Detroit (+7.0) @ San Francisco
Power rankings: Detroit 7, San Fran 2
When Detroit has the ball: The Lions offense is 5th in DVOA (7th pass, 4th run) and 8th in EPA/play. They feature one of the best offensive lines in football, although there are a few injuries to make note of. C Frank Ragnow - the highest graded center by PFF - did not practice Wednesday or Thursday with an ankle/toe/knee/back injury - yes, there's four separate injuries listed. Even still, there isn't much of a concern for Ragnow's status or his ability to play at a high level. First and foremost, the only knew injury is the left MCL sprain that he suffered last week. Ragnow was able to return to the game and play effectively, and he's also played through the exact same injury previously. Ragnow, technically a human being, once played through a fractured throat, as if you needed further proof that he's tougher than you are. The Lions will be without LG Jonah Jackson, who injured his knee last week and was unable to return. Jackson is the weakest member of the offensive line by a wide margin, making his injury less significant. His replacement will be Kayode Awosika, a 2021 UDFA who has played 450 career snaps. The Lions offensive line is top tier, but they'll have a weakness at the LG position. Jared Goff is 11th in both PFF grades and ESPN's QBR metric - he's done an excellent job with ball security (2.5% turnover worthy play rate is 13th best) and accuracy (78.5% adjusted completion rate is 5th best). Goff has struggled throughout his career under pressure vs his peers, and the same has been true this year -- his PFF grade from a clean pocket (94.3) is 2nd best in the NFL, but his grade under pressure (48.8) plummets to 27th. An average time to throw of 2.54 seconds (6th fastest) and the offensive line have been able to keep Goff clean this season, enabling him to play to his strengths. The Lions receivers are led by Amon-Ra St. Brown, who runs 55.6% of his snaps out of the slot and has 179 targets, 134 catches, 1,702 yards, and 11 touchdowns (regular season and postseason, 18 games). Rookie tight end Sam Laporta, who is up to 132 targets through 19 games, is the number two option. Following Laporta is rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs (77), WR Josh Reynolds (71), and WR Jameson Williams (48 through 14 games). Gibbs and Montgomery make up a talented backfield that allows Detroit to keep each back fresh. The Lions are a run first team, ranking 25th in situation-neutral early-down pass frequency. They're a middle of the road team in terms of pace (13th in seconds/play), but speed up when they're losing (1st in sec/play when down 7 or more).
The 49ers defense is 4th in DVOA and 10th in EPA/play. Up front, they rank 6th in pressure rate and 12th in pass rush win rate. They have four main pass rushers: Nick Bosa (102 pressures) and Chase Young (69) on the outside and Javon Hargrave (55 pressures) and Arik Armstead (47) on the inside. Bosa didn't get any defensive player of the year hype, but he's been one of the more dominant edge rushers in all of football, ranking 5th in pass rush win rate, 3rd in pressures, and 3rd in PFF pass rushing grade. Bosa switches sides, but he lines up over the right tackle roughly 70% of the time, where he'll face off against Penei Sewell, the 7th overall pick from 2021 who is the best tackle in football by PFF grades. Further strengths of the 49ers defense include: LB Fred Warner (1st in PFF grades among LBs), LB Dre Greenlaw (25th), CB Charvarius Ward (8th), slot CB Deommodore Lenoir (25th), and S Tashaun Gipson (26th). The 49ers have been better against the pass (4th in DVOA) than the run (15th), which could give Detroit an edge in the run game if they can keep the game close. Given the strength at linebacker and safety, it shouldn't be a surprise to see San Francisco rank 4th in DVOA when covering tight ends, which will make Laporta's job that much more difficult. The 49ers have been strong against short passes (4th in DVOA) and long passes (8th). There isn't much of a weakness in the pass game - the offensive line needs to hold up to keep Goff clean, and Detroit needs to get the run game going early.
The 49ers offense ranks 1st in both DVOA and EPA/play. DVOA ranks them as both the top team in the pass and run game. File them under "really fucking good." If there is a weakness, it's with the offensive line that has holes as all positions except LT, a position maned by Trent Williams, who would be PFF's highest graded tackle if Sewell didn't exist. The skill position players by PFF grades: Brock Purdy (7th), Christian McCaffrey (2nd), Brandon Aiyuk (2nd), George Kittle (1st), and Deebo Samuel (14th). Samuel injured his shoulder last week and was unable to return, but he's good to play this week after getting in limited sessions on Thursday and Friday. The skill position players are talented, but they lack depth - San Francisco went on a 3 game losing streak without Samuel (weeks 6 - 8) and struggled without him last week against Green Bay. Outside of that, there isn't too much to dive into. The most talented skilled position players in football (and yes, that includes Purdy) along with an offensive genius is going to be highly efficient moving the football.
The Lions defense is 13th in DVOA and 21st in EPA/play. They've been far better agianst the run (1st in DVOA) than the pass (16th). The pass rush is a one-man show - Aidan Hutchinson ranks 5th in PFF pass rush grade, 1st in pressures, and 5th in pass rush win rate (21.4%). There isn't a single other edge rusher or interior lineman on the Lions that has a pass rush win rate above 13%. Hutchinson primarily lines up on the left side, where he'll avoid Williams and will face off aginst RT Colton McKivitz, who has a PFF pass blocking grade of 56.4 and allowed the 8th most pressures in the league this season among tackles. Apart from the run defense and Hutchinson, the Lions will be overmatched in every other facet of the game. Slot corner/safety/rookie Brian Branch and safety Ifeatu Melifonwu have both had excellent seasons, but there's far too many weaknesses to properly match up against an offense as talented as the 49ers. The Lions ranks 23rd in DVOA covering number 1 receivers, 7th against tight ends (George Kittle), and 23rd against running backs as receivers (Christian McCaffrey). Schemtically, the Lions blitz at a 35.1% clip, 4th highest in the league, but Brock Purdy's PFF grade when blitzed (85.0) is slightly higher than his grade when not blitzed (80.7). Detroit is also 24th in DVOA against deep passes (14th against short) while Brock Purdy has the highest PFF grade (99.9) on pass attempts that travel more than 20 yards. If Detroit gives up too many deep throws, they're in for a long night.