Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys: DJC Writer Predictions

Jan 4, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) congratulates Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (right) after the Coboys defeated the Lions 24-20 in the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 4, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) congratulates Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (right) after the Coboys defeated the Lions 24-20 in the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Jock City staff gives their takes on what they think will happen when the Detroit Lions take on the Dallas Cowboys in week 16.

Erik Schlitt (7-7) -When the Detroit Lions defense struggled early in the season, the offense made an adjustment to a ball control-style of play in order to limit possessions. The defense adjusted away from their 43 base man coverage scheme to zone coverage in nickel sets. These changes have been successful and are a big reason the Lions are 9-5 and in first place in the NFC North.

Last week when the Lions fell behind, they waited too long to move away from ball possession play calls. When they implemented a hurry-up offense, they had more success but it was too little too late. This week against the Cowboys, they can’t wait.

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The Cowboys are going to run the ball. Everyone knows it, yet, few teams have been able to stop it. Their combination of elite offensive lineman and a powerful running back in Ezekiel Elliot, has been outstanding. The Cowboys will move the ball and they will score points. The Lions offense needs to respond accordingly.

I know this sounds counter intuitive to what’s been successful for the Lions over the last two months, but if they are going to win in Dallas, they are going to need to return to their offensive schemes from the beginning of the season and open it up in a hurry-up style of offense.

The Lions keys to the game will be how each side of the ball handles these three situations: 1) win the turnover battle; 2) Control first downs; and 3) put the game in the quarterback’s hands. Can they make these adjustments? Can they win their keys to the game? If the answer is yes to these questions they can win. But unfortunately, this has been a difficult way to win for the Lions and I’m not confident that the coaches can make the adjustments. It’ll be close but I have the Cowboys winning this one. Cowboys 24, Lions 20

Colton Wesley (8-6) – The Detroit Lions have played only three games against teams currently in the playoff bracket and they lost all three. They trailed in the fourth quarter in ten of their other 11 games and had to pull off some kind of late-game comeback in eight of their nine wins.

Dallas is the best team in the NFC, having clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott have become one of the league’s most formidable backfield tandems overnight behind one of the NFL’s best offensive lines. Detroit’s defense will likely be without Darius Slay again and have few other cornerbacks at all, much less any of high-enough caliber to stick with a deep corps of Dallas pass catchers.

On offense, the Lions will almost certainly be one-dimensional. Theo Riddick, their top running back, is doubtful, starting center Travis Swanson is out and the Cowboys’ rush defense is the best in football. Matthew Stafford and company could produce through the air against a just-okay Dallas secondary, but without even a hint of a running game, that will be the entirety of the Lions’ offense.

Even in Stafford’s backyard, a hostile environment against the best team in the conference on national television is just too much for a Lions’ team that has been living on a knife’s edge the entire season, especially considering Dallas seems to have no desire to rest its starters. Dallas wins, 31-17.

Zac Snyder (7-7) – The Detroit Lions have already exceeded my expectations for the season but they haven’t totally earned my trust in a game like this. Sure, they got a big road wins over the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints, but more often than not this team has come up short on the road. I’m not willing to totally write off the Lions’ chances, but I’m also not willing to predict a win. Their postseason hopes will hang entirely on week 17. Cowboys 27, Lions 17

Matt Pelc (6-8) – It’s not really clear how long the Dallas Cowboys starters will play on Monday night, but there are a couple things clear. First, Dallas has the top seed wrapped up and, with a win, the Detroit Lions can clinch a playoff berth. They, of course, want the division they’ve led much of the second-half of the season, but a wild-card berth would be a nice building block headed into Sunday’s NFC North championship game at home.

This game will likely be close and could see it going either way. Even with the Cowboys’ starters likely playing, it might be in the back of their minds that this game is meaningless. This should play in the Detroit Lions favor but without Darius Slay, Theo Riddick, and others, it might prove a tough task after all.

I picked the Lions to win the last two weeks after doubting them all season, and seeing them defy my predictions. Picking them the last two weeks saw them nearly lose to the lowly Bears and be outclassed by the Giants. Since I want to see them make it to the playoffs, and win the division, I’ll toss my journalistic integrity aside and go for the reverse-jinx. Cowboys 20, Lions 17

Matt Snyder (5-9) – The Dallas Cowboys don’t have anything left to play for, so perhaps they’ll rotate players more than usual, but this primetime game on the road will still be an incredibly difficult one for the Detroit Lions. Either way it seems unlikely that this will be the week that the Lions clinch a playoff spot and that next week’s showdown with the Packers will be for all the marbles. I’m going with the team in silver and blue in this one. Cowboys 24, Lions 13

Next: Previewing Lions at Cowboys

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