By Shawn Lealos
After starting the season with an 11-1 record, the Dallas Cowboys hit the toughest part of their season. In Week 14, they lost to the New York Giants, who had won six of seven heading into the game. They went on to win a hard-fought game in Week 15 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who had won five straight coming into the matchup. Now, the Cowboys play the Detroit Lions, who have won eight of their last 10 games. Here is a look at the Detroit Lions’ team profile heading into this important NFC contest.
Detroit Lions Season Record
The Detroit Lions sit alone in first place in the NFC North with a 9-5 record. While this is a game that the Dallas Cowboys need to win, this is a must-win for the Lions. The Green Bay Packers have won four straight games and are one back of the Lions. If the Packers win next week, Green Bay will have the tiebreaker heading into the final week of the season when they face off against each other in Detroit. Win or lose, the final game of the season could determine the NFC North, but if the Packers lose, Detroit could clinch the division with a win over Dallas.
Detroit Lions On Offense
The Detroit Lions are led on offense by Matthew Stafford at quarterback. While considered one of the league’s best quarterbacks, Stafford has also been accused of not playing up to his potential when it matters most. That has changed this season. Stafford broke the NFL record two weeks ago for comeback victories in a season when he led the Lions to a win over the Chicago Bears. The Lions have trailed in every single game this season in the fourth quarter, and Stafford brought them back to win nine of them.
Stafford has thrown for 3,720 yards with 22 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. His QBR rating is 95.8, better than names like Ben Roethlisberger, Andy Dalton and Russell Wilson. However, Stafford is wearing a glove on his throwing hand to protect an injured finger, and that could limit him against Dallas.
Golden Tate has emerged as the replacement for Calvin Johnson this season, with 79 receptions for 942 yards. The Lions have little in the way of a rushing attack, with Dwayne Washington likely to carry the load at the moment.
Detroit Lions On Defense
As mentioned, the Detroit Lions have trailed in every single game this season in the fourth quarter, forcing Matthew Stafford to come from behind. That blame partially rests on Detroit’s defense, which ranks 16th in the NFL in total defense. They are best at stopping the run, giving up only 98.9 yards per game—a good sign with Ezekiel Elliott coming to town. However, the Lions rank a low 27th in the NFL in takeaways.
Detroit Lions Players To Watch
Matthew Stafford – The one man who can beat the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football is Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford. He has led his team to nine comeback wins this year, and Dallas has to build a big lead or the Lions can take over the game late.
Kerry Hyder – Dak Prescott turned things around in the Cowboys’ win over the Buccaneers after two-straight bad games. Kerry Hyder leads the Lions in sacks and is the one man who can shake up the Cowboys’ rookie quarterback.
The Dallas Cowboys looked unbeatable four weeks ago. However, after Dak Prescott struggled to beat the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers and lost to the New York Giants, the Lions can certainly dethrone the Cowboys here. Detroit can win this game and Dallas needs to play strong offense and preventative defense if they want to pull out ahead this week.