Two teams on the fringes of their respective conference playoff pictures will meet at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, as the Detroit Lions will take on the New York Jets. Detroit came away with an impressive Week 14 victory at home against the Minnesota Vikings, defeating them by a final score of 34-23. The Jets hung in for a while against the Buffalo Bills last Sunday, but ended up falling to their division rival 20-12 on the road.
Here are three keys to watch for in a game that will have major implications for both teams.
Away From Home Sweet Home
In the friendly interior confines of Ford Field, the Detroit Lions have been one of the most potent offensive teams in the NFL. Their ability to put points on the board in the bunches was on full display last week against Minnesota, and their skill players are getting healthier with each passing week.
Unfortunately for the Lions, three of their last four games are on the road, starting with Sunday’s contest against New York. They haven’t had the same efficiency away from Detroit this season, but the team does have one thing working in its favor. Arguably its most impressive road win this season came at MetLife Stadium last month, when the Lions took care of business from start to finish against the New York Giants.
While the streaming world has been set ablaze by the release of season two of White Lotus, the Jets’ version of Mike White has taken centerstage in the last few weeks. By and large, he’s provided a spark that New York had been missing, and it feels like the Jets aren’t out of a game with White under center.
Last week was a different story though, as Buffalo pummeled White early and often in a game where White spent several plays on the sidelines. By all accounts, it sounds like he’ll be ready to suit up against Detroit, but its fair to wonder whether he’s more susceptible to being knocked out given the recent punishment he’s taken. Jets head coach Robert Saleh has confirmed that embattled quarterback Zach Wilson will be the backup this week, and its not inconceivable that he receives playing time.
Special Teams May Come Into Play
In a tilt where there are questions about Detroit’s offense on the road and the health of New York’s main signal caller, don’t be surprised if special teams makes the difference in this game. Jets kicker Greg Zuerlein is up there as one of the most likely kickers to convert a field goal from over 50 yards. His big leg has been on display the last few weeks, as he’s boomed kicks from distance as New York drives have stagnated.
Additionally, keep an eye on the kick and punt return game. The Jets have allowed the fewest kick return yards in the NFL, which means Detroit’s offense will have to earn it by going the length of the field. However, New York has also conceded the third most punt return yards, which may give the Lions a chance to flip field position in this game.