Where: Ford Field, Detroit (FieldTurf, Indoors)
When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)
Spread: Lions by 2.5
Records: Lions (Overall: 2-4, NFC North: 0-2); Seahawks (Overall: 4-3, NFC West 0-3)
Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Nov. 8, 2009: Seahawks 32, Lions 20; Sept. 10, 2006: Seahawks 9, Lions 6. Series record: Seattle leads 7-4, including winning last three.
What matters: The simple answer is that Detroit must win Sunday for any hope of the playoffs.
To get the victory, the Lions must improve in several areas. Here’s a look at the key adjustments needed to beat the Seahawks:
• First-half scoring: Detroit has one touchdown in the first half this season and only 11 first-half scores. The Lions admit their offense isn’t designed to consistently come from behind, so getting an early lead will be a major factor.
• Red-zone efficiency: The Lions had one score and three turnovers on four red-zone trips against Chicago in Week 7. “You’ve at least got three points every time in the red zone,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “That’s your minimum standard.” The Lions have moved the ball well but haven’t converted in the red zone. That can’t happen Sunday.
• Ball security: Detroit had four turnovers against the Bears, and is 25th in the NFL in turnover margin. Lions’ coaches have spent considerable time this week stressing the importance of securing the ball before fighting for yards to their young skill players. If they can’t hang on to the ball, it will be difficult to win.
Who matters: The season-ending injury to Nate Burleson forced a shift in the WR depth chart, so Titus Young should see significant time as the No. 2 receiver. Young has the skills to handle the role, but he often looks like he’s not on the same page with QB Matthew Stafford. If Stafford and Young can’t connect, it could be a long afternoon for Calvin Johnson.
Ryan Broyles will also see an increased role in Burleson’s absence, and the Lions could use him extensively as a slot receiver. Broyles looked lost on his first few plays in Week 7 but rebounded to catch his first career touchdown after getting some on-field instruction from Johnson. Broyles and Stafford seem to work well together, and Stafford likes to use his slot receivers. Don’t be surprised to see Broyles involved early.
CB Jonte Green got his first career start against the Bears in Week 7, and his play impressed defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham enough to keep the rookie in the top CB spot opposite Chris Houston during individual drills this week. If Green starts Sunday, it will be the first time the Lions have started the same four players in the secondary -- Houston, Louis Delmas, Erik Coleman and Green -- all season. That continuity could help solidify a Lions’ secondary that has been a weak link for the defense.
RB Mikel Leshoure has averaged nearly 5 yards per carry in the past two games, but he'll get a test against Seattle’s top-10 defense. If Leshoure can continue to give the offense favorable down-and-distance situations, it will provide Stafford with more options to move the ball against the eight-man front Detroit expects to see from the Seahawks.
Key matchups: Johnson vs. Seattle CB Richard Sherman. An already exciting matchup between one of the league’s top young corners and an elite receiver took on added significance when Sherman changed his twitter profile to Optimus Prime, mocking Johnson’s Megatron nickname. Twitter antics aside, Johnson will face a difficult matchup in a player whose physical play may be uniquely suited to neutralize his advantage against most NFL defenders. If Johnson can’t get open against Sherman, it will severely limit the Lions’ offensive options.
Lions front seven vs. Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch. The Seahawks’ passing offense ranks next-to-last in the NFL, so they’ll likely rely on Lynch. That sets up a showdown between Lynch and a Lions’ front seven that held Eagles RB LeSean McCoy to 22 rushing yards in Week 6 and limited Bears RB Matt Forte last week. If the Lions can contain Lynch early, it will force QB Russell Wilson into passing situations, allowing Detroit’s potent pass rush to impact the game.
Injuries of note: The Lions released the following status report for Sunday’s game: Out -- CB Jacob Lacey (concussion), S Amari Spievey (concussion). Doubtful -- LB DeAndre Levy (hamstring). Questionable -- DE Cliff Avril (back), CB Bill Bentley (shoulder), S Delmas (knee), WR Young (knee). Probable -- WR Johnson (knee), TE Brandon Pettigrew (knee), LB Stephen Tulloch (knee) and DT Corey Williams.
The only surprise on the list is Levy’s “doubtful” designation, since he didn’t appear to be injured following Monday’s loss to the Bears. Based on Detroit’s use of the designation in previous weeks, it’s unlikely that Levy will play Sunday. Look for Travis Lewis and Ashlee Palmer to take reps in his place.
Inside stuff: Using T Riley Reiff as a sixth offensive lineman the past three weeks hasn’t just helped the Lions average nearly five yards per carry, it has helped open the middle of the field for the passing game. By using Reiff as an extra protector, Linehan has been able to use a less physical slot receiver rather than the relying on two-tight end sets. Look for Detroit to use its six-linemen packages extensively against the Seahawks’ pass rush.
Connections: Two Lions will try and stop a former teammate from controlling the run game when S John Wendling and LB Palmer try and limit Lynch’s impact. The trio played together in Buffalo in 2009. Seahawks WR Edwards played with Lions DT Williams in Cleveland in 2008.
Stat you should know: The Lions’ red-zone offense may be struggling, but their red-zone defense is the best in the NFL. Opponents are 3 of 12 in the red zone and the defense has allowed a league-low 48 red-zone points.
Looking ahead: The Lions travel to Jacksonville next Sunday before starting a brutal second half. After facing the Jaguars, Detroit has six games against teams that are in playoff positions.
Prediction: Lions 20, Seahawks 16