By Michael Ferro

The Detroit Lions had an incredible week. They managed to slip into first place in the NFC North without ever setting foot onto the field for a game. While the Lions were recovering during the bye week, both Green Bay and Minnesota suffered tough losses and the Lions benefited, nabbing the top spot in the division as a result.

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Now, Detroit lines up for a rough week ahead where they’ll play not one, but two games due to their annual Thanksgiving matchup. Up next are the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars who will look to end their losing streak by taking down a surging Detroit offense led by quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Jaguars Season Record 2-7

It’s no secret that the Jacksonville Jaguars have been struggling mightily thus far this season. At just over the halfway point, they’ve lost the majority of their games and have failed to find any real momentum, either at home or on the road. The two times the Jaguars were able to find wins this season came by a score of three points or less and both were against struggling teams in Chicago and Indianapolis.

Still, all things considered, it’s been an unpredictable season and Detroit should be prepared to welcome an embattled Jacksonville team into Ford Field that is desperate to turn their season around.

Jaguars on Offense

One of the biggest things holding back the Jaguars from finding success has been their inability to minimize turnovers on offense. In their 24-21 loss on Sunday to the Houston Texans, Jacksonville turned the ball over twice and missed a number of opportunities within the red zone. Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles threw a pick-six during the game that logged as his ninth career interception returned for a touchdown. That’s the most for any NFL play-caller since Bortles entered the league back in 2014. The quarterback has 14 turnovers this season, 11 of those being interceptions.

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Bortles’ favorite target, though, wide receiver Allen Robinson, has shown dominance in the passing game. He caught nine passes for 107 yards and a touchdown in the Jaguars’ loss. In the rushing game, both running backs in T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory found themselves struggling, failing to muster more than 35 yards each, both with nine carries.

Jaguars on Defense

While the turnovers have Jacksonville falling well short on offense, the Jaguars defense has been unable to make up for the errors by creating any turnovers of their own. In fact, the defensive squad hasn’t forced a turnover since their Week 4 win against the Colts. Because of this, Jacksonville has also never started a drive in any opponent’s territory since that game, giving the struggling offense a long field to start out with each and every time.

As a whole, Jacksonville’s defense is struggling down the line to make the big plays. Detroit has one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Matthew Stafford and he has proven himself as more than adept when it comes to cutting apart weak defenses.

Player to Watch: WR Allen Robinson

If Jacksonville is going to turn things around against Detroit, it’ll likely be through the air. Should Bortles be able to find a consistent target in wide receiver Allen Robinson, the Detroit defense will need to work overtime to provide coverage. Detroit is getting some of their big defensive weapons back from injury, so look for the Lions to try to rattle Bortles into tossing picks early on. The Jaguars will likely go for the gusto.

Outlook 

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Detroit stands a good chance of holding onto their first-place spot in the NFC North if they can earn a win over Jacksonville. The Lions are coming off of a bye, so it will be interesting to see how they play after two weeks off the field. If Detroit wants to start earning more respect in the league (and justify their top spot), they’ll need to win games like this one without much trouble or drama (and without a need for a signature dramatic last-minute comeback).