It's safe to say that things haven't exactly gone as planned for the Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks through the season's first three weeks.
The Lions are still searching for their first win, while the defending NFC champs don't even look like the best team in their own division. The two clubs will be under the microscope on Monday Night Football in a pivotal conference matchup at Seattle's CenturyLink Field.
The Lions are off to their worst start since 2010, when they lost their first four games en route to a 6-10 finish. You don't want to bury anybody after just three games, but an 0-3 start is a huge hole to crawl out of for a Lions team seeking to make back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since the mid-90s.
Not only do the Lions face long historical odds in reaching the postseason (only three teams in the past 25 seasons have done it after dropping their first three games), but they've also got a tough schedule ahead with Arizona coming to Detroit next week, and they are looking at the real possibility of going 0-5 to start the season.
The gloom and doom of the Seahawks' 0-2 start was somewhat eased with a 26-0 win over the lowly Bears last week, but they still face an uphill battle in re-establishing their dominance in the NFC. The good news is that there is still plenty of time to get their season rolling, just like they did last year after a sluggish 3-3 start.
It isn't that unusual for teams with a losing record through three games to make the playoffs. Last year, both Green Bay and Indianapolis recovered from 1-2 starts, while the 2012 and 2013 seasons had a combined 10 teams qualify for the playoffs after losing two of their first three games.
The Seahawks should be able climb back to the .500 mark with a win on Monday night, if the historical trends hold true. Seattle has won nine straight Monday Night Football games, tied for the second-longest streak ever. The only team with a longer streak is the Oakland Raiders, who won 14 in a row from 1975-81.
Although the defensive issues are a concern (22nd in Football Outsiders' efficiency rankings), their surprising lack of production on offense might be the Lions' biggest problem. Detroit is 27th in total offense and is averaging just 18.7 points per game.
The offensive line is a complete mess and the ground game is awful, averaging an NFL-worst 2.7 yards per rush and 45 rushing yards per game. The Lions have just 135 rushing yards, the team's fewest through three games since 1946. Entering Week 4, there are 26 players that had more rushing yards this season than the Lions have as a team.
Matthew Stafford has taken a beating and it's clearly affected his performance. Stafford is in the midst of his worst campaign since his rookie year -- he is the lowest-graded quarterback per Pro Football Focus -- and is being completely overwhelmed by pressure up front.
No quarterback has faced more dropbacks under pressure than Stafford (56), and he is completing just 41 percent of his passes when pressured. Things won't get much easier for Stafford on Monday night, either, facing a rejuvenated Legion of Boom and a strong Seahawks pass rush that ranks seventh in sack rate (7.8 percent).
Seattle's offensive line is also struggling in pass protection three games into the season. Entering this week's slate, only the Chiefs (14) had allowed more sacks than the Seahawks (12). The difference between the Lions and the Seahawks, however, is that Russell Wilson thrives in the middle of this chaos, completing 67 percent of his passes under pressure.
One of the biggest positive takeaways from the Seahawks' first win in Week 3 was that they finally got Jimmy Graham involved in the offense. After reports last week suggested he was frustrated with his role and lack of targets, Graham had a breakthrough game with seven catches for 83 yards and a touchdown. It was the kind of performance from the All-Pro tight end that fans have been waiting for since the team acquired Graham in the winter.
The other key development from last week's game was the return of safety Kam Chancellor. Although his statistical impact was minimal -- he finished with one tackle and no passes defended or interceptions -- the Legion of Boom clearly has its swagger back, and absolutely smothered the Bears passing attack (63 yards allowed on 17 attempts). Look for the Seahawks secondary to continue its dominance on Monday night against Stafford, who has already thrown five picks in three games.
Who to Watch
Tyler Lockett - Lockett is quickly becoming the league's most dangerous return man. He already has scored on a 105-yard kickoff return and a 57-yard punt return, becoming just the second rookie in NFL history with both a punt return touchdown and a kickoff return touchdown in his team's first three games of the season.
Although he hasn't made a huge impact as a wideout yet, he has played over half of the offensive snaps so far and should provide the Seahawks with a legitimate deep threat as he gets more comfortable with the playbook.
Ameer Abdullah - After a promising effort in Week 1 (50 yards rushing, 44 yards receiving), the rookie has struggled the past two weeks to live up to that early fantasy hype. Abdullah has rushed for just 32 yards on 14 carries and caught just three passes in the last two games combined.
With the offensive line struggling so much to open up holes in the run game, the Lions should look to get him into space more often with screens and quick passes out of the backfield, where he can use his athleticism and speed to make good things happen.
How to watch
When: 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle
Commentators: Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters
Online: WatchESPN, Verizon NFL Mobile, NFL.com/watch
The Seahawks are pretty much a sure bet to win this game, based on the experts' opinion. Over at CBS Sports, seven of the eight guys are taking the home team, and it's a clean sweep for the Seahawks on ESPN's panel. Our fellas at SB Nation agree, with Seattle the unanimous pick to win.
The Seahawks are 10.5-point favorites and the over/under is set at 43, according to OddsShark.com.
To get caught up on the Lions, head to Pride of Detroit. For everything Seahawks, the place to go is Field Gulls.
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