The Lions started the season reasonably well at 2-1-1 before collapsing after a very close week 6 loss to their division rival Packers. The Lions haven’t looked the same since that game, and have been wracked with injury to boot. Most notably, QB Matthew Stafford has missed multiple games due to fractured vertebrae in his back. Surprisingly though, the Lions offense has looked good under backup QB Jeff Driskel, who previously backed up Andy Dalton in Cincinnati. Rather, it is the Lions defense that seems to have collapsed since that Packers game, allowing 31 points or more to every subsequent opponent except the Daniel Jones-lead Giants and Mitch Trubisky-lead Bears (and allowing 20 or more points to those two feckless offenses).
I asked Mike Payton of Pride of Detroit five questions to better understand the state of the Lions and what to look for in this game. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about Lions fans, it’s that they have a great sense of humor and take things in stride when it comes to their team.
1. This late into the season, injuries always seem to be a factor. What important injuries have the Lions had, and how will that change the way they play on Sunday?
Obviously the Matthew Stafford injury is really hurting the Lions. They were already a bad team with him on the roster, but he gave the team the chance to win and he was putting up MVP caliber numbers early on. With him gone the Lions are like that spaceship in Independence day after they figured out how to take down the shields.
On top of that the Lions are without Kerryon Johnson, Trey Flowers, Frank Ragnow and most likely Tracy Walker. It’s a rough time in Detroit at the moment.
[Editor’s note: Kerryon Johnson is the starting running back for the Lions and a 2nd round pick in the 2018 draft, rumored to be the original target of the Redskins in the 2nd round until the Lions jumped in front of them. Frank Ragnow is the starting center of the Lions and a 2018 1st round pick. Tracy Walker is their starting safety and a 2018 3rd round pick. Trey Flowers is a defensive end and 2018 PFF 2nd Team All Pro, recently signed from the New England Patriots. So the Lions are missing their top 3 picks in the 2018 draft, plus a major free agent signing this past offseason, plus their starting QB.]
2. The Lions started out the season looking pretty good, beating the Chargers and Eagles and coming within 4 points of a red hot Chiefs team (before the Mahomes injury) in the first 4 weeks. Since then, the Lions have only won a single game (vs Giants), though most of their losses seem close. What happened?
The Lions got bit hard by the injury bug for starters. All the players I mentioned before are out and it’s hurting this team. But I think what really hurt this team is when they played Green Bay on Monday night football and lost due to two really controversial calls. The Lions have historically not been able to overcome these types of things when they happen. Sure enough, it happened again and the Lions just haven’t been the same. Plus everyone found out they could run on this defense with ease and it’s been a nonstop blood bath.
3. What do fans think of the Lions front office and coaching staff so far? How has the attempt to import “the Patriots way” fared?
Right now the confidence in this front office is at an all time low. Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia were supposed to come in and fix this team for once and for all. But at the moment they look like the next group to come in and fail to do so. A lot of arguments can be made that Rome wasn’t built in a day and fans should reserve judgement for a just a little longer. But the damage may already be done in the locker room. Right now it’s a hard to say what the Lions future is.
4. What was it like to live through an 0-16 season? What good came out of it in hindsight?
It was surprisingly comfortable. I think the thing most people outside of Detroit don’t realize is that in a lot of ways, we saw this coming. It wasn’t a situation where the Lions just couldn’t find a way to win games. It was known up front that this was probably Calvin Johnson and 52 of the worst football players to ever play the game. We knew it would be bad. We at least thought they’d win one game.
The best thing to come from it was Matthew Stafford. The Lions may frequently have a lot of problems. They have 99 problems to be exact. But a quarterback ain’t one.
5. If you were head coach of the Redskins, how would you gameplan for this matchup and what would you do to exploit weaknesses on the Lions?
I’m attacking this team on the ground and over the middle. The Lions are the worst defense in the league right now and they’re beatable just about anywhere on that unit outside of Darius Slay. With that in mind you have to control the clock on this team with your running backs and if you must pass, pass in the direction of this really bad linebacking corps.
Where the Redskins could be in trouble is against the Lions offense. While they don’t have Matthew Stafford, they keep finding ways to score and are still a top ten offense at the moment. Last week they took the Cowboys to the limit with a backup quarterback and a running back they signed a few days earlier. For some reason this offense just won’t stop working. It’s a little weird.
Thanks again to Mike Payton for taking time out of his day to answer our questions about the Lions.
As of right now, Vegas has the Lions as 3.5 point favorites over the Redkins. How would you bet?
This poll is closed
Lions win by more than 3 points
Lions win by 3 points or fewer
Redskins win outright
As of now, Vegas has the over/under for this game at 41 points. Which would you bet?
This poll is closed
41 or more total points are scored (both sides combined)
Fewer than 41 total points are scored (both sides combined)