The Detroit Lions kick off their 2018 season tonight when they host the Sam Darnold led New York Jets on Monday Night Football.

This will be Matt Patricia’s first game as a head coach of the Detroit Lions, while Darnold will be the youngest starting quarterback in NFL history.

As I have done for each of the preseason games, I will continue breaking down Detroit’s matchups each and every week for the remainder of the season.

Detroit Lions:

Lions
Sep 18, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) drops back to pass against the New York Giants during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Offensively, Matthew Stafford could very much be the difference maker in this game. Stafford arguably has the strongest arm in the NFL since being drafted in 2009. He became the fastest player to reach 30,000 passing yards in 109 career games. Throughout his nine NFL seasons, Stafford has changed the culture of Lions franchise as he has led the team on 28 game-winning drives. Since 2009, Stafford has thrown for 34,749 yards along with 216 touchdowns.

Defensively, Darius Slay will be a player to watch for. Since 2013, Slay has proven he belongs in the discussion when talking about the best cornerbacks in the league. Slay has hauled in 14 interceptions in five seasons and in 2017, was the interceptions co-leader with eight. Slay continues to refine his craft after taking part in a camp run by some of the NFL’s best. The camp allowed players such as Slay, Sherman, Talib, and Rhodes to not only train together but to break down film together and learn from one another. I expect Slay to be as good as ever this season.

Detroit’s dark horse will be rookie running back Kerryon Johnson, the Lions’ 2018 second-round draft pick. Johnson has the ability to elude tacklers while also maintaining speed. He is highly effective when used on screens and in swing situations. Johnson also has the strength and athleticism to keep his feet churning and break tackles.

New York Jets:

New York Jets: Way Too Early Predictions
May 4, 2018; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) throws the ball during New York Jets rookie mini camp at Atlantic Health Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Offensively, rookie quarterback Sam Darnold could be the deciding factor. His ability to control the pocket and scan the field will set him apart from other young quarterbacks in the league. Darnold has a talented arm which allows him to throw accurate and tight passes. His build allows him to successfully shake off defenders to avoid the sack and can quickly regroup and make plays downfield.

Defensively, Trumaine Johnson will help solidify the Jets secondary alongside Jamal Adams. Johnson has the athleticism and size to contribute within the secondary. He has an excellent ability to read the receiver to follow the route to make a play. He is someone that can both make tackles and effectively drop in coverage. The Jets may have found themselves a star at cornerback. Through his career, Johnson has recorded 328 tackles along with 18 interceptions, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and three defensive touchdowns.

The New York Jets’ dark horse will be newly acquired running back Isaiah Crowell. Previously with the Cleveland Browns, Crowell ran for 3,118 yards and 21 touchdowns along with hauling in 96 receptions for 770 yards and a touchdown. Crowell has excellent vision and strength. His ability to find the gaps and avoid tackles adds something to the Jets backfield.

Prediction: Lions 28 – New York Jets 17

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