For a game pitting two teams with 4-7 records against one another, there’s a surprising amount of intrigue and importance in Sunday’s matchup between the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars. The Lions adding rookie wideout Jameson Williams into the mix only builds the excitement.
As kickoff rapidly approaches, here are a few last-minute thoughts on the game and a final prediction.
–The debut of Jameson Williams provides a major spark for the offense. That spark might not ignite the stat sheet for Williams himself, however. I expect “Jamo” to play 18-20 snaps and get a handful of targets. This is much more about building chemistry with QB Jared Goff and learning how much Williams’ world-class speed impacts the opposing coverage. Don’t be underwhelmed when Williams “only” catches three passes for 41 yards.
–This is quietly a big week for LT Taylor Decker. He’s primarily facing Josh Allen, one of the better and toolsier pass rushers the veteran will see all season. Decker hasn’t quite been as great in 2022 as he was the last couple of seasons. He needs to be big today, because RT Penei Sewell has his hands full on the other side with No. 1 overall pick, Travon Walker.
–The recent run of opponents the Lions have faced nicely prepares them for the Jacksonville offense. Trevor Lawrence is not a huge running threat like Justin Fields, Daniel Jones or Josh Allen, but he can tuck and run. Lawrence can also operate effectively outside the pocket and beyond the original structure, and he’s getting better at it by the week. The containment rush principles should serve the Lions well on Sunday.
–The Jaguars have earned their NFL-worst PFF tackling grade this season (the Lions are 12th) and it’s the kind of game where Jamaal Williams and Amon-Ra St. Brown can do a ton of damage with the ball in their hands. This is a game where Jared Goff’s leaning on YAC (yards after catch) should be very beneficial.
–The turnover battle will be critical. Both teams have surged in the win column lately because Detroit and Jacksonville have each been much better there lately; Detroit is plus-5 while the Jaguars are plus-3 in their last four games. The better team here gains a massive advantage.
–Doug Pederson is a very good, savvy in-game head coach for the Jaguars. He’ll test Dan Campbell’s clock management and decision-making, two areas where Campbell has shown improvement lately but also room for considerably more of it.
This is the healthiest Lions team anyone could reasonably expect at this point in the season. The good health and the emotional lift from the return of DE Romeo Okwara and the debut of Jameson Williams should be huge for the sidelines and the locker room. Other than the Jaguars using the slot WR heavily, the Lions match up nicely in the Xs and Os against the visitors from Duval.
Lions 33, Jaguars 28