The Detroit Lions are still looking for their first taste of sweet, sweet kneecap this season, and will welcome the Cincinnati Bengals to Ford Field on Sunday. This is the first meeting between the two teams since Christmas Eve 2017 when the Bengals came out on top 26-17 in Cincy. If the Lions were to win on Sunday, it’d be their first victory over the Bengals since 1992, according to The Football Database. Let’s look at their place in the standings, the injury reports, and what exactly each team needs to do in order to pull out the win. And I will give a game prediction at the end of the piece. Let’s get started.
Detroit Lions: 0-5, 4th in NFC North (last game: L @ Vikings)
Cincinnati Bengals: 3-2, T-2nd in AFC North (last game: OT L vs. Packers)
Detroit Lions: LB Trey Flowers (knee, questionable), TE TJ Hockenson (knee, questionable), RB D’Andre Swift (groin, questionable), RB Jamaal Williams (hip/illness, questionable)
Cincinnati Bengals: G D’Ante Smith (knee, out), WR Mike Thomas (ankle, questionable), G Jackson Carman (not injury related, questionable), HB Joe Mixon (ankle, questionable)
Lions Gameplan: Execute and Execute Consistently
It seems like the easiest thing in the world in discussing how this Lions team can win any game. And yet, Detroit has had serious issues with executing their game plan. A lot of this is because of their injury issues. Besides losing defensive back Jeff Okudah during their Week 1 loss to San Francisco, the Lions have also lost center Frank Ragnow (toe), wide receiver Quintez Cephus (shoulder), and pass rusher Romeo Okwara (Achilles) for the season. Starting kick returner Corey Ballentine is on injured reserve as well.
The Lions are going into this game with a lot of injury issues, but they cannot allow that to hinder them. They have to execute on both sides of the ball if they want to have a chance of winning this game. They’ve shown that they can put together scoring drives this season. This leads me to my next point: they cannot be wildly inconsistent in this game. The Lions haven’t played a good game of football this season.
They’ve had great stretches in a single quarter or half, but they’ve yet to put it all together for 60 full minutes. The closest they’ve gotten was last week against Minnesota. The defense played well enough to keep them in it, but the offense didn’t really show until the dying embers of the game. Even when the offense finally showed up, the defense disappeared, and the Lions lost once again on a last-second field goal. If the Lions can consistently execute their plays on both sides of the ball, they’ll give themselves the best chance to win.
The one player who absolutely needs to be better is quarterback Jared Goff. Yes, he has a makeshift wide receiver core and an offensive line missing key pieces. However, he isn’t guilt-free. He needs to trust himself to throw the ball further than five yards. If he sees an open receiver deep down the field, he needs to trust his arm and his receiver to make the play.
Bengals Gameplan: Don’t Underestimate The Lions
I might underestimate the Lions in my own right, which is weird as a Lions fan, but this is the one mistake I think the Bengals could make that would be costly. The Lions are not a good football team, that much is established. However, the Bengals have been in a similar situation this season. They faced the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are also winless, two weeks ago at home. And it was a game in which the Bengals barely escaped with a win.
It’s not like the Jags played super well. Signal caller Trevor Lawrence barely threw over 200 yards. Wideout Laviska Shenault Jr had 99 yards receiving, but 52 of them came on one play. The Jags’ defense had one sack and two tackles for a loss and didn’t force a single turnover. Despite all of this, Jacksonville led 14-0 at the half and took a 21-14 lead in the fourth quarter. The Bengals needed a last-second kick from rookie kicker Evan McPherson to snatch victory away from Urban Meyer.
This isn’t to say the Bengals are a poor team because they aren’t. I’m saying that the Bengals played down to the Jaguars, despite the result. They cannot afford to do the same to this Lions team. This might be my bias as a Lions fan speaking, but I believe the Lions are better than the Jaguars. They certainly have more fight in them than Jacksonville does. Cincinnati should not give the Lions a chance in this game as they did with the Jags.
For Cincinnati, they should look to the Joe Burrow-to-Ja’Marr Chase connection all game long. Justin Jefferson burned the Lions last week, and there’s no reason to believe that the 5th overall pick in April’s draft shouldn’t do the same. This connection has worked all season, so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
I apologize, fellow Lions fans, but I cannot see them winning their first game this Sunday. While Cincinnati played down to Jacksonville, they went toe to toe with the Green Bay Packers. If it wasn’t for the most bizarre kicking sequence in recent NFL history, the Bengals would be 4-1. And I just don’t see the Lions putting it all together to beat this team. However, the Lions will fight like they always do, so I don’t believe they’ll be completely blown out.
Prediction: Bengals def. Lions 24-14
Photo Credit: Quinn Harris/USA Today Sports