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NFL: OCT 02 Seahawks at Lions

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Patriots vs. Lions preview: Get to know New England’s Week 5 opponent

New England will host the NFL’s No. 1 offense this week — and the No. 32 defense.

Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Coming off a hard-fought game against one NFC North team, the New England Patriots will play host to another in Week 5: the Detroit Lions will visit Gillette Stadium for a 1 p.m. ET kickoff on Sunday.

The game against the Lions will present a good opportunity for the Patriots to get back on track after starting their season with three losses in four games. Detroit, after all, sits in the same 1-3 boat entering Week 5. The team of head coach Dan Campbell has sure made things quite interesting so far this year, though.

A look at the numbers shows that the Lions’ season so far is a tale of two units on the opposite end of the success spectrum:

  • Record: 1-3 (4th NFC North)
  • Offense: 35.0 points/game (1st), 436.8 yards/game (1st), 0.111 EPA/play (8th)
  • Defense: 35.3 points/game (32nd), 444.8 yards/game (32nd), 0.209 EPA/play (32nd)
  • Turnover differential: -1 (t-22nd)

The Lions are on track to accomplish something not often seen in the NFL. If they keep up their pace, they would become the first team since the 2000 St. Louis Rams to lead the league in scoring on offense while also ranking dead-last in defensive scoring. So far, Detroit is doing just that — and more: the units are also polar opposites in yards per game and considerably apart in expected points added (EPA) as well.

With all that said, let’s now jump right to the Lions’ active roster to get to know each of the players currently with the Patriots’ Week 5 opponent.

(Note: The 53-man roster is up-to-date as of Wednesday 7 a.m. ET)


Jared Goff, Nate Sudfeld

Former first overall draft pick Jared Goff is in the middle of one of the best seasons of his career. Now in his second year in Detroit, he has completed 92 of 151 pass attempts (60.9%) for 1,126 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. Goff may not be playing at an All-Pro level, but he has shown some improvement compared to his previous season.

Nate Sudfeld offers experienced depth behind him, but the Lions will only turn his way in case of emergency.

Offensive backfield

D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams, Craig Reynolds, Justin Jackson

The Lions have a dynamic one-two punch at the running back position, with D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams ranking second and third on the team in yards from scrimmage so far this season: Swift has gained 308 despite missing last week’s game due to ankle and shoulder issues, while Williams has put up 306 so far. The duo has also combined to score eight touchdowns, with Williams’ six leading the team.

Craig Reynolds and Justin Jackson are backups and have seen most of their action on special teams so far. Reynolds did see increased opportunities with Swift out last week, though.

Wide receivers

Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, D.J. Chark, Kalif Raymond, Quintez Cephus

The Lions’ wide receiver group has been bitten by the injury bug recently, with Amon-Ra St. Brown and D.J. Chark both missing last week’s game against Seattle due to ankle injuries. If healthy, they are a starter-level members of the team’s offense alongside Josh Reynolds. St. Brown in particular has been productive, leading the team with 23 catches through his three games.

His status and that of Chark are TBD for this week’s game, though. The same is true for first-round rookie Jameson Williams, who started the year on the NFI list after suffering a torn ACL during his final college season. Williams is eligible to return this week.

Tight ends

T.J. Hockenson, Brock Wright, James Mitchell

Lions TE1 T.J. Hockenson has put up some impressive numbers so far this season. The former first-round selection is ranked second on the team with 18 catches, while also leading the squad with 261 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

Behind him Brock Wright has seen most of his action as a blocker. Rookie James Mitchell is a depth and special teams option first and foremost.

Offensive tackles

Taylor Decker, Penei Sewell, Matt Nelson

The Lions’ offensive tackle position has seen some solid production out of a pair of former first-round draft picks. Taylor Decker, the 16th overall pick in 2016, continues to hold down the fort at left tackle; Penei Sewell, who was added seventh overall last year, is the starter on the right end of the line. The pair has given up just two sacks all year.

