Allen Park — Mirror, mirror, on the the wall, who’s the best up-and-coming team in football?
That question could be answered on Sunday, as a Week 13 matchup between the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars at Ford Field in Detroit pit two 4-7 teams on a hot streak against one another.
“When you watch the games that they’ve played this year, they’ve certainly been in a number of them and had their opportunities, which is very similar to us and haven’t been able to close it out. And when things don’t go well it’s usually because of the takeaways or the turnovers that come about and that’s the same with us,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said.
“So, I just think in that regard, yeah we are very similar. I think it’s a dangerous team, I think we’re a dangerous team. And I kind of think it’s about who’s going to play cleaner ball and who wants it more. That’s what I think.”
The Jaguars and Lions picked one spot apart from each other at the top of the most recent draft. Both teams got a win early this season — the Jaguars got two in a row, actually, in Weeks 2 and 3 — before each going on a five-game losing streak that all but determined the fate of their respective seasons.
In coming to Detroit, the Jaguars are trying to do something that the Lions are all too familiar with: Snap an embarrassing streak that spans multiple years. Jacksonville has lost 19 straight games against NFC opponents.
They’ve both bounced back from an early season slump; prior to the Lions’ Thanksgiving Day loss to Buffalo, they’d won three in a row. The Jaguars, meanwhile, have won two out of their last three, including a win over Baltimore on Sunday that snapped an 0-162 record while trailing by seven or more in the final two minutes.
“They’re a good team, man. And they’re good on defense, they’re good on offense, they’re hungry like us, and they’re 4-7 just like us. They’re kind of in that same situation where you’re back’s against the wall, and they’re going to come play, as are we,” Lions quarterback Jared Goff said.
Speaking of Goff, here’s another parallel: Both teams are quarterbacked by former No. 1 picks — and both of those picks struggled at times last season before turning a corner in 2022. Although Goff said there’s not necessarily a “kinship” between former first-overall selections in general, there is a small bond between quarterbacks who go 1-1.
“Quarterback-wise, maybe. Trevor’s a guy that I know mutually, and he’s a great dude and has had a good year up to this point, and particularly as of late, he’s played really well and certainly will give our defense plenty to worry about,” Goff said.
The offenses run by Lawrence and Goff have produced similar results over the course of the season, although the Jaguars’ numbers have more to do with recent play. The Lions rank eighth in total offense (362.9) and the Jaguars are ninth (359.5). Detroit’s rushing offense is 10th (129.5) and Jacksonville’s is ninth (130.4). Detroit’s passing offense ranks 12th (233.5) and Jacksonville’s 13th (229.1). Both offenses have the same amount of giveaways (14).
The one area where Detroit has a clear advantage on the offensive side of things is red-zone efficiency, where the Lions rank second at 71.4% and Jacksonville is 19th (53.7%). But that Jaguars’ stat has also risen dramatically in recent weeks — Lawrence ranked second in passer rating (116.1) during November — as they’ve gone 7-for-11 over their last three games with wins over Baltimore and Las Vegas.
“I’ll tell you this, (Lawrence has) been doing a really good job of getting the ball out of his hands, understanding exactly where the coverage is. And they do a good job schematically of forcing you to show your hand for the most part,” Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said.
No matter what you thought about this game at the beginning of the season, it’s shaping up to be an important one — and a pretty entertaining matchup, too.
“This is a crucial game for us. We’ve got to be able to get back in the win column, do things right, do what we’ve done over the last three or four weeks here,” Campbell said. “And you’ve got to go earn a win again, doesn’t matter who that opponent is, because there again, they’re playing pretty good football.
“If we take a step back from where we’ve been, then our chances of winning go way down. So, I think everything has to be about this one. And we have to put our head down and go to work, and do things right, do all the little things right. And then, six weeks from now, you look up and the dust has cleared and let’s see what happens.”