LIONS INSIDER

Twentyman: Will injuries be a factor in the Lions at Jaguars matchup?

Posted Nov 4, 2012

The Lions are dealing with their fair share of injuries (i.e. Calvin Johnson and that sore knee), but Jacksonville might be in even dire straits.

The Lions have a chance Sunday to get themselves in a position where they can peek over the edge of the hole they dug for themselves this season by getting back to the .500 mark.

A win at Jacksonville and the Lions are back to even (4-4) and back in the playoff hunt. A loss and their playoff hopes are likely gone.

The Jaguars (1-6) are 0-3 at home this season and have been outscored by 75 points at EverBank Field. It’s been 10 years since a team (Cincinnati in 2002) has been that bad at home to start a season.

The Lions are coming off their best offensive performance of the season against Seattle and look to keep it going against a poor Jaguars' defense.

It’s not often that a team with a losing record is favored on the road in the NFL, so the Lions simply need to take care of business against the Jaguars and then start thinking about how to beat the Vikings on the road next week and get to 5-4.

HISTORY

These two teams have only played four times and Jacksonville holds a 3-1 edge in the series. The Lions blew out the Jaguars 44-0 in their first-ever meeting in 1995, which is still the largest margin of victory in franchise history. The Jaguars won the last meeting, 38-14, back in 2008.

2012 REGULAR SEASON RANKINGS (Rank)

LionsJaguars
Record 3-4 1-6
Points per game 23.0 (16) 14.7 (32)
Total yards per game 407.6 (2) 250.9 (32)
Rushing yards 97.1 (22) 86.9 (27)
Passing yards 310.4 (2) 164.0 (32)
Points allowed 24.9 (23) 26.9 (27)
Total yards allowed 326.4 (9) 387.0 (25)
Rushing yards allowed 112.3 (18) 135.7 (25)
Passing yards allowed 214.1 (9) 251.3 (23)
Turnover ratio -4 (24t) 0 (15t)

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Lions

Calvin Johnson, WR:

Johnson is banged up (knee) and missed all three days of practice this week for the first time all season. He was listed as questionable for Sunday.

Even if Johnson isn’t 100 percent, his mere presence on the field requires defenses to take notice. Receivers Titus Young and Ryan Broyles have been reaping the benefits, with four combined touchdowns over the last two games.

Johnson is likely to play – and start – and it’s worth watching how much the knee limits him.

Matthew Stafford, QB:

Against Seattle last week, Stafford led the Lions on four touchdown drives and had a hand in all four scores (three passing, one rushing). He completed 34-of-49 passes for 352 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. It was the first time Stafford had thrown for multiple scores in a game this season.

Facing a less-than-stellar Jaguars defense, Stafford and the offense need to get things rolling early and often. An underdog is dangerous the longer you let him stick around.

DeAndre Levy, LB:

Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham listed Levy – along with DT Ndamukong Suh and CB Chris Houston – as the early favorites for the team’s defensive MVP award.

Levy has been very solid this season, but was limited by a hamstring injury all week. He missed last week’s Seattle game and the Lions felt the effects - though Ashlee Palmer did an admirable job filling in.

Levy is likely to be a game-time decision.

Jaguars

Blaine Gabbert, QB:

Gabbert had career-highs for completions (27), attempts (49) and passing yards (303) in a close loss on the road to the Packers last week. Gabbert is riding a wave of confidence heading into this week.

Gabbert became the first 300-yard passer for the Jaguars since 2010.

Cecil Shorts, WR:

He finished with career-high eight receptions for 116 yards last week and three of those catches were for 17-plus yards. Shorts leads the team in every receiving statistical category and his 20.0 yards-per-catch average ranks third in the NFL. He’s the big-play threat in the passing game the Lions have to worry about.

Jeremy Mincey, DE:

Mincey has led the Jaguars in sacks the last two seasons, becoming the first player in franchise history to do so. He’s the best pass rusher the Jaguars have and the one player along the defensive front the Lions have to account for on each and every play.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

Don’t wait until the fourth quarter

The Lions offense scored it’s first offensive touchdown in the first quarter last week against Seattle, but still trailed 17-14 at the half and needed Stafford to lead them from behind in the fourth quarter to get a win for the ninth time in his career.

This Jaguars defense isn’t nearly the caliber of Seattle, and the Lions could finally use a week where they don’t have to fight their way back into games.

Stafford and backup Shaun Hill have combined for over 1,000 yards passing in the fourth quarter with a 106.9 rating, but how about Stafford has on a backward baseball cap in the fourth quarter this week instead of a helmet.

Get the big plays

A 46-yard touchdown pass from Stafford to Titus Young sparked the Lions in the second quarter of last week’s game. There haven’t been enough of those big plays this year.

The Jaguars’ defense does a good job limiting big plays and forcing teams to dink and dunk their way down the field. The Lions have struggled at times this season against defenses that take that approach.

Jacksonville’s defense has allowed only 22 plays of 20 yards or more this season (18 pass, four rush), which are fifth fewest in the NFL.

Run away

Lions running back Mikel Leshoure has averaged at least 4.6 yards per carry in each of his last three games against three of the better defenses in the league in Philadelphia, Chicago and Seattle.

Leshoure hasn’t rushed 100 yards or scored a touchdown since Week 3, and the Lions are still without an explosive run of 20+ yards on the season.

The Jaguars have the league’s 25th-ranked run defense are allowing more than 135 yards per game.

It’s about time for another 100-yard game for Leshoure and the Lions would like nothing better than to control the game on the ground early on.

Injury woes

The Lions are dealing with their fair share of injuries (i.e. Calvin Johnson and that sore knee), but Jacksonville might be in even dire straits.

Cornerback Rashean Mathis is out with a groin injury and Derek Cox – their best corner this season – is questionable with a back injury. If Cox is out, Will Middleton, Aaron Ross and rookie Mike Harris will play at corner.

The Lions thought they had it rough with Louis Delmas and Amari Spievey out, but the Jaguars could be without three fourths their starting secondary.

Do what we came to do

The Lions are better than the Jaguars in just about every facet of the game. It’s similar to the situation they were in entering their Week 3 matchup with the Titans. In that overtime loss, the Lions allowed two return touchdowns, two long touchdown passes and a fumble-return touchdown.

The only way the Jaguars beat a superior team in the Lions is if the Lions let them with mistakes and poor execution.