Nolan Bianchi of The Detroit News breaks down the Lions’ Week 13 matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Lions vs. Jaguars
▶ Kickoff: 1 p.m., Sunday, Ford Field, Detroit
▶ TV/radio: FOX/97.1 The Ticket
▶ Line: Lions +1.5
▶ Records: Lions 4-7, Jaguars 4-7
▶ Series: Lions lead 4-3 (Last game: Oct. 18, 2020 — Lions 34, (at) Jacksonville 16)
LIONS PASSING OFFENSE VS. JAGUARS PASSING DEFENSE
After a midseason slump, the Lions’ offense is cooking again. And with the possibility of Jameson Williams being added to a passing attack that ranks 12th — and just got back top offseason addition DJ Chark, who scored a touchdown on Thanksgiving — Detroit is poised to do some damage this Sunday against Jacksonsville’s 25th-ranked passing defense. The Lions still might make their money on the ground this week — the Jaguars are giving up the 15th-most rush yards per game — but likely will look to separate themselves through explosive plays in the pass game.
Jaguars to watch
▶ QB Trevor Lawrence: Toward the tail end of his second NFL season, Lawrence is finally starting to put it all together. He led a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter against the Ravens on Sunday, marking the first time in 163 tries that a Jacksonville team has won a game in which it trailed by seven-plus points in the final two minutes. Besides that: Few quarterbacks in the league had a better month of November, as Lawrence ranked second in passer rating (116.1) and first in completion percentage (76.9%).
▶ RB Travis Etienne: Etienne was limited in practice earlier in the week after suffering a foot injury in Jacksonville’s Week 12 win over the Ravens. But if he can go Sunday, expect him to be a serious pain in the Lions’ you-know-what. The Lions have had better luck slowing down running backs as of late, but part of that is because they’ve put such an emphasis on it. They’ll have to do that again this weekend, or Etienne will be a problem.
▶ LB Arden Key: The Lions pursued Key to bolster their defensive line ahead of the 2022 season, but didn’t get him. Now they have to gameplan for him. Key is a factor in every phase of Jacksonville’s defense. While he only has two sacks on the season, he’s a guy that will demand attention from Jared Goff and Co. every time he’s on the field this Sunday.
Facts and figures
▶ Former Lions receiver Marvin Jones Jr. hasn’t quite matched his Jacksonville production with the success he had in Detroit — 36 touchdowns over five seasons, a total which ranks third in Lions franchise history — but he’s proven to be a steady veteran for the up-and-coming Jags. That includes some timely playmaking, like his acrobatic game-winning touchdown catch last week.
▶ Despite Jacksonville’s lacking pass defense, its secondary has done the best it can. Jaguars safeties Rayshawn Jenkins and Andre Cisco are actually tied for the league lead in defended passes this season, with nine each. As a team, Jacksonville leads the league in passes defensed (64).
▶ Jones and Christian Kirk were already thought of as quality receivers, but Jacksonville has expanded its receiving depth even more with the emergence of seventh-year pro Zay Jones, who led Week 12 with a career-high 145 receiving yards.