KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
TV: FOX, Sam Rosen, Tim Ryan
SERIES: 11th game in the series, with the Lions holding a 6-4 advantage. The Lions are 2-0 in games against the Jets played at the Meadowlands but the Jets won the most recent game between the two teams, 31-14, at Ford Field four years ago.
2006 RANKINGS: Lions: offense 15th (30th rush, 7th pass); defense 27th (11th rush, 30th pass). Jets: offense 22nd (21st rush, 21st pass); defense 30th (28th rush, 26th pass)
PREDICTION: Jets 30-28
KEYS TO THE GAME: One of the Lions' few strengths has been their run defense, which is allowing just 94.3 yards per game and 3.4 yards per carry. But Detroit will be without suspended Pro Bowl DT Shaun Rogers and injured DT Shaun Cody, leaving the Jets' improving running game a reason to attack replacements Cory Redding and Marcus Bell. Lions defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson held the same position with the Jets the past two seasons, so he knows New York's personnel well. The Lions have lost seven of their past eight road games, but the Jets will struggle to knock Detroit out early -- New York hasn't scored a first-quarter touchdown in 20 games. The Lions have more injury concerns on offense, with RB Kevin Jones racing to heal a hip pointer well enough to play, backup Shawn Bryson out for the year and FB Cory Schlesinger battling a balky hamstring. Whoever gets the ball -- rookie RB Brian Calhoun could get significant snaps -- will be running behind a beat-up line that might be minus two starters. But the Jets don't rush the passer particularly well, so Lions QB Jon Kitna should have time to test the vulnerable secondary.
FAST FACTS: Lions: Kitna leads the NFL with 145 completions. ... Have won four of the past five meetings. Jets: QB Chad Pennington leads the NFL with a 68.5 completion percentage on third downs. ... Rookie WR/RB Brad Smith has converted all three of his carries on third-and-1.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
Getting his new systems fully implemented and functioning is one of the biggest challenges for any first-year head coach, and Eric Mangini certainly has discovered that as the Jets have had a tough time switching from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4.
But it cannot be denied that most of Mangini's players are in lockstep with him when it comes to quotes. Consider that when linebacker Victor Hobson was asked this week if there is one thing the Jets' defense most needs to improve upon, he answered this way: "There are different thing that come up every week and there are always going to be things that you feel can be corrected, but I don't think there is one major issue that we need to concentrate on."
Well, there are at least two areas: run defense (which ranks 28th in the NFL) and the pass rush. The Jets have allowed 18 sacks, while managing exactly half that. And former Jet John Abraham, now and Atlanta Falcon, has three sacks all by himself while playing in only two games because of injury.
The Jets had no sacks of Joey Harrington last week and will try to do better against the Lions' Jon Kitna, or else Detroit could carve up the Jets' secondary Sunday.
For a while this season, the Jets had some success using strong safety Kerry Rhodes as a blitzer, as he had three sacks in a two-game span. He has had none in the last three games.
"They're keying on me now," Rhodes said of opposing offenses. "Wherever I go they're pointing me out. It's not going to be that easy for me anymore, but it opens up other opportunities for other teammates, so it's good in that aspect."
But so far, those other opportunities haven't been utilized.
"Well, there were a couple of plays there," Mangini said about the Miami game. "Dewayne [Robertson] had a nice hit on the quarterback [after the release]. There was another time where we had a free blitzer, but they got the ball off quickly. Some of that is built in, where when you do blitz and they throw the ball short, you have to be good at coming up and making the tackle so that the 6-yard gain doesn't go for 16. It all ties together where, especially in the blitz game, you have to hit the right gap so the blitz gets home.
"And then if they make the right decision and get it off quick, you have to make
sure that quick pass is just that, a quick short pass, now the clock is running,
the tackle is made, they don't get out of bounds," Mangini said, referring to
the no-huddle offense the Dolphins used late in the game. "That's one of the
things about blitzing, usually somebody's band is going to play, either ours or
theirs, and we would like it to be ours."
If past performance is any indication, the Lions should be paying special attention to the New York Jets in their game Sunday at the Meadowlands.
No. 1, the Lions are 1-5 for the season and, obviously, cannot afford to take any team lightly if they hope to make any kind of run at respectability in the remaining 10 weeks of the season.
No. 2, they are playing on the road with an offensive line and defensive line decimated by injuries and most recently the suspension of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Shaun Rogers.
No. 3, the Lions have been notably inept in games going into the bye week, and that's where they find themselves this week - looking forward to the bye after the Jets game. They have won only once in the last five years in that particular situation.
If the Lions have anything going for them this week it is the fact they are coming off a win. They held off the Buffalo Bills for their first win of the season last Sunday with running back Kevin Jones (127 yards and a touchdown) and wide receiver Roy Williams (161 yards and a touchdown) turning in 100-yard games.
It was the first time in four years the Lions have had a running back and receiver go over 100 yards in the same game.
The suspension of Rogers for use of a banned substance in what his agent Kennard McGuire says was an innocent mistake in the purchase of an over-the-counter appetite appeasement supplement dealt the Lions what could be a crippling blow.
Rogers is one of the NFL's most dominating defensive linemen when he is on his game and leaves the team without either of its starting tackles. Shaun Cody will miss his second straight game with a dislocated big left toe.
Coach Rod Marinelli is determined not to let the Lions be thrown off course by the loss of Rogers with the four-game suspension.
"While he's not here we've just got to get some other guys stepping up and getting ready to play," Marinelli said.
Among those expected to pick up the slack at tackle are Marcus Bell, who will
start at nose tackle in place of Rogers, along with Tyoka Jackson and Cleveland
Pinkney, who was moved up from the practice squad.