On the heels of another fourth quarter rally, the Detroit Lions head south to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars, trying to get back to 4-4 and enter the second half push at .500. This contest will be a battle of attrition, as both the Lions and Jaguars are dinged up and trying to get healthy. Whomever is able to substitute better, survive and persevere will be able to win.
What are some things to watch Sunday afternoon, as the Lions attempt to pull their record even and set themselves up for a potential second half rush? Below are a few keys to this important and winnable game.
1. Can The Receivers Keep It Up? Last week was a great week for the Lions receiving core against Seattle, who features a decent secondary. Titus Young came up huge, Ryan Broyles played well again and Brandon Pettigrew was clutch. Matthew Stafford was more accurate, and threw the ball with conviction. This week, the Lions will take on the dinged up Jaguars, who's defense has been giving up nearly 20 points per game. Again, the key will be the passing game, and the Lions will have to take advantage of a bad secondary
2. Defensive Mindset. How will the Lions play given their opponent is weak and ripe for a beating? Sometimes, in situations like this, a defense will play down to their competition, allowing the underrated team to hang around. Detroit's defense, particularly their defensive front, must get after Blaine Gabbert and shut things down. This week gives the Lions a great opportunity to be nasty and get their edge back. They have to take it by being mentally engaged and fired up to completely shut down the Jaguars
3. Blaine Gabbert Against A Dinged Up Secondary. On the other side of the ball, the Lions' defense, no matter how fired up, will have to contend with injuries in the secondary again. This attrition will give Gabbert plenty of opportunity to pass, especially with the very dangerous Cecil Shorts continuing to emerge. Can Detroit limit Gabbert's damage, or will the young quarterback be able to pick holes, throwing and scrambling for yards? They can't let him get comfortable in the pocket at all, nor let him break contain outside.
4. Mike Thomas's Initial Impact. The former Jacksonville receiver was traded to Detroit in a midweek trade, giving the Lions another option for Stafford. How will Scott Linehan use his new player, and what kind of impact will he have right away? Motivation should be high, given Thomas will want to play well against his former team and make them pay. The Lions downplayed the significance of Thomas clueing the defense into Jacksonville's game plan, but in this game, strangers things have certainly happened.
5. The Environment. Jacksonville routinely fails to sell out their home games, and their game day environment is one of the worst in the NFL. How will this sleepy atmosphere play into the hands of Jacksonville and perhaps hurt the Lions? Detroit has to be ready to take care of business against a team they should beat easily in an environment where not many people will be invested in the game. If they're lulled to sleep, the Jaguars might be able to take advantage and steal a vital game from the Lions.
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