Both teams are coming off of disappointing losses to a divisional foe. Washington was unable to complete the comeback, as they fell to the New York Giants, 23-20. Meanwhile, their opponent was beaten down by the Minnesota Vikings, 34-20.
Washington currently sits at 2-6, which is good enough for second place in the NFC East. However, they could easily be sitting in first with a 4-4 record. Washington has been their own biggest enemy this season. Too often, they have fallen behind early and dug themselves into a deep, insurmountable hole. The NFC East is historically weak this year. Every win from here on out is huge if Washington has its sights set on the division crown.
The Detroit Lions have failed miserably in the Matt Patricia era, going 12-27-1. The players look uninspired and the team lacks a true identity. It is imperative that Washington leaves Detroit with a win.
Keys to Victory
Give Gibson the Lion’s Share
SIX. Thats how many carries rookie back Antonio Gibson was given last week against the Giants. Albeit, Washington did fall behind big early, that is simply not enough to establish any type of ground game. Washington’s rushing offense ranks 31st in the league, which is only ahead of the Houston Texans. That is not a knock on Gibson’s running ability, but more so on offensive coordinator Scott Turner’s baffling inability to commit to the run. Gibson has seen more than 13 carries only once this year. In that game, he carried the ball 20 times rushing for 128 yards and a score, contributing to a big 25-3 win over the Dallas Cowboys.
The Detroit Lions have the 29th-worst run defense in the league and are surrendering an average of 4.8 YPC. They have been gashed all year by opposing running backs, most recently by Dalvin Cook, who ran for a whopping 206 yards. Gibson needs to see at least around 17+ carries this game. Rivera needs to force the issue early if Turner continues to ignore it. Establishing the run early will complement Smith’s style of play and limit the opportunities for careless turnovers. Speaking of QB1…
Last week’s game against the Giants saw the return of Alex Smith behind center. Unfortunately, it came at the expense of Kyle Allen, who left the game late in the first with a fractured ankle. Nonetheless, it’s next man up in the NFL, as you never know when you may be needed.
Over the past decade, Smith has notoriously been known as being one of the game’s elite game managers behind the helm. However, Smith looked anything but that in his return. He resembled that of a gunslinger, and with that style of play, came the careless turnovers. Three to be exact, two of which came on the final two possessions, with Washington only needing a field goal to send the game to overtime. To put that in comparison, you’d have to go back to 2014 to the last time he had thrown three interceptions in a game, something he has only done six times out of 168 career games.
Fans of the Burgundy & Gold won’t like hearing this, but Alex Smith needs to revert back to the game manager that we all know and love. I know, I know…
But, who cares? It is exactly what is needed for Washington to start putting together some wins. Quite frankly, if it weren’t for Smith’s erratic play, Washington would have won against the Giants last week. Even with three interceptions, they fell only three points short. That should tell you everything you need to know.
Smith should get the benefit of the doubt for now, as he may have been trying too hard to prove himself. It remains to be seen if he can turn back the clock. However, if he can, the Washington faithful should be very pleased.
Matthew Stafford is a respected veteran who is in his 12th season with the Detroit Lions. Throughout most of his career, he has been known to sling it around while putting up some pretty gaudy numbers. However, this season, he seems to be struggling a bit. In the last two weeks alone, he has four turnovers and has a total of eight on the season.
This week, he will be without his star WR Kenny Golladay, and could also potentially be without his first-round TE T.J. Hockenson. If both are unable to go, that will thrust Marvin Jones into the No. 1 spot.
Jones is a very solid WR, but by no means is he a star. Kendall Fuller should be the one who matches up against him, and that should be favorable for the Burgundy & Gold. Fuller leads the team with four interceptions and has been the anchor in Washington’s No. 1-rated pass defense in the league. According to PFF, he has allowed a league-low 18.9% passer rating when targeted.
The combination of Washington’s lockdown secondary and the Lions being short-handed on weapons should allow Washington’s ferocious five to feast up front. Washington has 27 sacks on the year, which is fourth-most in the NFL. Montez Sweat leads the way with five sacks, followed closely by veteran Ryan Kerrigan coming in with 4.5 sacks.
The Lions have allowed a sack on 8.76% of drop-backs this year, which ranks 23rd in the league. That number currently has Stafford on pace to be put on his back a career-high 48 times this season. From end-to-end, Washington sports one of the deadliest front lines in the league. Stafford should keep an ice pack on standby on the sidelines.
Washington has yet to establish the run this year. They will finally do so against the league’s third-worst rushing defense.
The Lions’ passing game has struggled this year without Golladay on the field. Washington’s lockdown secondary should cause Stafford to hold onto the ball longer than he’d like. This will allow Washington’s ferocious five to feast. The likes of Sweat, Kerrigan, and Young will contribute to five-plus sacks on the day.
Alex Smith will resemble more of his older self than what we saw last week. By the way, did I mention that he is 5-0 against the Lions in his career? He’ll make it 6-0 this Sunday.
The Washington Football Team will come away with a huge win over Detroit, 29-24.
Prediction: Washington, 29-24.