Matt Nelson is the third tackle on the roster, and effectively the sixth lineman: he has seen some regular action as an extra blocker up front, aligning both on the left and the right side.

Interior offensive line

Frank Ragnow, Jonah Jackson, Evan Brown, Dan Skipper, Logan Stenberg, Kayode Awosika

The Lions’ interior offensive line has had some bad injury luck this season. Jonah Jackson, who started the year at left guard, has missed some time with a finger injury. Projected right-side starter Halapoulivaati Vaitai remains on injured reserve, but he is eligible to return this week.

In Jackson’s and Vaitai’s absence, former Patriots practice squadder Dan Skipper as well as Evan Brown have taken over the starting positions. They are flanking a fixture in the Lions’ lineup, standout center Frank Ragnow.

Interior defensive line

Michael Brockers, Alim McNeill, Isaiah Buggs, Benito Jones, Demetrius Taylor

The Lions’ interior D-line is led by former first-round draft pick Michael Brockers, who joined the team alongside Jared Goff from the Rams last year, and second-year man Alim McNeill. Isaiah Buggs, Benito Jones and Demetrius Taylor offer rotational depth behind them, but the group might see some reinforcements as early as this week.

Former second-round draft pick Levi Onwuzurike, who started the year on injured reserve due to a back issue, is eligible to come off the list again. It remains to be seen, whether Detroit will add him to the mix.

Defensive edge

Aidan Hutchinson, Charles Harris, Julian Okwara, Austin Bryant, John Cominsky

Wonder who is leading the Lions in sacks? That would be second overall draft pick Aidan Hutchinson with three quarterback takedowns. Hutchinson has been a highly productive player for Detroit this season, forming a solid starting duo with veteran Charles Harris.

The group might be getting some help this week. Two edge defenders — Romeo Okwara and second-round rookie Josh Paschal — are now eligible to return to the 53-man team off the reserve/PUP list.

Off-the-ball linebackers

Alex Anzalone, Malcolm Rodriguez, Chris Board, Derrick Barnes, Josh Woods, Anthony Pittman

The Lions’ off-the-ball linebacker group is led by veteran Alex Anzalone and sixth-round draft pick Malcolm Rodriguez. The rookie Rodriguez in particular has raised some eyebrows, having forced a fumble already this year and leading the team with 33 tackles.

Among the depth options, Chris Board stands out. The 27-year-old, who came over from Baltimore this offseason, is one of the better special teamers in the league. Additionally, he is the No. 3 off-ball linebacker, playing roughly one fourth of defensive snaps on top of his kicking game output.


Jeff Okudah, Amani Oruwariye, Mike Hughes, Will Harris, Bobby Price, Chase Lucas

After missing virtually all of his 2021 sophomore season with a torn Achilles, former first-round draft pick Jeff Okudah is back to full strength — and back to serving as the No. 1 cornerback Detroit drafted him to be. Together with Amani Oruwariye and nickelback Mike Hughes, he forms the starter trio at cornerback.

Not listed above is Jerry Jacobs, who started nine games for the Lions as a rookie last season. The second-year man is now eligible to come off the PUP list.


DeShon Elliott, Kerby Joseph, JuJu Hughes, Ifeatu Melinfonwu

Despite being a rookie, Kerby Joseph has already carved out a starting spot on the Detroit safety depth chart. He and free agency acquisition DeShon Elliott are the one-two punch at the position. The group also features a familiar name in a depth role: Ifeatu Melinfonwu, a third-round pick a year ago, is the brother of former Patriots cornerback Obi Melinfonwu.


Austin Seibert, Jack Fox, Scott Daly

The Lions’ kicking situation is worth keeping a close eye on this week. Austin Seibert, after all, missed last week’s game with a right groin injury. His replacement, Dominik Eberle, struggled and has since been released.

For as uncertain as the place kicker spot is, the Lions don’t have any worries elsewhere. Jack Fox is one of the NFL’s elite punters, while Scott Daly has served as the team’s long snapper since last year.

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