clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Detroit Lions vs. Seattle Seahawks preview, prediction: On Paper

Our statistical breakdown, key matchups, preview, and prediction for Detroit Lions vs. Seattle Seahawks in Week 2 of the NFL’s 2023 season.

Seattle Seahawks v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions are looking to get off to an extremely hot start to their season by taking down back-to-back playoff contenders. Last week’s game against the Chiefs was a huge win, but not exactly the cleanest of performances. However, this week’s opponent—the Seattle Seahawks—are coming off an uglier game in which they were blown out by a Los Angeles Rams team most believed was in the midst of a rebuild.

Can the Lions take advantage of a team down on its luck, or will the Seahawks bounce back and bring Detroit fans down back to Earth?

Let’s take a closer look at this matchup in our On Paper preview and prediction.

Note: Because it’s early in the season and DVOA is not defense-adjusted yet, I am instead using Expected Points Added rankings from Week 1 for overall rankings at the top of each section.

Lions pass offense (11th in dropback EPA/play) vs. Seahawks pass offense (30th)

After some early-game struggles against KC, the Lions pass offense rebounded nicely and did what they managed to do most of last season. Jared Goff was accurate (sixth in adjusted completion percentage), efficient (10th in yards per attempt), and avoided any significant negative plays.

Pass protection was also solid, with both Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow posting perfect 100% pass block win rates. The Lions ranked ninth in that metric overall for Week 1, and third in PFF’s pass blocking rating. Detroit allowed just six total pressures and one sack.

The receiving corps, though, wasn’t at its best. Marvin Jones Jr. struggled with drops and the first fumble of his long career. Josh Reynolds also couldn’t get open early but made up for it with a strong second half. Amon-Ra St. Brown was his steady self, but the star receiver is starting to get extra attention and double teams, which is going to force the rest of the receivers to step up.

“You can kind of assume maybe (on) third down, third-and-short that they’re going to double me, and they did that game,” St. Brown said this week.

The Lions could also lean on non-wideout options to help take that burden off St. Brown. Rookie tight end Sam LaPorta hauled in all five of his targets last week, and rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs flashed enough in his debut last week to see an increased role vs. the Seahawks.

The Seahawks had an average pass defense last year (17th in DVOA), but it’s off to a god-awful start this season. Last week, Matthew Stafford posted the second-highest QBR in the league, wasn’t sacked a single time, and averaged 8.8 yards per pass attempt—the fourth-best mark of the week. And while Stafford was fantastic—posting the second-best PFF passing grade of the week—it’s worth noting that his receiver group was filled with a bunch of young, no-names.

As pointed out in Erik Schlitt’s Honolulu Blueprint, the Seahawks were particularly vulnerable over the middle of the field, which is something the Lions could certainly exploit given their own personnel. The tricky part for Detroit is that Seattle does boast a pretty solid secondary on the outside—with youngsters Riq Woolen and Devon Witherspoon, combined with safety Quandre Diggs. It’s possible veteran All-Pro safety Jamal Adams makes his 2023 debut, as well.

With Seattle potentially holding the personnel edge on the perimeter, they could give extra attention to the middle of the field, which puts extra pressure on Detroit’s outside receivers.

That said, Seattle struggled to bring much of any pass rush last week. They ranked 28th in PFF’s pass rush grade and tallied just two quarterback hits.

Player to watch: Matt Nelson? Decker has missed the first two practices of the week, and it’s fair to say his status is very much in doubt. If he misses the game, the Lions have previously moved Penei Sewell to left tackle and promoted Nelson to the starting right tackle. I’d expect that to happen again, but Nelson has struggled in a starting role. In his last start—in 2021—he earned a 39.2 PFF grade and allowed seven pressures.

Advantage: Lions +1.5. The loss of Decker looms large, but Seattle doesn’t exactly have dangerous personnel to give Detroit a ton of issues in protection. I do think the Seahawks could give Detroit some trouble in terms of their coverage, but if Goff has enough time, he can be lethal.

Lions run offense (6th) vs. Seahawks run defense (25th)

The Lions’ rushing charts have to be one of the most misleading charts in On Paper history. While there’s a lot of red there from last year, Detroit ended 2022 ranked 12th in run offense DVOA and 18th in rush expected points added (EPA). They’re off to a very similar start this year, rushing for just 3.5 yards per carry, but ranking sixth in EPA.

