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Washington at Lions
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, Ford Field, Detroit
Records: Washington 2-6, Lions 3-5
Line: Lions by 4.5
Matt Schoch breaks down the Lions’ Week 9 matchup against the Washington Football Team for The Detroit News:
LIONS’ PASSING ATTACK VS. WASHINGTON PASS DEFENSE
Though the Lions are favored, that doesn’t mean things will come easy for Matthew Stafford and the offense. The truth is, Washington’s defense is above average and actually elite in some regards. Strong defense is truly a hallmark of a Ron Rivera-coached team.
Washington leads the NFL in passing yards allowed per game at 185.6. They have a strong pass rush with rookie Chase Young and Montez Sweat, a second-year man who spent two seasons at Michigan State. Defensive back Kendall Fuller has four interceptions, allowing just 10 catches and zero interceptions.
The task got tougher Friday as Kenny Golladay was ruled out with a hip injury and tight end T.J. Hockenson is questionable with a toe ailment.
This is a big chance for Lions wide receivers Danny Amendola and Marvin Jones. The veterans have 25 catches apiece in half a season after both caught 62 apiece last year. The pair is combining for 6.3 catches per game played this year after racking up a collective 8.9 catches between them a year ago.
Washington players to watch
►Alex Smith, QB: You’ve heard all about it by now, but Smith just getting back on the field after his gruesome leg injury from two years ago is a true feat. This coming Wednesday will actually be two years to the day since the injury, with 17 surgeries in between then and now. Sunday will be Smith’s third appearance this season and first since Kyle Allen’s season-ending injury last week.
►Chase Young, DE: Lions fans who were pining for Young throughout last year’s college football season may want to avert their eyes. Since being picked one slot before Detroit at No. 2 in April’s NFL Draft, Young has looked every bit the part of franchise players for Ron Rivera’s defense. The 3.5 sacks don’t jump off the page, but Ohio State’s Young is compiling pressures and drawing the attention of blockers at nice rates for a rookie.
►Terry McLaurin, WR: “Scary Terry” was among the Ohio State wide receivers that have terry-fied Michigan fans in recent years. Now, McLaurin is in year 2 of a quietly strong NFL career in one of the NFL’s forgotten locales. McLaurin is the second-most utilized wide receiver in the NFL behind Green Bay’s Davante Adams. McLaurin gets 54.2% of all targets, receptions, yards and touchdowns for Washington, according to TheLines.com.
Facts and figures
►Smith was picked first overall by San Francisco in 2005, four years before Detroit spent the top pick on Matthew Stafford in 2009. Smith has played in 11 more career regular-season games but Stafford has thrown 984 more passes for 618 more completions and 8,722 more yards. Alas, Smith has won 22 more games than Stafford, 94-72, and leads in playoff wins, 2-0.
Subscription: Detroit News predictions: Lions vs. Washington
►The Lions are 30th league-wide in rushing yards allowed per game at 148.1. Washington does not have Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara or Aaron Jones, but rookie Antonio Gibson has impressed. The third-round pick out of Memphis has 391 yards rushing, 22 receptions and five touchdowns for Washington. His season included a 128-yard rushing output in a win against Dallas last month.
►The Washington offense is bad and this could be a chance for the Lions’ defense to get it together. Washington enters at 26th in the NFL with 214.1 passing yards per game and 29th in rushing with 92.3 yards per effort. Then again, that was the case last year too and Washington didn’t need to do much. That afternoon, Dwayne Haskins led his team to a 19-16 win without scoring an offensive touchdown in a game that featured seven field goals.
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.