players. Sunday may be a different story. If the Lions can make it to the red zone, they shouldn’t have trouble finishing the job. Not only are the Lions the best red zone offenses in the league, but the Jets rank 20th in the NFL in red zone scoring percentage allowed to opponents at just under 58%. Over the past three games, that number has jumped to 71%.
Ultimately, the Lions will have to do what they do best on offense and pass the ball to move downfield against the Jets. If that gets them into scoring position, though, then Jamaal Williams is set to have another big day of driving it home to the end zone.