Coming off their first win of the season, the Lions (1-10-1) face the Broncos (6-6) at Denver. Outbreaks of the flu and COVID have been the biggest factors in the preparations so far this week.
Still coach Dan Campbell looks to build on the success against the Vikings last week. He’s got a young bunch and he can see them developing on and off the field.
“Those young guys, they gravitate towards (Michael) Brockers in the D-line room and it pays off, you can see it. They’re more about business. They understand what to look for. They don’t even know what they’re looking at and just how you handle it. Same thing with (Alex) Anzalone and (Jalen) Reeves-Maybin with (Derrick) Barnes,’’ Campbell said. “It’s just kind of, ‘This is the way you do it. This is what you’re looking at. This is how you prepare.’ So yeah, I do. I think these guys are – I think they’re growing because we’ve got some good guys around them that are helping them grow.”
Denver, has lost two of its last three, including last Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs.
Five things to look for against the Broncos:
1. The Lions have to take proactive measures due to Denver’s altitude especially with so many players missing practice this week with the flu and COVID. Hydration and rest are key. Injuries and illness will play a huge role for the Lions. Running back D’Andre Swift (shoulder), LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin (shoulder) and OLB Julian Okwara (ankle) will not play. Tight end T..J. Hockenson (hand) is doubtful. Then a dozen are questionable — eight of them with the flu or COVID which has proven to be a battle this week.
2. The Lions and the NFL have strict COVID protocols so traveling will not change due to the spread this week. “The beauty of the way we travel anyway because of the COVID restrictions and everything, we’re pretty good about just the way we do it. I mean, everyone has to wear a mask, we all get tested as normal,’’ Campbell said. “I think if anything, what we may do is huddle a few of these guys up that are already feeling like crummy or coming back from it and just make sure they are kind of isolated if you will. But we’ll travel properly and be good.”
3. Campbell continues to improve on his offensive play calling. Jared Goff complimented after the win last week. The coach said he gets most of his ideas from watching tape. “You just watch and you’re like, ‘Oh man, this looks pretty good.’ And so, you scribble an idea down and most of the time, for me, I’ll have thoughts down, ‘Hey, I want to do this.’ But then, there will be a ton of stuff where I just have a general idea like, ‘Man, look at this. Look at what the corner does on this or the nickel.’’’ Then he brings the ideas to his coaching staff and see if they can make them work. “(New Orleans Saints Head Coach) Sean (Payton) was that way a little bit. He would have real good thoughts, but sometimes you just had to have some direction to it. You needed somebody else’s input to kind of make it the way you wanted it to be or what you thought would really work or that was sound,’’ Campbell said.
4. It is becoming obvious that Jared Goff is more willing to take shots downfield. There’s a reason for that. “I’ve said it, he’s a trust guy. If he trusts you, he will give you an opportunity. I think he’s starting to have more confidence in the people around him and I think you’re going to see more shots down the field because of that, and it’s intentional,’’ offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn said. “We want to push the ball down the field. It’s been taught in the classrooms of pushing the ball down the field. Dan (Campbell), (tight ends coach) Ben Johnson is working with the passing game more and the timing of it, getting the ball out of your hands and not worrying about turning the ball over. Just let it fly. All of those discussions we’ve had.”
5. Game-planning against the Broncos’ offense, led by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, presents challenges. “I’ll tell you what, when you look at the skill players of this offense, I want to say it is probably better than last week’s, which is crazy because they do have two backs (Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams) that can really cause problems. And then, you look at the stats of those two guys breaking more tackles than any back tandem in the League, that tells you one thing of how we’ve got to make sure we operate,’’ Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said. “Then you look at the big receivers that are creating plays down the field and then having (Jerry Jeudy) who came back. He’s a guy that can move the chains for them. He was a really big-time receiver at Alabama and came to this League. And, he’s taking over the slot for the most part. And, I told our guys already, ‘This is a challenge for us. This could be a better offense than we had last week, so we’ve got to make sure we’re up for it.’”
PREDICTION: Broncos 27, Lions 17