Five things to watch: Lions at Broncos

Detroit News
By Matt Schoch |  Special to The Detroit News

With the first win under their belts, the Detroit Lions are officially playing out the string.

Happy NFL Draft season.

With no top-flight quarterback available, and depending on your opinion on the top-flight edge rushers available, losing the No. 1 pick might not be all that bad.

Even still, the race for No. 1 is the most important development in these last five (!!) games for the 1-10-1 Lions

Houston and Jacksonville are in “hot pursuit” with 2-10 records. Some good news for Detroit is that the Texans and Jags play each other next week.

Can you imagine if they tie and the Lions stumble into another win, creating brain-breaking tiebreaker scenarios that aren’t worth the time figuring out?

Oh, mercy.

Good thing we’ve got this extra game this year to sort it all out.

Here are five things to watch as the Lions visit Denver (4:05 p.m., Fox/97.1):

1. Who are these guys?

The injury and illness list is fairly ridiculous for the Lions this week, topped off by a flu outbreak and a few COVID-19 designations for good measure. However it shakes out, several Lions will be pushed into roles for which they likely won’t be ready. Some will inevitably surprise at times, and we’ll see who steps up.

2. Growth at receiver?

Admittedly there was nowhere to go but up, but Detroit’s young wide receivers are making some strides, particularly Amon-Ra St. Brown. Now that the rookie has a signature game and a signature play, he’s not sneaking up on anyone. Denver’s cornerbacks Pat Surtain II and Ronald Darby are taking notes, and the Broncos’ safety duo of Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson are among the NFL’s best. St. Brown isn’t sneaking up on anyone now.

3. Jacobs’ field

With not much good to talk about, local media and weekly Lions TV announcers have latched on to rookie cornerback Jerry Jacobs. It’s for good reason, and we’ll do it here now too. In truth, the Lions’ cornerbacks have been better than you would’ve expected after the early injuries. If Jacobs can finish strong this season, there’s reason to believe the secondary can be average next season, a big win for this franchise.

4. What about Jared?

Hey, we’ve kind of written off Jared Goff in this space after his horrendous first half of the season. But the quarterback has shown some life lately, particularly in the winning drive last week. If Goff can finish strongly, the Lions could feel OK with him as the starting quarterback next season as a necessary financial move as the painful rebuild continues.

5. Five straight?

Folks betting on the Lions are cashing in this season. Since the bye week, the Lions have covered the spread in four straight games, as detailed here at PlayMichigan. Detroit is now 8-4 this season against the spread, a type of record usually reserved for playoff teams. It’s the fifth-best mark in the league, trailing only Green Bay, Arizona, Dallas and New England (a combined 36-13). So the Lions have that going for them.

Matt Schoch covers sports betting for

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