Lions vs. Bengals preview: Just keep winning
James Hawkins of The Detroit News breaks down Sunday’s Lions-Bengals game at Paul Brown Stadium (1 p.m. Fox/WJR 760).
BENGALS TO WATCH
A.J. Green, WR: Amid a disappointing season in Cincinnati, Green has remained the one consistent threat on offense. While it hasn’t been his best season, the seven-time Pro Bowler is still on the cusp of his sixth 1,000-yard season with 980 yards and eight touchdowns.
Geno Atkins, DT: When fully healthy, Atkins is one of the top players at his position. Even when he’s not, though, he’s still a force as evidenced by his two sacks while playing with an injured toe against the Vikings last week. He ranks second among interior linemen with nine sacks and was named a Pro Bowl starter.
Vontaze Burfict, LB: The talented but troubled linebacker been sidelined the past two weeks following an illegal blindside block by Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. During that span, the Bengals have given up 67 points in two blowout losses, and Burfict’s possible return would help provide a jolt for a rather listless defense.
■ Shut it down: The Lions’ defense is coming off one of its best run-stopping performances of the season last week against the Bears. If the Lions can eliminate the ground game in a similar fashion, it would make the Bengals one-dimensional and put the ball in the hands of Andy Dalton, who has posted a passer rating of 59.7 and 27.3 the past two weeks.
■ Bide time: Protection has been an issue for the Lions all season and a slew of injuries up front has been part of the problem. Behind a patchwork offensive line, Matthew Stafford has been sacked 43 times — two shy of his career high — and has lost a career-high seven fumbles.
■ Added fuel: You could make a case Glover Quin, Jamal Agnew, Matt Prater and Stafford were all Pro Bowl snubs. With two crucial games remaining, the perceived slight could add a chip on their shoulders and give them an incentive to prove that was a mistake.
■ Keep clawing: Detroit has been in win-or-go-home mode the past two weeks and has responded with back-to-back wins. However, the playoff forecast hasn’t changed and the Lions must win — and hope the Falcons falter — to keep their wild-card dreams alive and set the stage for a frantic Week 17.
FACTS AND FIGURES
■ Matthew Stafford is the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 34,000 yards before the age of 30.
■ Stafford has an 80.2 completion percentage over the last three games, which ranks as the fourth-highest three-game mark in NFL history (minimum 100 pass attempts) behind Peyton Manning (82.3, 80.6) and Philip Rivers (80.5).
■ The Lions are 5-2 on the road, which marks the sixth time in team history they’ve won at least five road games in a season and first time since 2011.
■ With the win last week, the Lions have secured back-to-back .500 seasons or better for the first time since 1999-2000.
■ The Bengals (77 yards; last) and Lions (77.4 yards; No. 31) have the two worst rushing attacks in the NFL.
■ Cincinnati ranks last in the league in total offense (268.9 yards), third-down offense percentage (32.4 percent) and rushing defense (131.5 yards).
■ The Lions have recorded at least three interceptions in three different games this season for the first time since 2011.
■ The Bengals are 0-3 against the NFC North this season and have been outscored 94-38.