Detroit Lions game vs. Seattle Seahawks: Dave Birkett’s scouting report, prediction

Detroit Free Press

Seattle Seahawks (1-2) at Detroit Lions (1-2)

The coaches: Detroit Lions — Dan Campbell (9-22-1 overall, 4-15-1 with Lions); Seahawks — Pete Carroll (153-106-1 overall, 120-75-1 with Seahawks).

Last game: Lions lost to Minnesota Vikings, 28-24. Seahawks lost to Atlanta Falcons, 27-23.

Last meeting: Jan. 2, 2022: Seahawks won, 51-29.

Key matchups

Lions DE Charles Harris vs. Seahawks LT Charles Cross: Rookie Aidan Hutchinson gets more attention, but Harris is the Lions’ best defender and the team will be counting on him to jumpstart its pass rush after a quiet day last week. Harris has one sack (for a safety) and four quarterback hits on the season, according to Pro Football Reference, but he has set up at least two more sacks with his rush and is a force in the run game.

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Cross allowed five pressures last week against the Falcons and gave up two sacks in a Week 1 win over the Denver Broncos, according to Pro Football Focus. The 2022 first-round pick has proven vulnerable to good pass rushers early in his career. Look for the Lions to try and create one-on-one matchups against him and fellow Seahawks rookie tackle Abraham Lucas.

Lions TE T.J. Hockenson vs. Seahawks CB Coby Bryant: Hockenson has had a quiet start to the season with 10 catches for 82 yards in three games, but he could re-emerge as Jared Goff’s preferred target Sunday with Amon-Ra St. Brown and D’Andre Swift out with injuries. Hockenson and Goff haven’t quite been on the same page this season. Hockenson has two drops, and Goff’s first interception came on a pass intended for Hockenson, but the tight end still has been targeted more than every Lions receiver not named St. Brown.

The Seahawks have struggled covering tight ends this season. Both the Falcons’ Kyle Pitts and the Broncos’ Albert Okwuegbunam posted season-high catches and yards against Seattle, so they’ll need Bryant, safety Josh Jones, cornerback Mike Jackson and whoever else they deploy on Hockenson to limit his looks.

Scouting report

Lions run offense vs. Seahawks run defense

The Lions will be without leading rusher D’Andre Swift, perhaps until after the bye, because of ankle and shoulder injuries, but that should not stunt their running game. The Lions rank third in the NFL in rushing after three weeks (170.3 yards per game) and have proven they can run the ball no matter who is in their backfield or playing on the offensive line.

Jamaal Williams should play the feature back role Sunday. He’s coming off a 20-carry, 87-yard performance against the Vikings, and while he lacks Swift’s big-play ability, he’s the type of power back who gets stronger with volume. Craig Reynolds and Justin Jackson should see time in reserve roles. The Lions could start their fourth offensive line combination in as many games with Kayode Awosika at right guard, but tackles Penei Sewell and Taylor Decker are playing at a high level.

The Seahawks rank 30th against the run (157 yards allowed per game) and had no answers for Atlanta’s Cordarrelle Patterson (17 carries, 141 yards) last week. Big plays have been an issue, as Seattle has allowed five runs of 18 or more yards the past two weeks, but the Seahawks have two upper-tier defenders in their front seven in undersized defensive tackle Poona Ford and inside linebacker Jordyn Brooks. Edge: Lions

Lions pass offense vs. Seahawks pass defense

While the Lions are built to cope with injuries to their rushing attack, they may have a harder time making do in the passing game. St. Brown, their leading receiver, is out with a sprained ankle, and Hockenson, Josh Reynolds and DJ Chark are among those expected to play through injuries.

Kalif Raymond and Quintez Cephus could see bigger roles at receiver this week, and maybe this is Hockenson’s breakout game at tight end. But the Lions will be without their top two playmakers, which would force offensive coordinator Ben Johnson to scale back his playbook.

The Seahawks have been incrementally better against the pass than the run so far this season, but they allow a league-worst 8.4 yards per pass play. Ex-Lions safety Quandre Diggs is the leader of the back end, but Seattle already lost Jamal Adams for the season and plays two rookie defensive backs heavy minutes in cornerback Tariq Woolen and slot corner Coby Bryant. Edge: Lions

Seahawks run offense vs. Lions run defense

The Seahawks have won with a strong defense and power rushing attack for years, but they’ve taken hits in both areas this season. Seattle ranks 29th in rushing at 74.7 yards per game, though the Seahawks have two capable backs in Rashaad Penny and former Michigan State star Kenneth Walker III.

Penny remains the lead horse for now. He has battled injuries throughout his career, but he’s a downhill runner who has averaged an impressive 5.5 yards per carry for his career. Walker has played sparingly through three games after missing time this summer with hernia surgery. The Seahawks have split him wide on occasion and used him on jet sweeps, but he’s best between the tackles.

The Lions have had a mixed showing against the run this year. They struggled to stop mobile Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts and Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook had 96 yards rushing on 17 carries, but the Lions’ biggest issues against the run have come on the perimeter. Derrick Barnes could rejoin the linebacker rotation this week, but the Lions will miss safety Tracy Walker. Edge: Lions

Seahawks pass offense vs. Lions pass defense

Russell Wilson is gone, but the Seahawks have gotten steady play from his replacement, Geno Smith. A second-round pick by the New York Jets in 2013, Smith leads the NFL in completion percentage (77.5%) and has thrown into tight windows on just 7.8% of his passes, the second-lowest total in the league.

The Seahawks don’t ask Smith to throw downfield much, in part because of their mediocre offensive line that starts two rookies at tackle. But they do have a dangerous play-action game if they can get the run going. DK Metcalf is averaging a career-low 8.4 yards reception this season and apparently does not think much of Jeff Okudah’s coverage ability, while Tyler Lockett is still looking for his first touchdown of the year.

Okudah has played well this season, with or without safety help over the top of the receivers he’s covered, while his partner at cornerback, Amani Oruwariye is coming off a six-penalty game. The Lions need more out of their pass rush, and should be able to generate pressure on Smith, at home, against Seattle’s young offensive line. Edge: Seahawks

Special teams

The Lions are generally good on special teams, but they had a rough day in just about every aspect of the kicking game last week and could have a new kicker handling field goals Sunday. Dominik Eberle, who is expected to be promoted from the practice squad with Austin Seibert managing a groin injury, has played in one career game and is 2-for-3 on field goals in his career, with a long of 51 yards. Jack Fox remains one of the best punters in the NFL, and the Lions have been solid in kick coverage all season.

The Seahawks rank in the top 10 in both kick and punt coverage, and have two specialists, in kicker Jason Myers and punter Michael Dickson, who were selected to the Pro Bowl in the not-too-distant past. Myers is a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals this year, though he hasn’t tried a kick longer than 49 yards. Dickson is netting 46.7 yards per punt. The Seahawks don’t have an explosive return unit, but they don’t make many mistakes, either. Edge: Seahawks

Prediction

Even with injuries to most of their key skill position players, the Lions are a better team than the Seahawks. They have one of the highest-scoring offenses in the NFL and should be able to control this game with their offensive line, while the Seahawks have struggled to score points (15.7 a game) the past three weeks. Seattle’s recipe for winning is to run the ball and control the clock on offense and force Jared Goff to make mistakes. Goff has avoided turnover problems so far this season, though, and the Lions are a different team defensively at Ford Field. They might not be able to generate the big plays that have carried them the first three weeks, but they should find the end zone enough to even their record against one of the worst teams in the NFL. Pick: Lions 27, Seahawks 20.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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