Well, the good news: The Lions got the ball to D’Andre Swift 16 times last week on 13 carries and three receptions, and he turned it into 97 yards.
The bad news? Kerryon Johnson and his stablemate Adrian Peterson – who we’re pretty sure voted for William McKinley in the 1896 presidential election – combined for 18 touches and 108 yards. And while the numbers are similar overall, the talent level is not, and the Lions should be getting Swift more involved.
Oh, and by the way, the other bit of bad news? They lost to the Vikings, and with it, pretty much saw their 2020 season get blown to smithereens. At this point, the playoffs seem like a cruel joke, with FanDuel, the MotorCity Casino sports betting partner, pinning the Lions total win number at 6.5, with -145 on the over. And a 7-9 record ain’t gonna get ‘er done this year in the NFC. Although, if you’re feeling frisky, the Lions are +10000 to win the NFC championship over at BetMGM, which is partnered with the MGM Grand Detroit.
This week, the 3-5 Lions squad gets a home game against the equally-frustrating Washington Football Team (we’re going to go with “WFT” for the rest of this preview), which has a record of 2-6 and are somehow still in the thick of the NFC East race, as they’re only 1.5 games behind the Eagles at 3-4-1. We say “equally frustrating” because the WFT have their own version of Swift in Antonio Gibson. Both are rookie running backs who can turn the game upside down, and both are not being used enough by their respective coaching staffs.
Sportsbooks waiting, watching
When looking at this game, the sportsbooks seem equally mystified, holding off posting the odds all week. Clearly, the bookmakers were waiting on a bit of news, namely the status of Lions wideout Kenny Golladay, who missed last week’s game after injuring his hip in a Week 8 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
Wednesday afternoon, Golladay was spotted on the practice field, but he wasn’t practicing. Just hanging out, it appeared.
Nevertheless, DraftKings finally posted a spread, installing the Lions as 4-point favorites. FanDuel and BetMGM continued holding off, still not having a line up as late as Thursday morning. FOX Bet, partnered with Odawa Casino Resort and Sportsbook, was the only book to come fully dressed for the party, putting the line at -4.5, with the Lions moneyline favorites at -213 and the over/under set at 46.5.
With or without Golladay, the Lions offensive line is going to have its hands full against the WFT pass rush. The Lions are allowing Matt Stafford to get sacked at the 9th highest rate in the league, and the WFT is second in the league in sack percentage at 10.47%, just a tick below the Steelers at 10.67%. And while the WFT isn’t getting the accolades the Steel Curtain is getting, it doesn’t make them any less fierce a force on the field.
So a leaky offensive line … a ridiculous pass rush … hey, how about some screen passes to the team’s best playmaker in D’Andre Swift? Or is that too obvious?
Last week Swift’s 16 touches were the second most he got in a game this year (he got 17 in a Lions 34-16 win over the Jaguars in Week 6) and the team’s braintrust should be figuring out ways to get the ball to Swift even more this week against the WFT. Not just because of the pass rush situation, but also because the WFT team is giving up 4.3 yards per carry to opposing running backs. And while this is good for 13th in the league, it’s been done against the likes of Boston Scott, Kenyon Drake, Wayne Gallman, Ezekiel Elliot behind a patchwork offensive line, and DeVonta Freeman. And when the team faced betting running attacks? They got beat up. The Browns ran for 158 yards, the Ravens 144 yards, and the Rams 129 yards, and outside of the Browns, none of these teams have a back with the talent of Swift. Simply put: If the Lions want to win this game, they should plan on doing it through Swift in every way imaginable.
Another reason why Swift is key: The WFT, along with its pass rush, is allowing the fewest passing yards per game in the NFL at 185.6. If Golladay is forced to sit again, look for a lot of dink and dunk from Matthew Stafford to his safety valves, wideout Danny Amendola and tight end T.J. Hockenson. That 185.6 number will probably drop a few yards.
WFT with some questionable choices
On the defensive side of the ball, the Lions should be able to keep the WFT in check, if only because the WFT insists on keeping themselves in check. While the Lions are giving up an abysmal 4.8 yards per carry, the question is will the WFT coaches allow Antonio Gibson to have more than 13 carries, which has only happened once, when he got 20 in their thrashing of the Cowboys? Gibson’s health, however, may come into play, as he also missed the Wednesday practice with a shoulder injury. If he sits, J.D. McKissic might end up touching the ball 20 times.
Additionally, the WFT will be trotting out Alex Smith at quarterback, who has made it back from his life-threatening leg injury, but – while a serviceable-to-pretty good quarterback during his prime – he certainly doesn’t have the arm to take advantage of the downfield speed of Terry McLaurin. Last week against the Giants, Smith and McLaurin did manage to hook up for 115 yards, and McLaurin has proven to be quarterback-proof during his short career, but if the Lions can keep McLaurin in front of them, that tandem shouldn’t be a game-breaker.
All told, these are two underachieving teams with two coaching staffs who are seemingly hesitant to pull the plugs on their most explosive players. If that trend continues, the best bet might just be the under.