Given that the Detroit Lions technically are tied with a Chicago Bears squad that the Seahawks just flounced, you can't really blame fans in Seattle for assuming Monday night's matchup will ultimately result in a similar outcome.
It isn't just the Lions 0-3 record that has people thinking that Detroit is overmatched. Even talented game charters like the guys at ProFootballFocus.com view Detroit as one of the league's absolute worst teams. How bad is Detroit, according to PFF? Well, through three games in which the Bears were outscored 105-46 PFF has them graded at -32.2 overall.
The Lions, by comparison, rank dead last among all NFL teams with a -57.0 ranking despite "only" being outscored over the first three years by a total of 83-56.
A closer look, however, shows how similar Detroit and Seattle are at this early point in the season.
The ugliest number among Detroit's grades is in pass protection, where the Lions come in 31st in the NFL with a -27.2 overall score, behind the similarly struggling Baltimore Ravens (-31.3). But with just six sacks allowed in 128 attempts (third most in the NFL) is Detroit performing really this poorly? Before you answer, remember that Russell Wilson has been sacked twice as many times with 27 fewer passing attempts.
With Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Eric Ebron and flashy rookie running back Ameer Abdullah, the Lions boast one of the NFL's most gifted collections of skill-position players. The Lions are struggling to slow down pass rushers and rank dead last in the running game, averaging just 2.6 yards per attempt on a league-low 17 tries per game.
And there's the rub, if the Lions run the ball more often, they're likely to be more productive in both the running and passing game simply by forcing the defense to guess more often. Considering how much Seattle has struggled stopping the run over the 2.5 games of the season (Seahawks allowed just 10 of Matt Forte's 74 rushing yards last week after halftime) and the fact that Caldwell may attempt to quiet the 12s with a commitment to the run, the Seahawks could unwittingly be walking into a "Lions' den" Monday night.
While it would be easy to cast most of the blame towards Detroit's young offensive line, Stafford and the Lions' play-calling deserve plenty of criticism. Despite the talent the Lions boast on the outside, the vast majority of Stafford's passes have been short and over the middle. These throws are attempted to take full advantage of the unique run-after-the-catch ability that Johnson, Tate, Abdullah and fellow running back Theo Riddick possess but defenses that tackle well have been able to limit the effectiveness of these throws. Seattle would be wise to recall that few of the eight passes of over 20+ yards allowed in the season-opening loss were long throws.
Defensively, the Lions also are similar to Seattle in some key ways.
Pete Carroll acknowledged following the game Sunday what an immediate impact that Kam Chancellor had on the club. While defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was a significant loss for the Lions, the greater absence thus far may be injured outside linebacker DeAndre Levy, who has missed the first three games of the season while dealing with hip pain. The Lions are hopeful that Levy will be able to return against the Seahawks.
Even without Levy, the size and strength of Detroit's reshuffled defensive line -- which notably added former All-Pro Haloti Ngata in the offseason - has kept the Lions competitive against the run. While Detroit has allowed five rushing touchdowns already, the Lions are only giving up 3.7 yards per carry. That's the same as Seattle.
Like Detroit's run defense, its secondary has also been a bit boom or bust in 2015, allowing five touchdowns (but also intercepting three passes). Some of these problems stem from a lack of a consistent pass rush. The Lions have just four sacks through the first three games.