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.
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)
|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
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
Johnson is likely to play – and start – and it’s worth watching how much the knee limits him.
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.
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
Levy is likely to be a game-time decision.
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
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.
Lions running back
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.
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.
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.