Coming off their bye week, the Detroit Lions will travel to take on the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 10. The Chargers have gotten to 4-4 with back-to-back easy wins over the Chicago Bears and New York Jets, but it's fair to say they are a better team than their record reflects. Three of their four losses have been by three points or less.
Sunday's game should be high-scoring, back and forth and close throughout. The game will be won in the margins, in key situations (third down, red zone, etc,) and with timely plays made or not made.
Much is being made, rightfully so, of the Lions' offensive struggles in the red zone. It hasn't cost them in a game yet, but entering the new week they are 24th in the league in red zone touchdown rate (48.1 percent). The Chargers are 16th in red zone defense, allowing a touchdown 53.3 percent of the time.
Chargers' big strength provides a very bad matchup for the Lions
However overlooked by the offenses struggles to cash in touchdowns in the red zone, especially when David Montgomery was out, is the struggles of the defense in the red zone. Opponents are scoring touchdowns on over 65 percent or their red zone trips, which is 27th in the league.
The Chargers have just six turnovers this season, the second-fewest in the league. That has helped their overall offensive proficiency/efficiency, with a top-12 third down conversion rate and a top-eight fourth down conversion rate through Week 9.
The Chargers have been incredibly efficient in the red zone. They have scored touchdowns on 18 of their 26 trips inside-the-20, which is good for the second-best rate in the NFL (69.2 percent). Running back Austin Ekeler's nose for the end zone, Justin Herbert's proficiency as a passer in the red zone and a set of big targets he throws to combined to make the Chargers' offense hard to defend when the field gets shorter.
The Lions have struggled to hold opponents to field goals in the red zone under Aaron Glenn, so this year's struggles there are not new. But if leaving SoFi Stadium with a win Sunday comes down to keeping the Chargers out of the end zone in a key spot, it's going to be hard to have a lot of confidence it will happen.