Chiefs Defense versus the Lions Offense
This side of the ball will determine the outcome of the game. Without a doubt, the Detroit Lions' strength lies in their offense.
In 2022, the Lions ranked as the 5th highest-scoring offense in the NFL, averaging 26.6 points per game. They were also 4th in yards per game, boasting an average of 380.
Within the Detroit offense, their standout asset is their offensive line. Left tackle Taylor Decker often flies under the radar and Penei Sewell is a rising star on the right side. Frank Ragnow also ranks among the NFL's top centers. Although their guards may have some vulnerabilities in pass protection, they excel in run blocking.
The Chiefs' greatest challenge will be along the defensive line without Chris Jones and Charles Omenihu. The main concern is that David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs and the Lions' offensive line may exploit KC's defensive front in the run game. It would also allow Jared Goff more time to sit in the pocket. Without #95, the Chiefs will be without their best player on defense, affecting both run and pass defense.
Moreover, Jared Goff's performance varies based on the pressure he faces. In 2022, when pressured, Goff had a lowly 59.6 passer rating, ranking 29th out of 40 qualified quarterbacks. He also had 41.9% completion %, five touchdowns, and four interceptions when under pressure. When kept clean, his passer rating soared to 113.6, ranking 3rd out of 40 qualified quarterbacks, with 24 touchdowns and a mere 3 interceptions. Thus, generating pressure on Goff becomes crucial, but if the Chiefs can't, they must focus on tight coverage of the Lions' receivers.
Should Steve Spagnuolo opt for a blitz-heavy approach to generate pressure, caution is necessary. Goff had a 104.4 passer rating against the blitz in 2022, ranking 8th out of 41 qualified quarterbacks.
The Lions also have one of the NFL's most underrated wide receivers in Amon-Ra St. Brown. He's a legitimate number-one target who amassed over 1,100 yards and 6 touchdowns despite missing a game last season. Beyond St. Brown, the Lions' receiving corps and tight end options are not particularly stacked. Rookie tight end Sam LaPorta shows promise but may not be an immediate impact player. Wide receiver Jameson Williams is suspended. Depth receivers Marvin Jones Jr., Josh Reynolds, and Kalif Raymond are serviceable but shouldn't pose significant challenges for the Chiefs' cornerbacks.
In summary, don't expect the Chiefs to make many stops on defense tonight. Nonetheless, they have the potential to make crucial plays, even in the absence of Chris Jones. Given the Lions' potent offense, Kansas City may need to score a lot of points, likely in the 30s, to secure a victory in this game.