For decades, the Detroit Lions were a sure thing. Descriptions of the team were certain to range between “awful,” “garbage,” and “completely incompetent.” This year, however, those words are shifting into unfamiliar territory. Phrases like “hmmm,” “interesting,” and “are they actually good?” surround the Motown team.
With a win over the Kansas City Chiefs and MVP Patrick Mahomes on Sunday, the Lions would tighten their new grip as the top seed in the best division in football, the NFC North. Those words could quickly morph into “legit,” “contender,” and “so, yeah, they’re definitely good.”
How the Lions Can Pull Off the Upset
The Lions have actually been decent for the last couple of years, but one reason they haven’t been able to turn the corner entirely is their defense.
Especially the secondary. It’s been bad.
Not this year. The Lions currently rank second in the league in opposing quarterback completion rate at 54.8%. Yes, they are facing a quarterback in Mahomes who some are already calling the GOAT, but if they can slow him down, they’ll have a shot. The Chiefs will still be without their All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
Tom Brady vs. Patrick Mahomes this season:
Rating: Brady – 4th, Mahomes – 1st
Yards: Brady – 7th, Mahomes – 1st
TDs: Brady – 4th, Mahomes – 1st
Yards per attempt: Brady – 5th, Mahomes – 1st
— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) September 25, 2019
If the Chiefs have one significant weakness, it’s their rushing defense. Kansas City has allowed a league-high 6.2 yards per rush this year. They’ve also allowed the sixth-most rushing yards in the league.
While the Lions aren’t considered rushing stalwarts, they have an exciting young running back in Kerryon Johnson who could exploit the Chiefs defense. As a rookie last year, Johnson was on pace to eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark before getting injured. He’s been quiet to start the year, but this could be the bounce-back game he needs.
The Chiefs defense is currently allowing 6.2 yards per carry. That's by far the worst in the league.
Time for Kerryon Johnson to finally bounce back?
— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) September 25, 2019
Can't get tackled if you jump over everybody. Smart.
Kerryon Johnson TD for Detroit!
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) September 22, 2019
Why the Chiefs Might Destroy Detroit
However, a Detroit victory is far from a sure thing against that spectacular Kansas City offense. The Chiefs boast the second most yards-per-game and points-per-game behind the Baltimore Ravens. And they beat the Ravens last week.
They’re currently gaining a league-high 7.6 yards-per-play. Mahomes is a generational talent, and he’s surrounded by some of the speediest players in the league. Three of the team’s top wide receivers ran 40s under 4.5 seconds. Lions head coach Matt Patricia is well aware of this fact:
“This is one of the fastest teams I’ve seen. Obviously, their skill players – whether it’s the wide receivers, the backs, the tight ends, they all push the ball vertically very fast.”
To top it off, the Lions might be without All-Pro cornerback Darius Slay due to a hamstring injury.
Yes, the Lions play at home. Yes, this is the first time Mahomes will be playing indoors. But the Lions are going to need a lot of things to go right to pull off this upset. The thing is, they’re starting to show they’re capable of doing just that.
And if they do, they’ll earn a new description rarely used in connection with Lions squads: “elite.”