The disconnect, here, is the Lions are lacking explosive plays to really boost those yards per carry average. Detroit had just two rushes of 15+ yards against the Chiefs and none of 20+ yards. However, they remain quite efficient running the ball—particularly on first and second down, where they averaged 4.2 yards per carry on 26 attempts.

Last year, the Seahawks had one of the worst run defenses in the league, ranking 24th in DVOA and 26th in EPA allowed.

However, the Seahawks made a ton of changes to their front seven this offseason, and the early return—albeit against a poor Rams offensive line—is quite positive. The Rams managed just 92 yards on 40(!) carries. Cam Akers was particularly bad, carrying the rock 22 times for only 29 yards. That said, Los Angeles did find the end zone three times on the ground, although two of those came from the 1-yard line.

Adding veteran linebacker Bobby Wagner certainly helped Seattle, as the veteran All-Pro tallied 18 tackles in Week 1, including eight run defense stops on his way to a 90.4 PFF run defense grade. Seattle also added parts to their defensive line. Their best run defender is veteran defensive tackle Jarran Reed, who also returned to the team this offseason after being a second-round pick for Seattle in 2016.

Player to watch: Wagner. Last week, David Montgomery and Gibbs were excellent at breaking tackles and turning short gains into medium gains. That’s going to be tougher this week with Wagner manning the middle of the defense. Wagner has a career 5.6 missed tackle rate, which would have been good enough for fifth among all starting linebackers last year.

Advantage: Lions +1.5. I came in expecting to give the Lions a bigger advantage here, but I’m not quite sure what to make of this Seahawks run defense after one week. They have made legitimate changes to their defense this year, but I am at least a little hesitant to overreact to Week 1—and many Seattle fans remain skeptical, too.

Seahawks pass offense (14th) vs. Lions pass defense (18th)

Geno Smith led one of the most surprisingly potent offenses last year, leading to a Comeback Player of the Year award for the veteran quarterback. Last year, Seattle ranked ninth in passing DVOA and 11th in EPA.

His encore season, though, is off to a rough start. Dealing with offensive line issues (again), Smith had trouble finding a rhythm. He was under pressure on 13 of 29 dropbacks and completed just 4-of-10 passes for 24 yards while on the run.

He could be in for another long day, as it appears the Seahawks will be without both starting tackles. That likely means starting Jake Curhan, who filled in at right tackle last week and allowed four pressures on just 11 pass blocking snaps.

Still, if the Lions pass rush doesn’t get home, Smith can make Detroit hurt with their trio of receivers in DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba. After a quiet day from all three on Sunday, you know the three will be champing at the bit to get things going in Detroit.

The Lions defense is off to a strong start after a shaky 2022 season. Of course, as you can see by the chart, the Lions started to figure some things out toward the end of last year, but that didn’t stop them from ranking 23rd in DVOA and 30th in EPA in 2022.

But with a revamped, ball-hawking secondary—and a pretty deep bench on the defensive line—things are looking up. Detroit was credited with five pass breakups and seven quarterback hits against the Chiefs. It was far from perfect, but against Patrick Mahomes, you’ll take it.

There are some conflicting statistics on the success of the pass rush in Week 1. While they ranked 16th in PFF’s pass rushing grade, Detroit actually ranks dead last in ESPN’s pass rush win rate. To understand the disconnect, we have to understand what PRWR actually means:

Pass Rush Win Rate metric tells us how often a pass-rusher is able to beat his block within 2.5 seconds

Not to make excuses, but against a player like Mahomes, sometimes the goal isn’t to “beat” your block right away, but rather stay disciplined to your pass rush lane. If you “beat” the block, but leave your assignment, you’ll get an ESPN “win,” but get chewed out by Aaron Glenn. In other words, take that statistic with a grain of salt.

Coverage had its ups and downs last week, but they’ll face a much bigger challenge this week with Seattle’s star crew of wide receivers.

Player to watch: DK Metcalf. The Lions outside corners didn’t get tested a ton last week, but both Cameron Sutton (56.4) and Jerry Jacobs (56.2) posted below-average coverage grades. Metcalf is the size/speed combo we’ve been waiting to see test this secondary.

Advantage: Seahawks +1. This is me trying not to overreact to Week 1. I do think the Lions pass defense should be much improved this year, but I’m not ready to crown them quite yet. The defensive line absolutely needs to help the backend this week, and they’ve got a favorable matchup there. But Seattle has had a week to prepare for life without their tackles, and you know they’ve got a gameplan to stop Aidan Hutchinson. Who will step up if Hutchinson draws all the double teams?

