The Dallas Cowboys face a tough one again this week as they welcome the Detroit Lions to AT&T Stadium. The Cowboys are currently 5.5-point favorites in the game according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
To get a little knowledge of what is going on with the Lions, we turn to our sister site, Pride of Detroit.
Blogging The Boys: The Lions fanbase must be overjoyed with what has happened this year. For a franchise that has struggled so much, how does this moment, and the future, feel for Lions’ fans?
Pride of Detroit: It’s a little all over the board because it’s been so long since this organization has had a season like this–30 years since the Lions last won their division. There are some fans who feel like the Lions are playing with “house money” so to speak because winning the division was the goal for so many fans. But I think there are even more fans who still need to see at least a playoff win for this season to be a success, and that isn’t a moving of the goal posts on their part: that’s been an expectation since the beginning of training camp.
Winning the division has been a long time coming, and it’s something a lot of Lions fans hadn’t seen in their lifetime (including me), but with this group, there isn’t a concern about complacency with Dan Campbell at the helm. He recognizes there’s still more work to do and winning the division was nothing more than a guarantee they’d host a home playoff game.
BTB: Dan Campbell has brought a lot of swagger and confidence to the Lions, but what has he done tactically and with the roster construction that has the Lions performing so well?
POD: On the field, the biggest difference you can see with Dan Campbell steering the ship is how his mindset permeates. The team plays to the whistle. On fourth down, the team is ready to play like it’s the only down that matters. No game is truly over until the clock hits zero, and around the league, you can see a lot of teams that tuck it in early–the Detroit Lions are absolutely not one of those teams, and that’s because everyone in the organization has bought into Campbell’s football mindset. Playing for the guy next to you, the comradery, the accountability you hold yourself to because you know the guys in the room are holding themselves to the same standard, it all boils down to culture; it’s the culture this coaching staff has built for the players to take ownership of in order for it to become sustainable.
BTB: What does the Lions defense do well, and where are they vulnerable?
POD: The Lions stop the run like few other teams in the NFL, and it’s been that way going back to last season. They rank fourth in yards per carry allowed (3.7) and run defense DVOA (-17.3%) in 2023, so it’s not a matter of circumstance or teams they’re playing or whatever else: the Detroit Lions do not let teams push them around on the ground.
However, teams have little reason to stick to their running game because it’s much easier to move the ball through the air against Detroit. The Lions rank t-25th in adjusted yards gained per pass attempt (7.3) and passing touchdowns allowed (24), so there’s room for Dallas to cut it loose early and often through the air if they want to take advantage of a secondary still finding its identity.
The Lions secondary was flipped like a home on HGTV over last offseason, but the problem with quick renovations is they don’t always hold up, and that’s been the case in Detroit. Emmanuel Moseley, originally pegged to play opposite of another free agent addition in Cam Sutton, played just a couple of snaps before he suffered another ACL injury to end his season. C.J. Gardner-Johnson is back and practicing, but he hasn’t seen the field since Week 2, but they’ve sorely missed his swagger and playmaking ability. They’ve relied on practice squad call-ups like Khalil Dorsey and Kindle Vildor to play the No. 2 cornerback spot in recent weeks, so that will be a spot the Cowboys can test on Saturday night.
BTB: There was a point when Jared Goff’s career seemed to be in trouble, but he has been resurrected. Has he changed things up in his last few years, or did the Lions just tap into things he already did very well?
POD: It’s really a case of the latter, relying on a running game to take advantage of play-action pass concepts, but it’s all supported by an absolute unit in front of him. With their starting offensive line intact–and it seems it will be that way on Saturday given the update on left tackle Taylor Decker–the Lions are 6-0, averaging over 35 points per game and 400 yards of offense.
On top of that, the Lions have an embarrassment of riches at the skill positions. Amon-Ra St. Brown should be widely recognized as a top-10 wide receiver, no doubt about it. Sam LaPorta is smashing records for a rookie tight end and making a strong case to be an All Pro candidate–he leads tight ends in touchdowns (9), he’s 7th in yards per route run (1.69), and he’s first in contested catch rate (80%) of any tight end with at least six targets. If the backfield of David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs isn’t the best tandem in the league, tell me who is this season. They’re both on pace to finish with over 1,000 yards rushing, Gibbs leads the league in yards per carry (5.7) while Montgomery isn’t far behind at t-8th (4.7), and they have a combined 20 rushing touchdowns between the two of them.
In other words, Goff is in about as perfect a situation as you can create for a quarterback on offense, and when he’s protecting the football, he helps make the Lions one of the best offenses in the NFL.
BTB: DraftKings Sportsbook has the Lions as six-point underdogs. Is that a fair line? How do you think the game plays out?
POD: Well, they were favored by six points, and now that line has dipped to 5.5, so it’ll be interesting to see where it settles before kickoff.
For a Dallas team that’s played lights out at home this year, and considering they’re the team that needs this game more than Detroit now that the Lions have wrapped up the division, it’s a line that makes a lot of sense to me. It’s going to be a good ol’ shootout, if I had to guess, but if the Lions can jump out to an early lead, it’s going to be on the Cowboys to bottle up Detroit’s ground game.
Thanks for the knowledge, Pride Of Detroit.