For a Lions defense looking for a chance to prove their credentials, they couldn't have asked for a better test. Tom Brady and the 8-2 Patriots will welcome 7-3 Detroit to Foxborough on Sunday afternoon for a game that'll teach us plenty about both teams. Let's take a look at who has the edge:
The Lions are always a vertical threat with Calvin Johnson on the field (he's listed as questionable but is expected to play), and Detroit will need a big day through the air if they want to keep up with the Pats. Golden Tate has been excellent in Johnson's absence, and having both healthy at the same time will give Detroit a puncher's chance. Matthew Stafford has been solid this year, but the lack of a running game has been the Lions' most obvious weakness. Through ten games, they're averaging just 79.8 rushing yards per game - only the dysfunctional Oakland Raiders are putting up less.
Since their MNF loss to the Kansas City Chiefs back in Week 4, the Patriots are averaging 40.5 points per game, and the only opponent they didn't beat by at least 15 in that stretch was the Jets back in Week 7. Tom Brady has his weapons back, and the emergence of running back Jonas Gray (over 200 yards and four touchdowns against the Colts last Sunday) makes them even more dangerous.
Edge: New England
The Patriots defense has been profoundly average this year - they're near the middle in almost every statistical category - but with their offense on a tear, it hasn't mattered. Aqib Talib is gone, but Darrelle Revis has been a very solid replacement - he'll be on Calvin Johnson duty Sunday, and it'll be interesting to see how he does. Revis has only guarded Johnson for three halves - one full game with the Jets that saw him limit Johnson to one catch for 13 yards, and half a game with the Bucs where Johnson had four catches for 61 yards before Revis left with an injury.
The Lions defense might be the surprise of the season...if they can prove they're the real deal. So far, they've given up the fifth-fewest passing yards per game (221.5) and fewest rushing yards per game (68.8) in the entire NFL, and they haven't allowed more than 25 points in a game this year. First-year coordinator Teryl Austin gets plenty of credit, but he's been helped out by standout performances from Nick Fairley, DeAndre Levy and James Ihedigbo.
New England's kicking game might be the best in the business, while Detroit's was in freefall until picking up Matt Prater in early October. Jim Caldwell is doing a great job with the Lions so far, but he's a few Super Bowls away from reaching Bill Belichick's level.
- Detroit gives up more than 25 points for the first time all season
- Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate both end up with at least 75 receiving yards
- Tom Brady gets sacked four times
- Rob Gronkowski does something ridiculous that gets turned into a GIF within seconds
- New England wins, 31-24
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