After their ugly loss in Jacksonville in Week 2, the New England Patriots will hit the road again this Sunday for their first primetime game of the 2018 season.
Their opponent: old buddy Matt Patricia and the Detroit Lions.
Here are five quick things to know about the Lions entering Week 3:
1. Patricia’s head-coaching career is off to a rough start
The former Patriots defensive coordinator began his Lions tenure by getting blown out by the New York Jets at home on “Monday Night Football,” with his team committing five turnovers and surrendering 31 unanswered points in a 48-17 loss. Things improved some in Week 2, with the Lions rallying for two fourth-quarter touchdowns against Jimmy Garoppolo’s San Francisco 49ers, but they still lost 30-27 to fall to 0-2 in the perilous NFC North. The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the bearded rocket scientist, either, as the Lions’ next six games include matchups with the Patriots, Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings.
2. The Lions’ offense hasn’t performed to its potential
Matthew Stafford stunk up the joint with four interceptions in Week 1 but rebounded nicely Sunday, completing 34 of 53 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns with no picks. Still, folks in Detroit have harped on the problems he’s had throwing deep — a strength of the quarterback’s game in 2017. Stafford is just 3-for-11 this season on passes that traveled 20-plus yards in the air, according to Pro Football Focus, and he ranks 25th among QBs with a yards-per-attempt average of 6.39. And it’s not that Stafford lacks weapons. The Lions boast a talented receiving corps in Marvin Jones, Kenny Golladay and Golden Tate, and running backs Theo Riddick and Kerryon Johnson both are pass-catching threats.
3. LeGarrette Blount has done little so far
The former Patriots running back started each of Detroit’s first two games, but he’s carried the ball just 12 times for 35 yards. That’s a mere 2.9 yards per carry. Meanwhile, Johnson, a 2018 second-round draft pick, is averaging 4.6 yards per carry on 13 attempts. Small sample size, but that’s a significant difference. Blount also was unable to finish either game, leaving the first with an injury and being ejected from the second after coming onto the field to level a Niners defender who hit Stafford late.
4. Darius Slay is banged up
Detroit’s All-Pro cornerback left Sunday’s loss to the 49ers with a concussion, putting his status for this weekend’s contest in doubt. Slay tied for the NFL lead with eight interceptions last season, and not having to face him would be a boon for a scuffling Patriots receiving corps that just added Josh Gordon.
If Slay can’t go, Nevin Lawson and Teez Tabor likely would be the Lions’ starting corners against New England. Detroit also could be without top pass rusher Ziggy Ansah, who missed the Niners game with a shoulder injury.
5. Detroit’s run defense has been a mess
The Lions have allowed 51 more rushing yards than any other team in the league through two games, surrendering 169 against the Jets and 190 against the 49ers. Opposing backs are averaging 5.6 yards per carry against them and have ripped off two 60-plus yard touchdowns: a 62-yarder by New York’s Isaiah Crowell and a 66-yarder by San Francisco’s Matt Brieda. This bodes well for a Patriots team that has struggled to run the ball effectively this season.
For more grades, advanced statistics and more at Pro Football Focus, go to ProFootballFocus.com.