When Chargers have the ball
The difficulty the Chargers have experienced in trying to sustain a ground attack is unlikely to be solved against Detroit, which features the NFL’s second-stingiest run defense. The Lions have yet to see any opposing back rush for more than 64 yards in a game. So, once again, matters figure to come down to Justin Herbert and a group of targets that’s missing injured wide receivers Mike Williams (knee, out for the season) and Joshua Palmer (knee, on the injured reserve list). Herbert had the fewest passing yards (136) of any game in his career and was sacked five times Monday against the New York Jets. The Lions have given up fewer total yards than the Jets and are second only to New York in the percentage of time they force opposing quarterbacks to hurry throws. “Games like that can be frustrating,” Herbert said of the defensive struggle against the Jets, who gave up only one touchdown “drive” to the Chargers, and that possession covered just 50 yards. This game could unfold in a similar manner, putting an emphasis on patience, quicker passes and not turning over the football. This could be a good week for a defensive touchdown, something the Chargers haven’t yet produced.
When Lions have the ball
Detroit is the definition of balanced, ranking sixth in the NFL in passing and rushing. The only other team among the top six in both categories is Miami, the Dolphins possessing an offense that is like a track meet crossed with a circus. “The last two weeks we had a couple good wins,” Chargers edge rusher Joey Bosa said. “But ... we’ll have a true understanding where we sit after this game.” The Chargers are coming off consecutive victories during which they limited the opposition to 17 first downs and fewer than 225 net yards passing. But those came against Chicago’s Tyson Bagent and New York’s Zach Wilson. Detroit’s Jared Goff is a step up in pretty much every regard. The former Ram is in the top 10 in completion percentage, yards per game and yards per attempt. The Chargers have struggled against top wide receivers, and the Lions’ Amon-Ra St. Brown is fifth in the league in yards per game. Another issue for the Chargers has been explosive plays, and only six receivers have more 20-plus-yard catches than Detroit’s Josh Reynolds, another former Ram.
When they kick
Since joining the Chargers a year ago, Cameron Dicker is 44 for 44 on extra points, though his final one Monday banked through off the left upright. He’s 34 for 36 on field goals and has made a pair of 55-yarders this season. Detroit’s Riley Patterson kicked a 36-yarder on the final play in January that lifted Jacksonville to a 31-30 AFC wild-card playoff victory over the Chargers. He was traded to the Lions in May.
By the numbers
Jeff Miller's prediction
Over the last two weeks, I picked the Chargers to lose by two points and one point in games they won by 17 points and 21 points. So, to summarize, I was 0-2 and missed by a combined 41 points. I was thinking of having my cat pick this week’s game, but she’s more of a basketball fan. Anyway, for the season, I’m 4-4 straight up and 3-5 against the spread and trending, obviously, in the wrong direction. LIONS 24, CHARGERS 23
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.