Well, the common opinion (and the odds makers’), is no. And after a second half meltdown against Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay Community College, er, Packers Sunday night, they managed to cap off a three game losing streak, squander the NFC North title, and will now have the privilege of flying cross-country to face the Seahawks on Saturday night (8:15 pm kickoff EST). Seattle has never lost a home playoff game (a remarkable13-0 all-time), but make no mistake, this not the same Seahawks team that won the Super Bowl in 2014 by any stretch of the imagination. So what do the Lions have to do to win?
-Running Game vs. Running Game
Without question the loss of RB Theo Riddick is huge for the Lions (and Ameer Abdullah before that). Both are multi-dimensional home run threats that can keep defenses from constantly teeing off and blitzing Matthew Stafford. But even with them in the lineup, keep in mind, Detroit still ranked 30th in the league in total rushing for the year. But against the Packers last week, Detroit started to show some flashes – specifically Zack Zenner. There is nothing flashy about Zenner. He is a north-south bowling ball who stays between the tackles and hardly ever dances around to bounce things outside. This could be just what the offensive line needs – a predictable, reliable runner who does not improvise plays and confuse blocking schemes. Detroit will feature a very vanilla, conventional set of packages and try to keep things simple and win the battle in the trench.
Seattle’s running game is not much better than Detroit’s – ranking 25th in the league overall. As stated, this isn’t 2013 and there is no more “Beast Mode” to deal with. Seattle has tried a plethora of backs with limited success. Now-Packer Christine Michael ended up leading the team in rushing with a meager 469 yards (albeit in only 9 games). Flint, MI native Thomas Rawls crawled along for 349. They even plugged in the ghost of C.J. Spiller for a couple games. So their running attack consists basically of QB Russell Wilson breaking contain and busting loose. Hopefully the Lions learned a lesson last week against Aaron Rodgers and can keep this guy in the pocket, or it could be a rough night.
-Whoever-on-the-Detroit O-Line vs. Seattle pass rush – specifically DE Cliff Avril
The former Lion is having another great year, posting a career-high 11.5 sacks. Some type of combination of double teams could be necessary. He is incredibly athletic and uses various swim-moves or gets his body leverage below the arms of would-be blockers. With the loss of S Earl Thomas, Head Coach Pete Carroll will undoubtedly try to bring as much pressure as he can to avoid being picked apart by Stafford, so this will be something to watch also.
-LB’s DeAndre Levy and Josh Bynes vs. SEA TE Jimmy Graham
It looks like its going to be kind of a game time decision if Levy is good to go, but either him or Bynes will have the heavy assignment of covering Jimmy Graham downfield. Graham finished the year with nearly 1000 yards receiving on 95 targets, second on the team behind WR Doug Baldwin. Detroit CB Darius Slay will likely draw the assignment of Baldwin and should be able to hold him in check, so the Lions Defense had best be aware of Graham – Wilson’s second favorite option.
The Lions have not a road playoff game since before the merger and the Seahawks were a figment of someone’s imagination. They are 7-1 at home this year, and the noise level there is worth 6 points by itself. And in the NFL, six points will take you a very long way. That being said, on an October MNF game there in 2015 the Lions kept it close and narrowly lost 13-10, so you never know. Detroit getting +8 and the under 43 looks tasty.
The Lions dispelled any of the ridiculous innuendo that had been swirling around the future of Head Coach Jim Caldwell and announced that he will be back for the 2017 season and likely beyond – eliminating a potential distraction heading into the game. Caldwell has a 27-21 record in Detroit and has made the playoffs in two of three seasons… After having lost Tyler Lockett to a broken leg in the Week 16 loss to Arizona, Seattle filled the role Tuesday and announced that they have signed 34 year-old return man Devin Hester for the game Saturday.