You may have a pretty good idea of the 2019 Los Angeles Chargers, but you may not know much about the 2019 Detroit Lions. The Lions began their season against the Arizona Cardinals and star rookie Kyler Murray. It is fair to say that the Lions and Cardinals are not expected to be playing meaningful football in December, but the two played an interesting game this past Sunday. In the game the Lions end up blowing an 18 point lead to eventually tie in overtime after an impressive comeback led by Murray. Despite their inability to close out a game while having a substantial lead, the Lions showed some bright spots that could potentially match up well against the Chargers.
The Lions’ defense played quick and determined football. The play calling was aggressive from the beginning. Clearly the game plan was to make Murray uncomfortable and force him to make mistakes. Philip Rivers should prepare for the same as most of the successful pass rush plays for the Lions was coming off the edge. The Lions will take full advantage of struggling tackles Trent Scott and Sam Tevi. Their defense relies on getting pressure because they can struggle keeping up in man coverage if the play takes too long. If the pass rush can force early throws, then their defensive backs can force incompletions. They forced Larry Fitzgerald to drop two tough passes. Rivers will have to have supreme pocket presence to buy more time, and elite route runner Keenan Allen should be open.
Head coach Matt Patricia made it very clear in the off season that the foundation of the offense would be to rely on a healthy running game rather than passing. The Chargers made it their off season mission to address the run defense this year. This week will be a true gauge of whether progress was made for both teams. The Chargers run defense was simply embarrassed in the second half of week one. Did they just give up that many yards because of off season rust? Is the Colts offensive line that great? Or did the Chargers not make the right moves this off season? The Lions have similar questions and would like to know if their running game improved, and their commitment to a running culture will answer those questions.
The toughest Lion is undoubtedly Matthew Stafford and his attitude is infectious and inspiring to his team. Stafford was under consistent pressure throughout the game, but when he had time he made good throws downfield to wide receiver Danny Amendola. For the most part Stafford did not play well under pressure, and almost threw a deadly interception late in overtime that would have put the Cardinals in field goal range. Bosa and Ingram should be able to disrupt the pocket, but if Stafford can put together a few scoring drives the whole team will rally behind.
Even though the Lions do not have a win, they have a style of football that can catch Chargers fans by surprise. They have a tough upcoming schedule with the Eagles, Chiefs, Packers, and Vikings as the following opponents and need to play their best football immediately if they want to have any chance at a playoff berth. The Lions thrive on dictating pace and momentum which is why they were able to have a lead on the Cardinals for most of the game. Expect them to give the Chargers their absolute best. Having said all that, I predict a Chargers win 27-19.