This Sunday will be another opportunity for the Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7) to prove not only to themselves but the entire league, that they're not going away after winning as an underdog against the Baltimore Ravens last week.
This week, the team will head up to Detroit to take on the Lions (4-7) at Ford Field, another team that found itself in a bind this week before going on a bit of a hot streak. The Lions lost a close matchup to the Buffalo Bills on Thanksgiving but were on a three-game winning streak prior to that.
The game will be broadcast on FOX and WJXL 1010AM/92.5 FM on radio.
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Situationally, the teams are in a similar boat.
Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence said earlier this week that though he doesn't know the ins and outs of the Lions' locker room, he can see just how hard they are working and how much they believe in each other, just like the Jaguars' locker room.
"From the outside looking in, what I’ve seen, honestly, it seems like they’re doing it the right way. It seems like they play with a lot of belief in each other. Like I said, you can see just on the tape the way they fly around, they’re having fun," said Lawrence.
"They’re playing really good right now. I don’t really know what’s going on in the building, but it looks like whatever they’re doing is working, so they’ve got something good going.”
Something's got to give: Jaguars, Lions could break streaks with win
Both the Jaguars and the Lions enter Sunday's game with some not-so-flattering losing streaks. For Jacksonville, the franchise hasn't defeated an NFC opponent in 19 straight contests, all losses. Their last victory against the NFC came in 2018 against the New York Giants.
For the Lions, they haven't defeated an AFC opponent in 11 straight contests. Their last victory over an out-of-conference opponent came in 2020 against Jacksonville, defeating the Jaguars 34-16. They tied against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2021, but have lost 10 other matchups against AFC opponents.
Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson was asked about his team's losing streak earlier this week and said he doesn't think much of it.
"I don’t get caught up in a lot of that. Different team, different times, but those are real numbers, real stats," Pederson said. "Those are things I don’t talk to the team a whole lot about. We’re just focused on the Lions and preparing to be ready to go.”
Old school: Jaguars get set to face tough Lions offense
There aren't many offenses like the one the Lions have this season. With a strong focus on their rushing attack, the Lions deploy what could be thought of as an old-school offense, one that utilizes its physicality in the run game to take control of games, while throwing to win through the air.
The challenge this week will be similar to the one Jacksonville faced against the Ravens last week, except with a bit more passing involved. It all starts with the team's great offensive line, Pederson said on Friday.
“Two good running backs, the quarterback is a veteran guy, they just want to run the football. It’s a challenge each week. Our defense obviously needs to be ready to go, be on point, try to slow them down the best they can," he continued.
"It kind of runs through that aspect of their offense, and of course, Jared (QB Jared Goff) is playing well. They’ve won three of their last four here. They’re a little bit on a roll.”
The Lions deploy a three-headed rushing attack with Jamaal Williams as the primary back, DeAndre Swift as more of a scat-back with power and Justin Jackson as the reliever.
The Lions rank 10th in rushing with 129.5 rushing yards per game this season. Williams, who has become the team's lead tailback, leads the NFL in touchdowns with 13. All of his touchdowns this season have come on the ground.
The Lions' offensive line is led by former seventh-overall pick Penei Sewell, who is ranked as the 12th-best offensive lineman this year in terms of run blocking with a grade of 85.7.
Still, the Lions are a formidable offense in general, too, ranking eighth in points per game this season with 25 PPG.
Lawrence, Jaguars passing offense will have opportunities
Though the Lions' offense has performed well this season, the defense has been completely the opposite.
Thus far this year, the Lions' defense ranks near the bottom in all categories and dead-last in some, including points per game allowed (28.2), yards per game allowed (414.5), third-down conversions allowed (50.75 percent) and touchdowns allowed per game (4.2).
Sunday will be another opportunity for Lawrence to build on one of his best performances as a pro. He completed 29 out of 37 passes for 321 yards and three touchdowns in the team's victory, including a game-winning drive, touchdown and two-point conversion toss.
"I thought he played really well," Jaguars offensive coordinator Press Taylor said of Lawrence's performance. "He made some really big throws, took a step in the right direction as I mentioned after the game. Great for his confidence, a win like that and the way we won, I think can just build more confidence within the team.”
Sunday will be another opportunity for Lawrence to get going.
Thus far this season, Lawrence has completed 66.5 percent of his passes for 2,655 yards, 16 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He's posted six games with a passer rating over 100 and a completion percentage over 70 percent. He hasn't thrown an interception since Week 8 against the Denver Broncos.
Chad Muma to get second-straight start
The Jaguars made a move that surprised many that weren't paying attention last week. The tema benched first-round pick linebacker Devin Lloyd in favor of fellow rookie LB Chad Muma, who was selected two rounds later.
Muma started the contest against the Ravens and played all 72 snaps, while Lloyd played a season-low 27 defensive snaps. That isn't expected to change this week after Pederson stated that the third-round pick did enough to earn another opportunity.
"I think moving forward, I think Chad did enough in that game to give him another opportunity. Still making sure that Devin’s ready and prepared and still having the rotation available if need be," said Pederson.
Muma totaled nine tackles (four solos) in his debut on Sunday and graded out as the team's second-best tackler according to Pro Football Focus with a grade of 86.1.
Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell said he felt that Muma did some good things on Sunday, too.
“I thought Chad did a good job. He went out there and played with a lot of energy, made some plays for us. I think he calmed everything down at times," said Caldwell. "He helped Foye (LB Foye Oluokun) out a bunch, so he did a good job. Going forward, just continue to get better and find his niche in this defense.”
Oluokun totaled a season-high 18 tackles on Sunday, something Caldwell said normally would indicate a poor performance, but it wasn't the case for the veteran LB.
"He did a great job of being who he is. He works hard all the time. He runs to the ball at practice. He’s a guy that, he has a feel to find the ball. He did a great job."
Travis Etienne expected to play, listed as questionable
On Friday, Pederson indicated that Etienne was going to be "good to go," to play this week, later adding that he was optimistic that he could suit up. Ultimately, all signs point to Etienne playing against the Lions after suffering a foot sprain against the Ravens last week.
The injury occurred to Etienne's surgically-repaired left foot, but it was unrelated to the Lisfranc injury he suffered as a rookie which forced him to miss all of last season.
If Etienne does suit up, don't expect his workload to be lessened. Pederson also indicated that newly acquired RB Darrell Henderson likely wouldn't suit up against the Lions if Etienne is ready to go.
“If Travis is going, Darrell will probably be down, be inactive for this game as he continues to grow and learn the offense," said Pederson.
Etienne has rushed for 728 yards and four touchdowns this season.
Demetrius Harvey is the Jacksonville Jaguars reporter for the Florida Times-Union. You can follow him on Twitter at @Demetrius82.
This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Preview: Jacksonville Jaguars at Detroit Lions Sunday at 1 p.m.