By Matt Citak
The Detroit Lions snapped a three-game losing streak last week for their fourth win of the season. The victory against the Packers on Monday night was only the franchise’s second at Lambeau Field since 1991, and was led by the stellar play of veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford completed 26-of-33 passes for 361 yards and two touchdowns. His 78.8 completion percentage and 132.4 passer rating were both season highs. Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. continued their successful 2017 campaigns, each catching seven receptions for over 100 yards each, with the latter also scoring two touchdowns.
Stafford has been throwing the ball well over the last few weeks, after a slow start to the season. The 29-year-old quarterback failed to top 292 passing yards during Detroit’s first five games. In the three games, since Detroit’s Week 5 loss to the Panthers, Stafford has thrown for over 300 yards in each contest, including 423 yards against the Steelers’ top-ranked pass defense. At the midway point of the season, Detroit’s franchise quarterback ranks fifth in the NFL with 276.5 passing yards per game.
On the other side of the field, the Cleveland Browns are coming out of their bye week with an 0-8 record and not much to be excited about. Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer’s professional career is off to an awful start, as the young QB has yet to finish a game with a passer rating over 85.7. Kizer has completed only 52.1 percent of his throws for 1,144 yards, three touchdowns, and 11 interceptions in seven games this season. The 21-year-old has not thrown a touchdown pass in his last 105 pass attempts, with his last touchdown throw coming in Cleveland’s Week 3 28-31 loss to the Colts.
Kizer’s play has led the Browns offense to a ranking of 31st in the NFL in points per game (14.9), 27th in total yards per game (301.3), and 32nd in percentage of third downs converted (29.0 percent). The Browns are heading towards a top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and will likely consider selecting one of the premier quarterbacks available.
NFL ON CBS analyst Adam Archuleta weighed in on this week’s Browns-Lions matchup, which he will call alongside play-by-play announcer Spero Dedes, as well as other upcoming NFL ON CBS action in Week 10.
Cleveland Browns vs. Detroit Lions – 1:00 PM ET Sunday – CBS
CBS Local Sports: With the way Matthew Stafford has been playing over the last few weeks, is this Detroit team good enough to make the playoffs?
Adam Archuleta: Yes, because the last two games, the offense has really started to come together. You started to see Stafford playing his best ball. Was he completely healthy before their bye week? Probably not. But the passing game is on point. The one thing is the running game is abysmal. There’s no doubt about it. They are going to have to be a one-dimensional team, because I don’t see them getting the running game going. But if Stafford continues to play at this level, and with the way the defense is playing, especially taking the ball away, I do see them as a playoff team.
CBS Local Sports: Now to the other side of the field. There’s no denying DeShone Kizer has struggled thus far in his rookie campaign. What will he have to do to pick up his first career win on Sunday?
Adam Archuleta: Number one with Kizer is he has to find accuracy. It’s been plaguing him. He hasn’t been accurate with the football, which has led to two things. One, not being able to hit the open guy. When his wide receivers do win, it’s inconsistent. Either it’s under-thrown, or it’s over-thrown. They haven’t been able to get on the same page as far as the quarterback and receivers go. The other part is his inaccuracy has lead to devastating and catastrophic turnovers and interceptions, especially inside the 30-yard line, when they’re trying to get points. It’s been his Achilles heel. Until he finds a way to become more accurate, they’re not going to be able to move the ball and win games. Now his wide receiver core is terribly inexperienced. Kenny Britt has not lived up to expectations. Two of their other starting receivers have been signed off practice squads to begin the year. Sammie Coates has not been able to get going, because he’s been injured. So Kizer doesn’t have a lot of guys that can win outside. When they do win, he’s got to be able to put the ball on them and be able to execute their offense. Otherwise, they’re just going to continue to do what they’ve been doing, which has not been very good.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Indianapolis Colts – 1:00 PM ET Sunday – CBS
CBS Local Sports: While the Steelers are 6-2 and sit atop the AFC playoff picture along with the Patriots, the offense has not performed as well as many believed it would. How does Ben Roethlisberger get this unit going against a struggling Colts defense?
Adam Archuleta: The Steelers did struggle early on this season, but if you look at the last couple games, Roethlisberger has really started to turn it around. Somewhere around 60 percent of their offense goes through Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. Both of those guys have been pretty much unstoppable. That’s been the case throughout the season. The one difference in the last two weeks has been the emergence of JuJu Smith-Schuster. He’s been able to come on. That should be Martavis Bryant, but early in the season, he has not been able to play up to the level that he has played to in the past. In the last two games, because the Steelers have had that other weapon in the offense, it has taken some of the pressure off Bell and Brown. That’s done wonders for Roethlisberger and this offense. The one thing you have to remember is that historically, the Steelers play their best football in the last two months of the season. It’s not always where you start, but where you finish. If the recent trends continue, and they do get another weapon, whether it’s Smith-Schuster or Bryant… as long as one of those two guys are able to produce and be the third element to the offense, then the Steelers will continue to improve as the season goes on.
Houston Texans vs. Los Angeles Rams – 4:05 PM ET Sunday – CBS
CBS Local Sports: Led by second-year quarterback Jared Goff, the Rams currently boast the league’s highest-scoring offense. Can Los Angeles keep this up for the remainder of the season and make the franchise’s first postseason since 2004?
Adam Archuleta: Yes, they can. All season, you’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop for the Rams. You’re saying, “Okay is this real?” because they started out their first game with a 46-point explosion against the Indianapolis Colts. Los Angeles ran into a hiccup a few weeks ago, when they played Seattle. But the way they have responded has been crazy impressive. I don’t care who you are — to put up 50 points on an NFL team means you are doing some really good things. Jared Goff is for real this season. It’s no longer a trend, but reality. We can continue to expect Los Angeles to move the ball on offense and be explosive. Todd Gurley has been an all-purpose back for the ages, this season with what he’s been able to do in the passing game and getting back to form in the running game. Cooper Kupp has been an exceptional, consistent wide receiver, and maybe the most impressive rookie receiver in the NFL this year. We’ve seen a deep-ball resurgence, with Sammy Watkins getting involved down the field. If they can continue to stretch the field and their vertical pass game, then they have all the pieces to continue to be a pretty amazing offense for the rest of the season.
Matt Citak is a producer for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter or send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.