Patriots Vs. Lions Preview: What To Watch For On ‘Sunday Night Football’

Teacher will battle pupil Sunday night as Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots visit Matt Patricia’s Detroit Lions in Week 3 of the NFL season.

THE DETAILS
Time: Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET
Location: Ford Field, Detroit

THE ODDS
The Patriots are pegged at 6 1/2-point favorites over the Lions, who sit at 0-2 after opening the season with losses to the New York Jets at home and San Francisco 49ers on the road. New England defeated the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium in Week 1 before losing to the Jaguars amid record-high temperatures in Jacksonville.

INJURY REPORT
The Patriots could be without two defensive starters, as defensive end Trey Flowers and safety Patrick Chung both are listed as doubtful as they recover from concussions suffered last Sunday.

Five Patriots players are listed as questionable, including newly acquired wide receiver Josh Gordon (hamstring). The others are offensive tackle Marcus Cannon (calf), cornerbacks Eric Rowe (groin) and Keion Crossen (hamstring) and safety Nate Ebner (hip).

Patriots tight end Jacob Hollister, who missed the season opener with a hamstring injury, has been ruled out with a chest ailment. Tight end Rob Gronkowski was removed from the injury report Friday after being limited in practice Thursday due to an ankle injury.

The Lions’ injury report features several prominent names. Cornerback Darius Slay (concussion), defensive end Ziggy Ansah (shoulder) and wide receiver Marvin Jones (ankle) all are listed as questionable.

Slay, a first-team All-Pro last season, returned to practice in a limited capacity Friday after sitting out the previous two days.

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Josh Gordon, Patriots wide receiver
Though he was limited in practice this week, the former Cleveland Browns star is expected to make his Patriots debut Sunday. Learning New England’s complex offense isn’t an easy process for new wideouts, so Gordon likely will play just limited snaps, but he has the talent to make an impact against a Detroit defense that could be without its star corner.

Sony Michel, Patriots running back
Michel had his moments against the Jaguars but largely was held in check in his first game at the NFL level (10 carries, 34 yards; one catch, 7 yards). He should improve on that stat line against the Lions, who have boasted the league’s worst run defense through two games. Of note: Michel touched the ball or was targeted on 12 of his 13 offensive snaps against Jacksonville.

Jason McCourty, Patriots cornerback/safety
McCourty replaced starting cornerback Eric Rowe early in last week’s game after Rowe allowed two long completions to Jaguars wide receiver Keelan Cole. Even if Rowe regains his starter status this week, McCourty could factor into the Patriots’ defensive game plan as a backup safety with Chung likely sidelined.

Cyrus Jones, Patriots cornerback
Jones, the Patriots’ top draft pick in 2016, returned to New England this week after being signed off the Baltimore Ravens’ practice squad. He’ll likely handle punt-returning duties and could see playing time on defense after taking reps to safety this week. This will be Jones first regular-season game since Christmas Eve 2016.

Lions wide receivers
Detroit’s receiving corps is one of the NFL’s best. Jones, Kenny Golladay and Golden Tate are the only trio of wide receiver teammates to each surpass 50 receiving yards in Weeks 1 and 2, and Golladay and Tate both rank among the top 15 in the league in receiving yards this season. Quarterback Matthew Stafford certainly does not lack weapons, as running backs Theo Riddick and Kerryon Johnson are pass-catching threats, as well.

BY THE NUMBERS
11-4: Bill Belichick’s record against his former Patriots assistants (Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Josh McDaniels and Bill O’Brien), including playoffs. This will be his first matchup against Patricia, who spent the last six seasons as New England’s defensive coordinator before being hired as head coach of the Lions this past spring.

Thumbnail photo via Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports Images

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