A weekly look at what the Detroit Lions must fix:
Protecting quarterback Matthew Stafford has been an issue all season for the Lions, but with 21 sacks over six games -- an average of 3.5 sacks a game -- the Lions' offensive line has to keep its quarterback from being brought down by the New Orleans Saints. The last three games have been particularly bad, with 14 sacks allowed against the Jets, Bills and Vikings.
Stafford is on pace to be sacked 56 times this season (his career high is 36 times in 2011). According to Pro Football Focus, the left side of the Lions’ line might be the issue. Center Dominic Raiola has allowed four sacks while left tackle Riley Reiff and left guard Rob Sims have allowed two each.
The Lions have tried to help this by shortening Stafford’s time in the pocket and his time before the pass last week against Minnesota; they got it down to a season-best 2.11 seconds in the pocket and 2.14 seconds before the pass.
This is an area that is fixable over the next two weeks. New Orleans and Atlanta both have sacked quarterbacks on 3.5 percent of dropbacks or less, ranking among the bottom five teams in the league in that stat. And that's after three straight weeks of playing against teams in the top 11 in sack percentage per attempt. So the Lions’ schedule may offer the respite their pass protection needs.
The Lions need this to happen this week. While it has won with defense this season, Detroit also faces two of the top three offenses in the NFL the next two weeks. So it'll need to put up more points than it has so far.