With Their Back Against The Wall, Detroit Will Try Their Best To Keep Their Playoff Hopes Alive.
You take a look back at this season and you ask a Lions fan, “what has been the most crucial part of the season?” When it first happened, Lions fans knew it would come back to haunt them later in the season. The thing that was haunting them, the famous 10 second run off game against the Atlanta Falcons. Now the Lions need help to get into the playoffs, but more on that later.
The main focus has to be on the upcoming opponent and this week it is the Cincinnati Bengals. While the Bengals are out of the playoff race, they would like to spoil the mood for another team, so don’t expect them to just roll over and not try without a fight. Detroit has to win this game, it’s now “win or go home.”
Matt Stafford Will Be Behind A Distraught Offensive Line
Things aren’t looking good for the Lions offensive line this week. According to the team’s final injury report, starting center Travis Swanson is out, and starting right guard T.J. Lang is doubtful. Swanson is still in concussion protocol, while Lang has been dealing with a foot injury. Starting right tackle Rick Wagner has been upgraded to questionable after missing the past few games with an ankle injury. If all three aren’t good to go, expect Joe Dahl to play left guard as starting left guard Graham Glasgow moves to center, Don Barclay at right guard and Corey Robinson at right tackle.
Quarterback Matt Stafford would like at least Wagner back, and getting Lang and Wagner would be a dream for this week, as the Cincinnati Bengals are tied for seventh in the NFL in sacks with 38. Luckily, if Dahl plays, he should be a valuable replacement as he got an 85.3 grade from PFF.
Matthew Stafford is on pace to be sacked more than any time in his career. Here is a crazy bonus stat. He's avoided 20 sacks by breaking tackles in the backfield, more than any quarterback this season.
— Justin Rogers (@Justin_Rogers) December 21, 2017
Stafford was sacked four times last week against the Chicago Bears, who are ranked 6th in the NFL in sacks. This will be a big test for the depth on this offensive line and with each week being their biggest game of the season, they can’t allow many mistakes or else they could be sitting at home in 2018.
Darius Slay Needs To Keep Having Career Year
Starting cornerback Darius Slay is having a career year in 2017. After having three years of only two interceptions, Slay is now leading the league with seven, career-high pass deflections in 20, and is three solo tackles away from 50, a career-high.
Slay will have to put that to the test against one of the best receivers in the league, A.J. Green. Green has 67 catches for 980 yards and eight touchdowns. He has almost 50 more targets than the next receiver on the team. The Cincinnati Bengals passing offense hasn’t been too effective this season though, being ranked 28th in passing offense, averaging 191.9 passing yards per game.
Not only has the passing game struggled this season, so has the running game for Cincinnati. The Bengals fell down to 32nd in the NFL in rushing offense, just five yards less than the Detroit Lions. Both teams not being able to run will be something to talk about, and will put more pressure on the Bengals to pass, giving Slay and others more opportunities to get takeaways.
Keep Your Eyes On Atlanta
With the NFC North division officially going to the Minnesota Vikings, Detroit can now focus only on the wildcard. With the Carolina Panthers being 10-4 and beating Detroit earlier in the season, there is no way the Lions can jump them. They are also like the New Orleans Saints, with a 10-4 record and beating Detroit, if they fall to the wildcard, Detroit can’t jump them either.
That leaves only one team left to chase, and that is the Atlanta Falcons. With the win over Detroit, Atlanta has the tie-breaker, meaning the Lions need Atlanta to lose their final two games. The bad news, that is a lot to ask for. The good news, it is possible. The Falcons travel to New Orleans in week 16 and host Carolina week 17. Both the Saints and the Panthers are fighting for the division title, so don’t expect them to rest any starters this week or next week. If the Saints win the division after week 16, Carolina will still want to have a higher seed over Atlanta, so they most likely won’t bench their starters then either.
Going up against a team just as bad when it comes to running the football will be interesting. That gives the defense a good time to show that they can stop the pass when they know it is coming. The offense will have their limits pushed as possibly three offensive linemen will be out.
Overall this game shouldn’t be too close as the Lions have more valuable weapons on offense than Cincinnati, and offense is going to be the biggest difference as Detroit has a better passing game than the Bengals.
Detroit wins 31-21.