Seahawks run offense (9th) vs. Lions run defense (10th)

Last year, Seattle ranked 19th in rush EPA and 11th in DVOA. Despite abandoning the run in Week 1, they showed when they choose to pound the rock, they can. Kenneth Walker ran for an efficient 64 yards on 12 carries, and the offensive line did its job, ranking ninth in both run block win rate and PFF’s run blocking grade.

Even with the team missing its top two tackles, expect Seattle to run the ball way more than they did last week.

Detroit’s run defense improved dramatically in the second half of last season, and they picked up where they left off in Week 1 against the Chiefs. While mobile quarterbacks continue to give them problems, here’s how running backs have fared against Detroit in the past nine games:

Week 11 (2022): Saquon Barkley — 15 rushes, 22 yards (1.5 YPC)
Week 12: Devin Singletary — 14 rushes, 72 yards (5.1 YPC)
Week 13: Travis Etienne — 13 rushes, 54 yards (4.2 YPC)
Week 14: Dalvin Cook — 15 rushes, 23 yards (1.5 YPC)
Week 15: Zonovan Knight — 13 rushes, 23 yards (1.8 YPC)
Week 16: DON’T LOOK HERE D’Onta Foreman — 21 rushes, 165 yards (7.9 YPC)
Week 17: Khalil Herbert — 5 rushes, 31 yards (6.2 YPC)
Week 18: Aaron Jones — 12 rushes, 48 yards (4.0 YPC)
Week 1: Isaiah Pacheco — 8 rushes, 23 yards (2.9 YPC)

In those nine games, only three of the opponents’ leading running backs eclipsed 50 yards rushing, and five were held to 4.0 yards per carry or lower.

It’s not a perfect unit, but the improvements are obvious, and hopefully, they’re here to stay.

Player to watch: Geno Smith. The part about the Lions run defense I quietly glossed over is their inability to contain running quarterbacks. They were so-so at it against Mahomes in Week 1 (six rushes, 45 yards), and while Smith is not anywhere near as elusive, he did get the Lions for 49 yards and a touchdown last matchup.

Advantage: Draw. I like Walker a lot, and I think there’s a pretty good chance Smith extends a drive or two with a frustrating third-down scramble, but with the offensive line issues for Seattle and Detroit’s marked improvement in run defense, I expect this one to come out even.

Last week’s prediction:

On Paper starts 0-1 for the season (but 1-0 against the spread) after predicting a 30-27 Chiefs win. I was way off on the Lions’ run defense getting exploited, but I’m going to get burned on a lot of early predictions with no valuable data to analyze.

In the comment section, we already got our first perfect score prediction, and my goodness, it was a near-perfect comment across the board. Take a look at this from Defend The Den:

Defend The Den
I'm thinking the Detroit offense might actually come out a bit slow and rusty. Goff will be hyped up and his accuracy/arm strength might be affected as a result. The defense, however, I think will absolutely unload against the Chiefs. I expect the DBs to be all over the field and the DL to generate tons of pressure in the face of Mahomes. Hopefully, a turnover or 2 keeps the game close enough for the Lions to sneak in a late TD for the win.Lions - 21Chiefs - 20Go Lions Go!!!!

Just absolutely nailed the prediction across the board.

As most of you know, the closest prediction gets a photoshop in their honor. So here’s to you, Defend The Den! Everyone is wearing ski masks to Sunday’s game, but you’ll be decked out in a full body mask.

This week’s prediction

The Lions come out with a +2 advantage, but as you may notice from each matchup, I don’t have a lot of confidence in any section here. There are just too many unknowns and there's going to be a natural overreaction to Week 1 that will look foolish in a month. That’s why I don’t think this game will be as much of a cakewalk as many in Detroit are expecting.

I still believe this is a pretty talented Seahawks roster that will challenge for the NFC West and could make noise in the playoffs. The offensive line issues are real, but they’ve got enough talent offensively to compensate.

I’m still picking the Lions this week, but expect a nail-biter. Lions 27, Seahawks 23.

NEW: Join Pride of Detroit Direct

Jeremy Reisman will drop into your inbox twice a week to provide exclusive, in-depth reporting and insights from Ford Field. Subscribe to go deeper into Lions fandom, and join us on our path to win the Super Bowl.