Jeff Zrebiec, The Athletic
The Lions have the NFL’s third-ranked offense. They’ve won four straight games, each by at least two touchdowns. They’ve worn teams down on the ground and created big plays through the air.
The Ravens have the league’s second-ranked defense. They’re taking down the quarterback as often as any team in football, and they’ve been at their best in the red zone. Yet, despite their impressive ranking in just about every notable category, there still seem to be questions about how good the Ravens truly are defensively.
That’s because Baltimore hasn’t faced an offense ranked in the top 10 in DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) or points per game. It has opposed C.J. Stroud in his NFL regular-season debut, a banged-up Joe Burrow and Kenny Pickett, backups Gardner Minshew and Dorian Thompson-Robinson, and a struggling Ryan Tannehill.
On Sunday, the Ravens will be taking a major step up in class. The Lions have at least 350 total yards of offense in every game this year. They’ve not been just a 2023 revelation either. They’ve scored 20 or more points in 15 straight games dating back to last season.
Offensively, the Lions rank third overall in yards per game (383.7), fourth in passing yards (259.5) and points per game (28.0), fifth in yards per play (5.76), eighth in rushing yards per game (124.2) and ninth on third downs (42.2 percent). They have 32 plays of 20 yards or more, the second most in the league, and yet, they are third in the NFL in time of possession (33:41).
Ryan Mink, BaltimoreRavens.com
“Jared Goff makes them go. I think he’s smart, smart quarterback,” Clowney said. “Their run game has been very, very dominating so far. … It’s going to come down to us up front like I said – dominate the line of scrimmage and get after the quarterback.”
Clowney said he thinks the game will come down to the Ravens’ defensive line versus the Lions’ offensive line, which is loaded with three homegrown first-round picks. They’re giving Goff, a quarterback that doesn’t take a whole lot of risks, time to make his reads and deliver on time.
“That guy is playing good ball right now,” linebacker Roquan Smith said of Goff. “The picture is clear for him. He makes a lot of good throws in the intermediate game, as well as, he takes his shots when he needs them. They have the team playing to his strengths, so [my] hat’s off to him.”
“We’ve played some tough guys already. Are they the toughest we’ll face? We’ll see on Sunday,” cornerback Brandon Stephens said. “I don’t want to give too much praise before we play them already, but we respect those guys. It should be a good game.”
Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun
The Lions rank fifth in DVOA against the pass, having allowed opponents just 5.4 yards per attempt. Edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson, the second pick in the 2022 draft, is the headliner with 4 1/2 sacks and eight quarterback hits, but the Lions have good players all over, from cornerbacks Cameron Sutton and Brian Branch to inside linebacker Alex Anzalone to defensive tackle Alim McNeill. They’re tied for fourth in pressure rate despite blitzing on just 20% of dropbacks, according to Pro-Football-Reference. Only Seattle quarterback Geno Smith really hurt them and that was, not coincidentally, the Lions’ only loss.
Quarterback Jared Goff is off to a terrific start in coordinator Ben Johnson’s offense, completing 69.5% of his passes and averaging 8 yards per attempt with 11 touchdowns against just three interceptions. By the numbers if not by reputation, he’s one of the best in the league. Amon-Ra St. Brown is Goff’s top target (38 catches, 455 yards, three touchdowns) and one of the league’s most productive wide receivers, but rookie tight end Sam LaPorta, a second-round pick out of Iowa, has been the revelation with 29 catches for 325 yards and three touchdowns. Josh Reynolds averages 17.9 yards per catch, Kalif Raymond is one of the NFL’s most productive No. 3 wide receivers, and 2022 first-round pick Jameson Williams caught a 45-yard touchdown Sunday. The offensive line, led by right tackle Penei Sewell, right guard Graham Glasgow and center Frank Ragnow, does an excellent job protecting Goff.
Will Brinson, CBS Sports
Detroit Hype City is a real thing — the Lions are getting BUZZ these days. It’s concerning they’re missing David Montgomery and on a second-straight road game, but I’m not sure it would be shocking to see a bunch of Lions jerseys in the stands come Sunday. Baltimore fans won’t no-show this or anything, but there were a TON of Lions fans in Tampa last weekend.
Two weeks ago, on a Thursday, there were plenty of Lions fans in Green Bay too. These are passionate fans who have put up with a LOT of bad football for the last several decades. If my favorite football fan stunk my whole life and suddenly was good like this, you can bet I’d be interested in seeing every game I could. Baltimore is (kind of) on the way home and (kind of) a short trip from Detroit. That’s not necessarily why I’m picking Detroit, but I’m curious to see if it matters in Baltimore as well. Jared Goff is playing awesome football right now, Amon-Ra St. Brown looks healthy, Jameson Williams adds a deep threat and Detroit might be forced to unleash Jahmyr Gibbs in this game. Detroit’s defense should be able to get home on Lamar Jackson. This game features a total of just 42.5, meaning an expected rock fight. I’ll take the field goal with the more well-rounded team here.
Sheil Kapadia, The Ringer
Such a fun coordinator battle in this one. Ben Johnson continues to do a fantastic job of scheming up big plays for the Lions and putting Jared Goff in positions to succeed. Through six weeks, the Lions have produced a league-high 29 completions of 20-plus yards. Meanwhile, Mike Macdonald’s Ravens defense continues to impress. Baltimore is second in defensive DVOA, behind only the Browns.
These are legitimately two of the eight best teams in the NFL. The Lions are tied for the best record in the NFC at 5-1. Their plus-55 point differential is fifth overall and second in the conference, behind only the 49ers. The Ravens, meanwhile, are 4-2, and their two losses were among the dumbest we’ve seen from any team this season. They could easily be 6-0.
I have flip-flopped on my pick here roughly 27 times. I could see a scenario in which the Ravens defense gets after Goff, who famously struggles against pressure, and we all say, “OK, the Lions aren’t quite there yet.” I could also see a scenario in which Detroit wins again, and we have the “They are right there with any team in the NFC” conversation. I really like this Lions team. I think it’s a toss-up game, and I’m taking the points.
The pick: Lions (+3)