Saquon Barkley will have a season-high rushing total against Detroit’s 28th-ranked rush defense.
John Schmeelk: Fiction – As ineffective as the Lions rush defense has been at times, their pass defense also has been problematic. They are ranked 30th against the pass, giving up 290 yards per game. Going against a rookie quarterback in Daniel Jones, I would wager Lions head coach Matt Patricia will do all he can to slow down Saquon Barkley and make Daniel Jones beat his defense. Bill Belichick, whom Patricia coached for in New England, always takes away the opponent’s top weapon, which in this case is Barkley. I would be surprised if he allows Barkley to run the Giants to victory on Sunday.
Dan Salomone: Fact – The season-high stands at 120, which he had in Week 1 at Dallas. I think he tops it this week at Ford Field, another indoor road stadium. Barkley admitted he reverted to some “college habits” last week in his first game back from the ankle injury. He was stopped behind the line of scrimmage more than he liked, but Barkley still felt good cutting. Detroit, meanwhile, has given up 4.94 yards per rush, fifth most in the NFL.
Lance Medow: Fiction – Saquon Barkley’s season-high is 120 rushing yards against the Cowboys in Week 1. Although the Lions have struggled to stop the run, just one opposing running back has collected over 120 rushing yards this season against Detroit and that was last Sunday when the Vikings’ Dalvin Cook had 142. I can see Barkley surpassing the century mark in this game, but I think he’ll fall just short of a season high. The Lions have been vocal this week that they need to improve their run defense and, although that may not mean much, I think they’re going to focus on containing Barkley this week.
New linebacker Deone Bucannon will make a major impact on Sunday’s game.
Schmeelk: Fiction – The system may be one that Bucannon is familiar with, but he still has to learn to play with the players on this roster. Bucannon had a relatively brief stay in Tampa this season before being released three weeks ago. He will always be a better coverage linebacker, weighing only 211 pounds. We will see if he can recapture some magic with James Bettcher. It is also worth noting that David Mayo has played well next to Alec Ogletree, and I doubt the coaches are anxious to take him off the field.
Salomone: Fact – Pat Shurmur confirmed after Friday’s practice that the “money backer” will not only be active for Sunday, but he will also be “involved.” Bucannon’s familiarity – and success – with James Bettcher’s system is well-documented. He will get up and running quickly for his new team. The Giants need all the playmakers they can get on defense, which was general manager Dave Gettleman’s primary offseason objective. In Bucannon’s case, he just happened to come in the middle of the year.
Medow: Fiction – Even though Deone Bucannon has familiarity with the scheme and was coached by James Bettcher from 2014-17 when they were together in Arizona, it remains to be seen how much he’ll play Sunday against the Lions. That’s the big wild card. When his former Cardinals teammate Markus Golden addressed the media this week, he said Bucannon caught on rather quickly when he reunited with Bettcher but they have since added new things that weren’t in the Arizona defense. While Bucannon will suit up and provide some versatility for the defense, he many need at least another week until he’s caught up on the defense.
Wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. is the Lions’ most dangerous offensive skill player.
Schmeelk: Fiction – Jones may have slightly better numbers than fellow wide receiver Kenny Golladay, but I think the latter is a more dangerous wide receiver. Golladay averages 2.6 more yards per catch and one more yard in depth of target. He also has 24 more yards per after catch. He is their big play guy that has real explosive ability. Don’t sleep on wide receiver Marvin Hall, who has only four catches but 152 receiving yards. He is a burner and a true downfield threat.
Salomone: Fact – Jones caught all four of Matthew Stafford’s touchdown passes last week against a stout Vikings defense. I repeat: he caught four touchdowns against the Vikings. All of them came in the red zone, and two were inside the five-yard line. The 6-foot-2, 199-pound receiver leads the team in catches, yards, touchdowns and catches of 20+ yards with eight. The last statistic should have everyone’s attention heading into Sunday.
Medow: Fiction – Marvin Jones leads the Lions in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, but not too far behind in all three of those categories is fellow wideout Kenny Golladay, who can stretch the field. The third-year player is developing into a consistent weapon and has made several big plays, including a 66-yard catch against the Packers in Week 6. He also has posted two 100-yard games. I think Golladay poses a bigger threat than Jones and I also wouldn’t overlook rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson, who has already shown flashes and can wreak havoc in the middle of the field.
The NFC North is the toughest division in the NFL right now.
Schmeelk: Fact – The NFC North does not have a soft landing spot. Aaron Rodgers is playing great under first-year Packers coach Matt LaFleur and they have pass rushers who can get home on defense. The Vikings rank 6th in the NFL in both offense and defense. The Bears, despite their struggles at quarterback, still have one of the top defenses in the league. The Lions have an excellent quarterback in Matthew Stafford, and their defense is probably better than its ranking due to the quality of opponents they have played. The NFC West might be able to compete top to bottom, but I’ll take the North.
Salomone: Fact – It’s tough because it’s balanced. A division that claims three top-10 defenses also boasts quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Kirk Cousins. The NFC North is already 6-1 against the NFC East, including a 3-0 record for the Vikings.
Medow: Fiction – I’m going fiction sweep this week. I think the NFC North is one of the deepest divisions in the NFL, but right now, the toughest is the NFC West, the only division in which all four teams are .500 or better. The Niners are one of just two undefeated teams and one of the most balanced teams given how well the defense is playing. The Seahawks are always a tough opponent and that hasn’t changed this season. The Rams are the defending NFC champs and, although they lost three in a row during one stretch, are still a dangerous team. The Cardinals are starting to play their best football with a rookie head coach and rookie quarterback. And Arizona just got back one of the best corners in football in Patrick Peterson. There are no layups in the NFC West.
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