ESPN’s Football Power Index gives the Detroit Lions a 23.7% chance of winning this Sunday against the Denver Broncos. Based on the offensive and defensive rankings of both teams, it’s fair. The Broncos will enter Sunday’s game with the NFL’s third-ranked defense, while the Lions’ offense ranks third to last.
If one were to only look at solely the rankings, it’d appear the Lions would be in for a long afternoon. Not so fast, though. Because the Broncos record might be an illusion. It’s partly why there are whispers of their head coach being on the hot seat.
Under head coach Vic Fangio this season, the Denver Broncos are doing an ok job. It’s hard to critique them too hard because they’re better than the Lions. Currently, their record sits at 6-6, with playoff aspirations on the line. However, when you look at who they have won and lost against, it may give some Lions fans hope.
This season, the Broncos have done a great job beating bad teams. Of their six wins, two were against teams with an above .500 record. Teddy Bridgewater and Javonte Williams led them to a thorough, 30-16, butt-kicking of the Dallas Cowboys. And two weeks ago, led by an impressive defensive performance, they soundly defeated the LA Chargers, 28-13.
Besides that, the other four victories have been against less than impressive teams (WFT, Jets, Jaguars, and Giants). The Lions have the NFL’s worst record, sitting at 1-10-1. So it’d be pretty easy to surmise the Broncos would smash them like they’ve done against other bad teams.
That is until one examines the Broncos’ losses.
Of their six losses this season, three of them were against teams the Lions lost to (Ravens, Browns, and Eagles). And the other loss is against the Steelers, whom the Lions tied.
Now let’s examine those four losses.
Both teams were blown out by the Eagles, with the Lions receiving the more thorough beat-down. And both teams also lost their games against the Browns by a margin of three points. In the case of the Steelers and Ravens, though, it’s a different story. As mentioned, the Steelers-Lions game this season resulted in a tie, but it’s worth mentioning that Ben Roethlisberger didn’t suit up for Pittsburgh. Mason Rudolph did. In the Steelers-Broncos game, “Big Ben” did indeed play. And him, along with rookie standout, Najee Harris, beat the Broncos by eight points.
The Ravens-Broncos game was different, however. Led by Lamar Jackson, Marquise Brown, and Latavius Murray, Baltimore took out Denver 23-7. Broncos didn’t have a chance against them like the Lions did. It took. a record 66-yard field goal by the Ravens’ Justin Tucker to beat the Lions, 19-17.
So what is one to make of this?
Basically, the Denver Broncos beat whom they should have and lost against teams better than them. They’re an up and down team, hence their .500 record.This past Sunday, the Lions beat an up and down team in the Vikings, whom they almost beat in Week 5 if it weren’t for another game-winning field goal. With Jared Goff playing better over the last few weeks, the Lions have a puncher’s chance at upsetting the Broncos, winning their second straight game.
Besides the Eagles and Bengals games, the Lions defense has done an admirable job against teams this season.
As noted, the Broncos have one of the league’s best red zone defenses, but over the past two weeks, the Lions have scored in 60% of their chances in that area. Sunday will be a big test to see if this team has truly turned the corner in that area.
Follow Kory Woods on Twitter at KoryEWoods.