The Detroit Lions should beat the Philadelphia Eagles. Here’s how

Detroit Free Press

We have arrived.

After two straight games against the better-than-we-thought Cincinnati Bengals and the as-good-as-advertised Los Angeles Rams, the 0-7 Detroit Lions catch a breather this week that kicks off a string of six winnable games.

It starts with the 2-5 Philadelphia Eagles at Ford Field on Sunday. If the Lions listen carefully to my advice — which I’m sure they always do — they stand a good chance at winning their first game and heading into the bye on a high note.

Get D’Andre Swift going

The second-year running back had his best game of the season last week, when he had 144 yards from scrimmage, including eight catches. He’s on pace for 1,585 yards and he’s the weapon the Lions imagined he would be, even as he continues to work through a sore groin.

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He has been the key to opening up the offense and offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn has proved effective at utilizing Swift and getting him in space, where he’s most dangerous. That bodes well for helping establish the Lions’ run game this week, especially since the Eagles have a terrible run defense that ranks 29th in the NFL entering this week, allowing 133 yards per game.

Coach Dan Campbell admitted it’s a bit of a tricky balance between using Swift and overusing him. With the bye week up next, it’s time to take off the restrictor plate and let Swift go full throttle from start to finish.

Stop Jalen Hurts

The Lions have done a good job limiting the effectiveness of dual-threat quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson and Justin Fields this season. They need to do the same against Hurts, who leads the Eagles in rushing and has scored five touchdowns carrying the ball.

Everything on offense goes through Hurts, who happens to be struggling. That has led to a brewing quarterback controversy after the recent trade of Joe Flacco led to the promotion of Gardner Minshew as the main backup. Hurts will play this game with a new weight on his shoulders.

The one thing the Eagles do well on offense is convert in the red zone, where they’re scoring touchdowns 70.83% of the time, good for sixth best in the NFL after Sunday. The Lions play a bend-don’t-break style of defense that needs to tighten up in the red zone, where they’re ranked last, allowing a 84.21% conversion rate.

Trick or treat

Who wasn’t impressed with the way the Lions went for broke and successfully executed three trick plays that helped put the Rams on their heels last week?

The Lions need to do more of that this week and for the rest of the season, as long as it’s a calculated risk worth taking. Instead of wild abandon, let’s call it controlled abandon. I recently asked Campbell whether having a reputation for running trick plays can be an advantage.

“I think it could be,” he said. “I think it could give you an advantage a little bit. You don’t know what’s coming next. I think there is something to that. You don’t know what we’re going to do.

“We’ll do whatever we have to do to try to win a game, I know that, as long as if it makes sense, if it’s calculated. It’s a calculated risk if you will.”

MORE FROM MONARREZ: Lions, with nothing to lose, can win ugly against Eagles

There’s one extra point I’d like to make, that’s not really related to the team. It’s about the fans. Frankly, they’ve been a disappointment this season at Ford Field with weak attendance and a less-than-vocal presence, especially on defensive third downs.

I know the refrain. The Lions have given fans such a lousy product for so many years, what else should anyone expect? Well, this Lions regime and this roster of players has little to do with the franchise’s history and team is playing beyond its talent level. That deserves fans’ respect and support, especially since the Lions won’t play another home game until Thanksgiving.

So come on out to the game on Halloween. Dress up in your scariest costume (no Matt Millen masks; still too scary), get loud and save me the full-size candy bars.

Contact Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez@freepress.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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