A Look At How The Final Quarter Of This Year’s Season Might Pan Out For The Detroit Lions
In case you missed my predictions for the first 12 games of the season, click here for a look at my picks for the first four games, here to see my picks and predictions for games 5-8, or here for games 9-12.
Headed into the final stretch the Lions are 6-6, giving them a very outside chance to sneak into the playoff picture. There will likely be a lot of teams in the NFC race this year and this is how things may look around the league after 12 games.
- The Pittsburgh Steelers have already clinched the AFC North with a 10-2 record, with the Ravens at 6-6 in second place
- Division leaders are as follows: Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, New England, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Los Angeles Rams
- The Detroit Lions are 10th in the NFC and two games out of the second wild card spot
- As expected, the NFC South is stacked again and three teams are 7-5 or better
Week 14: Detroit Lions @ Arizona Cardinals; December 9th 4:25 pm
Key Matchup: David Johnson vs Lions Front Seven
The Lions were at home to start last season and things were really looking good after they were able to handle the Arizona Cardinals by 12 points and have their rookie wide receiver put the league on notice. After that game, I really dismissed Arizona and didn’t pay much attention to them for the rest of 2017. To my surprise, they actually did finish with an 8-8 record all while juggling between Carson Palmer, Blaine Gabbert, and Drew Stanton at QB. This is a big-time trap game for Detroit. It reminds me of the Cincinnati game last season. Arizona is likely in a transition year where they will be experimenting with rookie Josh Rosen at quarterback, but they are still a team that has a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. Personally, I don’t see the Cardinals finishing with eight wins again, but that doesn’t mean that they will be pushovers. David Johnson is one of the best backs in the NFL and Old Larry Fitz still has some left in the tank. Patrick Peterson still leads a solid secondary and there are plenty of other playmakers on the defensive side for Arizona. The Lions need to slow down David Johnson when they are on defense. Whoever is at quarterback for the Cardinals at this point in the season will be a wild card and if the Lions are able to slow down the one facet of the Cardinal offense that is proven, they will emerge victorious.
Prediction: Detroit Lions 23, Arizona Cardinals 20
Week 15: Detroit Lions @ Buffalo Bills; December 16th 1:00 pm
Key Matchup: Glover Quin vs Buffalo Quarterback
This should be a fun game for the Lions. Buffalo has yet to pick a starter from the three options that they have, all of which are not starting caliber quarterbacks. By week 15 I imagine a starter will emerge, but he will by no stretch be a good one. Outside of LeSean McCoy, who could be out for off-the-field reasons by December, the Bills are really searching for talent on the offensive side of the ball. The defense was only 18th in the league last season and doesn’t look to be improved. Unless there’s a snowstorm going on in Buffalo on this day, I expect the Lions offense to put up a solid amount of points. I’m keying in on Glover Quin for this week’s key matchup for one reason. The wily vet is going to toy with an inexperienced quarterback all game long. Lions fans know the value of Glover Quin much better than big media or the rest of the league. I expect Glover to come up with a pick and make a few important plays while the rest of the Lion defense follows. This will be an easy win.
Prediction: Detroit Lions 42, Buffalo Bills 10
Week 16: Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions; December 23rd 1:00 pm
Key Matchup: Kenny Golladay vs Mackenzie Alexander/Terrance Newman
This is an interesting game because the Lions need a win, but Minnesota will probably only be playing for a bye and have the division wrapped up at this point. Maybe the Lions could get some help from Minnesota resting starters. If that’s not the case Detroit will need to put together a complete game in all three facets and have someone step up and have a game that isn’t necessarily expected. I think that for this game it will be Kenny Golladay. I’m not 100% a buyer of Kenny Golladay at this point, but I do think that he can be a solid number two receiver for years to come. This game could be his breaking out party. My dream scenario is that he performs well enough down the stretch to make the pending Golden Tate contract decision much easier for the Lions personnel department. The Ford Field atmosphere will be rocking for the final home game of the season and Golladay goes for 125+ receiving yards. A normally-futile Lions pass rush breaks character and is able to get to Kirk Cousins five times en route to a Lions win.
Prediction: Minnesota Vikings 17, Detroit Lions 20
Week 17: Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers; December 30th 1:00 pm
Key Matchup: Matthew Stafford vs Common Narratives
Well, here it is again. The Lions are 9-6; the Packers are 10-5. Winner gets a wild card spot; loser goes home. If the Niners and Rams weren’t going to be playing for the NFC West title, I’d make the prediction that this game gets flexed to 8:30. About the key matchup for this game though… “Matthew Stafford can’t win big games”, “Matthew Stafford can’t play in the elements”, “Matthew Stafford hasn’t won a playoff game.” These are all things we hear every year and we will continue to hear until they are proven wrong. I would say that including the playoffs, the Lions have played five or six “big” games in Matthew Stafford’s career. They have yet to win one. Until they do, the narratives will stay the same. QB wins isn’t a stat, yeah yeah I know, but one of these times, Matthew Stafford has to win one with a mediocre performance from the rest of his team. He has to be the force that elevates them out of mediocrity. No more excuses. Until he plays so well in one of these games that they cannot lose, or the rest of the team plays well enough to bail him out and win one, I will have more faith in Aaron Rodgers and the Packers winning when it counts.
Prediction: Detroit Lions 21, Green Bay Packers 30
Final Record: 9-7
Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to follow @charleskelbel on Twitter, find me on Reddit at u/Char1es_In_Charge and leave me your thoughts on the Detroit Lions subreddit.