Patriots - Lions, Who Has the Razor's Edge? Key Matchups

Steve Balestrieri
November 20, 2014 at 11:00am ET

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[caption id="attachment_2473" align="aligncenter" width="534"]This week's matchup of the #1 defense of Detroit and the Patriots offense with Tom Brady will be an interesting one to watch. (USA Today photo) This week's matchup of the #1 defense of Detroit and the Patriots offense with Tom Brady will be an interesting one to watch. (USA Today photo)[/caption]

The New England Patriots return to the friendly confines of Foxboro to take on the Detroit Lions on Sunday. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. and will be televised on Fox with their top announcing crew of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman on the call.

The game is important to both teams in terms of playoff seeding although there are still six weeks to play. New England currently holds the #1 seed in the AFC and Detroit finds itself as the #2 seed in the NFC.

The Patriots (8-2) have won six in a row and last week went on the road and soundly defeated a very good Indianapolis Colts team 42-20 in Lucas Oil Stadium. 1st year running back Jonas Gray ran for 200 yards and 4 touchdowns and the Patriots offense converted 9 of 12 first downs against a Colts defense at home that had allowed only 8 of 45 third downs all season.

The defense stymied Andrew Luck by taking away his best receiver, T.Y. Hilton and holding him to just 3 catches for 24 yards. The Colts running game was also non-existent, rushing for only 19 yards on the day. Luck passed for over 300 yards but couldn’t put more than 20 points on the board, far below their norm at home this season.

The Lions (7-3) lost a tough game to the Arizona Cardinals 14-6 on the road on Sunday. In a game that saw at least two horrible calls go against them, the Lions gave up two first quarter touchdown passes to Drew Stanton before shutting down the ‘Zona offense the rest of the way.

The offense which has had its share of fourth quarter comebacks couldn’t generate one this time in the desert as the 9-1 Cardinals was able to hold them to only two field goals.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our  “Razor’s Edge”  column in 2014 to give a quick break down on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Lions have only met 10 times in their history; the two teams rarely meet so there hasn’t been much of a rivalry between the two. The Patriots hold an overall 6-4 lead in games including the past three meetings and hold a 3-2 lead in games at Foxboro. The two teams last met in 2010 with New England winning a 45-24 game in Detroit. Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

Patriots RBs vs Lions Front Seven- Razor’s Edge Lions

Detroit’s strength on defense is having a deep and very talented defense line. It starts with DT Ndamukong Suh in the middle next to Nick Fairley. Those two along with DE Ziggy Ansah are disruptive and can penetrate into the backfield to blow up plays. Detroit’s opponents are averaging nearly 38 percent less yardage on the ground in games against the Lions defense. SS James Ihedigbo is a strong presence in the box in run support as well.

The Patriots got a tremendous effort from Jonas Gray last week (200 yds, 4 TDs) in Indianapolis but against a team that allows only 68 yards per game and only 3.0 per rush is a pretty daunting task. This week look for Shane Vereen to get more of the work.

New England will find the pickings slim against this defense and will have to be creative in finding room to run. Look for some traps and draws and a gameplan that will have to mix things up a bit. But the Lions hold the definite edge here.

Patriots WRs vs Lions Secondary-Razor’s Edge Patriots

The Lions are the #3 team against the pass this season, again it is a dominant DL that can get after the QB and disrupt plays before they get off the ground. Detroit has been excellent in getting opponents in third and long and get after the QB.

The Lions disguise their intent well by showing Double A gap pressure and sometimes coming on a blitz but at others dropping into coverage and flooding the underneath zones. The Lions third down defense is currently #2 in the NFL.

The Patriots’ passing game hinges, as always on their ability on protecting QB Tom Brady. When the team can give him time to throw, the passing game will thrive. During the current six-game winning streak, Brady has been on fire. This will be the big matchup this week with the Pats OL against a very good Lions front seven.

Look for Brady to work the short area of the field this week, the Patriots will attempt to throw short, quick timing passes to Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell as well as Rob Gronkowski underneath to try to neutralize the Lions pass rush. Shane Vereen will have a much bigger role in the passing game this week as well.

Lions RBs vs NE Front Seven- Razor’s Edge Patriots

Detroit’s running game has been stuck in neutral for much of this season, and a lot of it has to do with the injury suffered by Reggie Bush that has hampered him all year. Bush is due to return this week but it isn’t known at this time how close to 100 percent he’ll be. Joique Bell had 85 yards on 14 carries last week in Arizona but the Cards defense played the majority of the game in dime defense in an attempt to slow the Lions’ passing game.

The Patriots have tightened up their rush defense the past two games allowing only 62 yards combined against Denver and Indianapolis. Vince Wilfork and Dominique Easley have been able to disrupt plays at the point of attack inside and newcomer Alan Branch has been solid in spot play.

Look for the Patriots to play a lot of nickel in this game, so the onus will be on Bush and Bell to generate the yardage to make them pay. Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower will again play a big role in the defense for the Pats. Both linebackers have been very solid the past few games.

Lions WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Patriots

The Lions have a very talented and deep group of receivers for Matthew Stafford to throw the football to. Calvin Johnson (Megatron) is the gold standard in terms of size and athleticism and he and Golden Tate are a superb 1-2 punch outside.

Detroit has three talented tightends in Brandon Pettigrew, Joseph Fauria and rookie Eric Ebron. Reggie Bush out of the backfield adds to their plethora of riches. The problem has been injuries, Bush, all three TEs and now Johnson have been hobbled with differing injuries. That and some questionable play-calling have left the Lions operating at far below their potential

The question this week of who will cover who for the Patriots. Johnson is an amazing WR can go up and catch a jump ball with perfect coverage. See his TD against Miami a few weeks ago. I look for Darrelle Revis to cover him with over the top safety help. Kyle Arrington, the speediest of NE’s corners will draw Tate and Brandon Browner will take on Ebron.

The Lions OL has had issues with protection so look for more of the Double A gap pressure from Hightower and Collins. Bush’s health is a big thing to monitor this week. When operating a 100 percent, he’s a dangerous weapon rushing or receiving.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Patriots

The Lions have missed 11 field goals this season and are on their third kicker, former Bronco Matt Prater. Sam Martin is having an excellent season with a 41.7 yard net in the punting game. Jeremy Ross is a very good returner in both the punt and kickoff return game.

But Stephen Gostowski gives New England the edge in the kicking game. He’s been lights out, the only miss coming on a bad snap in Buffalo. Ryan Allen has been solid and Julian Edelman has been heating up in the punt return game. Both teams have had solid coverage units.

Prediction:

This should be a good football game, the Patriots have been playing great football in all three phases for the past six games and at home have been tough to beat. Detroit’s defense will give New England some trouble but look for Tom Brady to find the open man enough to get some points, especially in the second half as they find a way to adjust to the Lions’ pass rush. New England holds serve at home 31-20

Patriots Player to Watch-  Darrelle Revis

No one has transformed the Patriots defense more than Revis in 2014. He’s given Bill Belichick the ability to mix and match and now have the deepest secondary that the team has had in Belichick’s tenure in New England.

After heating up with some impressive performances against Chicago, Denver and Indianapolis, Revis will probably draw the tough matchup against Calvin Johnson, who is the most trusted receiver for Matthew Stafford and the Lions offense.

If Revis can slow down the production of Johnson, the battle is already half-won against Detroit. But Johnson is no ordinary WR, even with blanket coverage, he’s able to go up and bring down a pass for a big gain or touchdown. This should be a great matchup to watch this week.

 

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

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