When the Detroit Lions (9-4) stumbled against the Chicago Bears (5-8) in Week 14, it wasn’t just a hiccup. It was a wake-up call. The loss, dropping their record from 9-3 to 9-4, underlined weaknesses needing immediate attention. However, with first place in the NFC North still in their grip, the Lions have everything to play for. Their road to redemption begins with a primetime Saturday night clash against the Denver Broncos (7-6) at Ford Field.

Understanding the Matchup: Lions vs. Broncos Dynamics

The Lions welcome a red-hot Denver Broncos team to Detroit, a squad that’s been on a remarkable resurgence with a 7-6 record, including six wins in their last seven games. The Broncos, now chasing the number one seed in the AFC West under the guidance of Sean Payton, boast a defense renowned for takeaways and an offense that’s been growing in confidence each week. This matchup also features a mentor-protégé face-off between Sean Payton and Lions’ head coach Dan Campbell. Campbell’s challenge is clear: steer the Lions back to their dominant form and secure a crucial win.

Key to Victory #1:

Win the Opening Drive

The Lions’ sluggish starts, particularly in the first and third quarters, have been a recurring theme in 2023. In each of their four defeats (Seahawks, Ravens, Packers, and Bears), the opposition scored on the opening drive, setting a tone the Lions struggled to reverse. This pattern must end against the Broncos. Whether Detroit’s offense initiates the drive or their defense steps up to thwart Denver’s opening surge, a strong start is non-negotiable. For the Lions, this means either scoring if they receive the kickoff or preventing the Broncos from scoring if they kick first. This not only sets the momentum but also energizes the home crowd that is craving December success.

Key to Victory #2:

Dominate the Ground Game

A successful opening drive allows the Lions to deploy their preferred strategy: a powerful running game. Detroit’s success is deeply rooted in its ground attack, led by David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs. A robust running game enables the Lions to control the tempo and opens up play-action opportunities for quarterback Jared Goff. Conversely, the Lions’ defense must clamp down on Denver’s running game, led by Javonte Williams. Limiting Denver’s run will disrupt their play-action plans and put pressure on quarterback Russell Wilson to find other ways to connect with key receivers Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy.

Key to Victory #3:

Dan Campbell’s Composed Aggression

Dan Campbell’s coaching style is characterized by bold, risk-taking decisions. While this aggressiveness is part of his charm, it’s essential that Campbell remains true to his aggressive style but avoids overreaching in a bid to outshine his mentor, Sean Payton. Balancing calculated risks with sound football strategy will be key to Detroit’s success. His decisions should be calculated and confident, ensuring the Lions play to their strengths without unnecessary gambles.

Player Matchups to Watch:

  • Lions CB Cam Sutton vs. Broncos WR Courtland Sutton: This battle will be pivotal. With Detroit’s secondary facing challenges, Cam Sutton‘s role in containing Denver’s top receiver becomes crucial. Russell Wilson’s proficiency in deep passing and extending plays adds another layer of complexity to this matchup. The Lions need Cam Sutton to contain Denver’s deep threat and red-zone specialist, Courtland Sutton.
  • Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown vs. Broncos CB Ja’Quan McMillian: An intriguing matchup in the slot. St. Brown, after a tough game against the Bears, needs to control the middle of the field, where he normally excels. McMillian’s versatility and playmaking ability will test St. Brown’s skills. This matchup could be pivotal in determining the Lions’ aerial effectiveness.
  • Lions QB Jared Goff vs. Broncos S Justin Simmons: Goff’s recent turnover woes are a concern, especially against a ball hawk like Simmons. Goff must be mindful of Simmons’ presence and execute play-action effectively to keep the Broncos’ secondary off balance.

The Lions, under Campbell’s leadership, have a prime opportunity to achieve double-digit wins for the first time in his tenure. Confronting these challenges head-on and capitalizing on their strengths can lead Detroit to a win against the Broncos. With a win, the Detroit Lions can cement their position as serious playoff contenders.

Game and Broadcast Details

  • Date: Saturday, December 16, 2023.
  • Time: 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • Where: Ford Field in Detroit.
    • Early-arriving fans will receive a Lions alternate helmet ornament, celebrating the 90th season of Lions football. Gates will open at 5:45 p.m.
  • TV coverage: NFL Network, also available on WJBK (Fox) in Detroit.
    • Play-by-play: Kevin Harlan
    • Analyst: Trent Green
    • Sideline Reporter: Melanie Collins
  • Local radio broadcast: Lions Radio Network
    • Play-by-play: Dan Miller
    • Color commentary: Lomas Brown
    • Sideline reporter: T.J. Lang
  • Betting Odds from DraftKings as of Sunday morning:
    • Spread: Lions (-4.5).
    • Over/under: 48 points.
    • Moneyline: Lions (-218), Broncos (+180).


For more from our Detroit Lions beat writer, Matt Broder, check him out on Twitter here: @mattbro21

Contact: Broder@woodwardsports.com

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Original Photo Credit: © Orlando Ramirez – USA TODAY Sports

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By Published On: December 16th, 2023Categories: Detroit Lions, NFL

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