The Fallen Watchtower: Detroit Lions at Oakland Raiders

>> 12.18.2011


In the excitement of interviewing Brandon Pettigrew (and Justin Durant, keep your eyes peeled), plus adding stat analysis to my weekly film study, PLUS all the various pre-Christmas festivities, it’s been a wild, wild weekend here at TLiW Headquarters.

Normally, I’d power through and do a full Watchtower, but look: Hue Jackson has the most ridiculous resume I’ve ever seen. Since starting out as a grad assistant at Pacific, Jackson has been promoted, or taken a new gig, nearly every single year. He’s worked at almost every level of college, the NFL, and even the World League of American Football. He’s coached under all kinds of coaches in all kinds of systems, from Marty Schottenheimer to Steve Spurrier and everyone in between.

His offensive coordinator is Al Saunders, a prominent disciple of Don Coryell (along with Norv and Ron Turner, Mike Martz, etc.). But I’d need do to some pretty extensive digging to confidently say how much Air Coryell exists in the Raiders’ current attack. So, I punted.

Raiders offense vs. Lions defense

There’ll be no systemic data here, but we can still compare season averages as usual. The Raiders are the 16th-ranked offense in the NFL, averaging 22.3 points per game. They’re averaging 7.14 YpA through the air, and 4.57 YpC on the ground. If this sounds like a very effective dual-threat offense that keeps shooting itself in the foot, you’re right.

Carson Palmer has thrown an interception on 5.9% of his pass attempts, by far the worst in the NFL. Perspective: Rex Grossman is #2 at 4.6%. The Raiders are also the only team that’s kept pace with the Lions’ league-leading 27 personal fouls. The Raiders’ running attack was extremely potent when Darren McFadden was catalyzing it with his 5.4 YpC, but he’s sidelined for the year with a lingering foot injury. Michael Bush and his 3.9 YpC will be carrying the load today.

The Lions defense is allowing 23.5 points per game, 23rd in the NFL. They’re still only allowing 5.82 YpA through the air, and still a whopping 5.10 YpC on the ground. On the whole, they’re a much better defense than their points-per-game shows; they get a lot of three-and-outs and takeaways—but they also get hosed by the offense giving it back, and both sides of the ball commit a lot of penalties.

I'd expect the Lions to force a lot of turnovers today, especially if Suh and the defensive line can generate pressure without the blitz. I project the Raiders to score 17-21 points, passing for 6.00-6.50 YpA and rushing for 4.50-4.75 YpC.

Lions offense vs. Raiders defense

The Lions have been Jekyll and Hyde all season long. Their passing game has been everywhere from dominant to disjointed, and their rushing game has been everything from unstoppable to invisible. On the whole, the Lions are averaging 28.2 points per game, still 4th-best in the NFL. They're still averaging 6.91 YpA, and 3.68 YpC.

Kevin Smith returns (again) this week, so perhaps the running game will be a little closer to the former than the latter. Matthew Stafford has been “on,” or close to it, for three out of the last four weeks. On the average, the Lions’ offense is a less potent-but-more-effective version of the Raiders’. In the specific, when Matthew Jekyll (and his offensive line) shows up the Lions are one of the best offenses going . . . Mr. Jekyll shows up most often against bad passing defenses.

The Raiders are allowing 27.2 points per game, 28th-best (4th-worst) in the NFL. However, like the Lions, their pass defense is quite stout: they’re allowing must 6.24 YpA. But like the Lions, they “can’t stop the run;” they’re allowing a ridiculous 5.24 YpC on the ground.

Though the Lions should do much better than average against the 28th-ranked defense, the Raiders’ tight pass defense and raucous home crowd should depress scoring a bit. I project the Lions to score 28-32 points, averaging 6.75-7.25 YpA and 4.50-4.75 YpC.


Jeremy Reisman of Detroit OnLion will actually be at the game—and not just there, but in Section 104, in the heart of the Black Hole. On last week’s Fireside Chat he promised to wear his Honolulu Blue; please admire his spirit and pray for his safety. If you’re curious how to cheer in non-Lions games, follow Pride of Detroit’s Rooting Guide.

As for the Lions? I project a 30-17 Lions victory, though both numbers could easily be swayed either way by turnovers or penalties.


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