Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
The 2-7 Detroit Lions host the 4-5 Oakland Raiders at Ford Field. Detroit is looking for its first win streak of the 2015 season. Can they do it?
The answer likely depends on your general mindset. Is your glass half full or half empty?
Take the Detroit passing game. Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Eric Ebron, even Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick out of the backfield. That’s serious potential. Thus far it’s been largely unrealized potential.
The optimist believes all that talent cannot be kept down any longer. The offense is overdue for an eruption of epic proportions, multiple passing touchdowns and several big chunk yardage plays. Al Stahl piqued onto this in his key matchups piece, noting:
"The Raiders secondary are ball hawks. They’ll give up a bunch of completions at times, the Raiders have averaged 258 passing yards allowed in their five losses, but they are often playing the ball.On the other hand, Stafford has completed of pass of 43 yards or more in four of his last five games. If the Raiders get too aggressive, it could end up biting them."
Only one team allows more passing yards per game than Oakland. They’re middle of the pack or lower in just about every pass defense metric, from yards per completion to sack percentage to completion percentage. The best player in the secondary, Charles Woodson, is older than Darius Slay’s mom.
The pessimist has a ready retort. Why would the offense start clicking now? The offensive line is brutal. Only Seattle, which plays converted defensive tackles and rookies on its O-line, grades out worse than Detroit per Pro Football Focus in pass protection. Bears castoff Michael Ola became the latest turnstile at right tackle last week. Ebron continues to drop the ball too much. So does Johnson, unfortunately. With no running game to keep the pass rush honest and the way the Raiders attack the ball in the air, it looks like a bleak week for an offensive renaissance.
Oakland’s run game is another factor which tickles both the positive and negative. The Raiders are tied for eighth in yards per carry at 4.4 and have posted at least 118 rushing yards in three of the last four weeks. Latavius Murray is finally healthy and his hard-charging style creates real problems for a Detroit defense which freely cedes the “A” gaps a little too often. If you’re a pessimist and think the Raiders are going to literally run all over Ford Field, you have a sound argument.
The Viking Age
Yet there are silver linings to the black cloud. Oakland has some real clunkers mixed in with the prodigious results. Only four teams (Detroit being one) have fewer rushing attempts than Oakland, meaning they don’t stick to it if it’s not working early. Last week against Minnesota they netted over half of their 74 rushing yards on just three attempts; they gained three yards or fewer on 12 of their 16 designed runs. The Lions run defense suffocated Green Bay’s running attack last week like a pack of hungry cheetahs pouncing on a wounded gazelle: 18 carries for 47 yards. Detroit’s front is hot.
The optimist in me finds other fodder:
- Oakland is minus-3 in turnover margin the last three weeks; Detroit is minus-2 over the same time.
- The Raiders commit almost two penalties more per game than the Lions, 8.3 to 6.4, and the Lions rank eighth in the last month in fewest penalties per game.
- Even though they haven’t played frequently, Oakland has not beaten Detroit since 1996. The Lions are 5-3 lifetime against the Oakland Raiders.
- Detroit’s defense is rounding back to form, ranking 12th in the last month in yards per play. In the same period the Raiders D ranks 27th.
- No team has allowed more yards after the catch per game than the Raiders, giving up over 160 yards per game.
Then there are these dubious facets…
- The Lions still rank 31st in turnover differential at minus-10 and don’t have a takeaway in the last two games.
- No defense allows a higher completion percentage than the Lions at an even 70 percent. And as bad as Oakland is after the catch, the Lions rank just 30th.
- Derek Carr has Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree to attack a Lions secondary which is signing guys off the street to play for injured regulars.
- Even in the glorious win in Green Bay, Detroit tried very hard to give the game away. The Raiders won’t likely prove so complicit.
The optimist believes the Lions will win the game 31-20. The pessimist already has the 27-18 loss in the books. Which will it be?