DETROIT LIONS (9-7)
at SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (10-5-1)
CenturyLink Field – Seattle, WA
Kickoff: Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET
Line: Seattle -8, Total: 42.5
The Lions get the unenviable task of playing a postseason game in Seattle on Saturday.
The Detroit Lions fell to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night of Week 17, 31-24, to finish the regular season at 9-7 (7-8-1 ATS). The loss was the third straight for the Lions, and it cost them an NFC North title that was theirs for the taking the past several weeks. Fortunately for Detroit, a Redskins loss Sunday afternoon clinched the Lions a Wild Card berth, and they will enter the Wild Card round as the No. 6 seed in the NFC. The Lions led 14-10 at halftime, but were outplayed thoroughly in the second half and needed what was essentially a Hail Mary with 13 seconds remaining in the game to cut the final margin to seven points. The Lions now back into a Saturday night matchup on the road at CenturyLink Field against the Seahawks, who are 7-1 at home this season and have won nine straight playoff games at home. Seattle won its season finale over the 49ers on the road on Sunday 25-23 (SF +10.5) to finish the regular season 10-5-1 (7-8-1 ATS) and further cement its division title in the weak NFC West. They trailed 14-3 early against the Niners but came back to take the lead for good before halftime. Over the last five seasons, favorites with winning records that have failed to cover the spread in three of their last four games are 42-18 ATS in games played in the second half of the season. In the same time frame, games involving two teams averaging between 18 and 23 points per game are 76-32 Under against the total in games played in the second half of the year when the total is between 42.5 and 49. T Riley Reiff and C Travis Swanson are questionable for the Lions. The Seahawks lost WR/returner Tyler Lockett to a broken leg in Week 16. Early weather reports indicate that rain and/or snow are possibilities in the forecast.
All in all, Detroit QB Matthew Stafford (65.3 CMP%, 4,327 yards, 24 TDs, 10 INTs) has had a solid season for the Lions. He finished sixth in the league in passing yards, 10th in completion percentage, 13th in passer rating (93.3) and 14th in touchdown passes. Of the 13 quarterbacks who threw more touchdown passes than him, seven threw at least three more interceptions than he did. His 7.29 yards per attempt ranks him ahead of the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Derek Carr. All that said, he has struggled late in the year. A few weeks ago he sprained his right middle finger—the one on his throwing hand—and since then has thrown two touchdowns and three interceptions in the Lions aforementioned three-game losing streak. Prior to that, he had thrown 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He was not abjectly awful in any of those three games, though, as he did not throw multiple picks in any of them and threw for over 250 yards and completed over 56% of his passes in all of them. He has a good number of weapons to throw to, and chief among them this season was WR Golden Tate (91 catches, 1,077 yards, 4 TDs). 10th in the NFL in receptions this season, he is one of the NFL’s premier short-yardage receivers. On the other hand, WR Marvin Jones (55 catches, 930 yards, 4 TDs) emerged as a dependable downfield specialist: He finished fifth in the league with 16.9 yards per catch. TE Eric Ebron (61 catches, 711 yards, TD) was also reliable, and veteran WR Anquan Boldin (67 catches, 584 yards, 8 TDs) easily led the team in touchdowns. The running game was a problem all year, as prospective starter Ameer Abdullah went down early in the season and pass-catching specialist Theo Riddick (92 carries, 357 yards, TD; 53 catches, 371 yards, 5 TDs) went down recently. That has left RB Zach Zenner (88 carries, 334 yards, 4 TDs) as the lead back, and he has averaged a solid 4.1 yards per carry the last two weeks and scored three touchdowns, as well. The Lions defense finished 18th in the league with 354.8 yards allowed per game and 13th with 22.4 points allowed per game. CB Darius Slay had an outstanding year in the secondary and seemed relatively unencumbered by a lingering hamstring injury against the Packers last weekend.
While still a signal-caller that many NFL teams would kill to acquire, Seattle QB Russell Wilson (64.7 CMP%, 4,219 yards, 21 TDs, 11 INTs) had arguably the worst regular season of his career so far. While he threw for a career high in passing yardage (7th in NFL), his 92.6 passer rating (14th) was a career low, and his 21 touchdown passes (17th) nearly were. His 11 interceptions were a career high. One element of his game that all but disappeared was his running ability, something that made him stand out in previous seasons. Thanks in large part to several early-season injuries, he rushed for only 259 yards; his previous career low was 489 rushing yards in his rookie season. Since the Seahawks beat the Patriots on November 13th, a game which featured a near-flawless performance from Wilson, the Seahawks have only played one playoff team in seven games. In that game, Wilson threw a startling five interceptions in a 38-10 loss to the Packers. In the three games since then, however, he has thrown eight touchdowns and one interception. For a second consecutive season, his go-to receiver has been WR Doug Baldwin (94 catches, 1,128 yards, 7 TDs). While Baldwin only halved his anomalous 14-touchdown season of 2015, he set career highs in receptions and yards. He had season highs with 13 catches and 171 yards (and a touchdown) in Week 16 against the Cardinals. TE Jimmy Graham (65 catches, 923 yards, 6 TDs) had something of a comeback season, often flashing the brilliance he showed in his days as a Saint. Most of his bigger games came in the first half of the season, though. Losing Lockett (41 catches, 597 yards, TD), the team’s third-losing receiver, certainly hurts a shallow receiving corps. At least one of WRs Jermaine Kearse (41 catches, 511 yards, TD) and Paul Richardson (21 catches, 288 yards, TD) will be asked to step up in his absence. Like Detroit, Seattle has struggled with the running game all season. RBs Thomas Rawls (109 carries, 349 yards, 3 TDs) and Alex Collins (31 carries, 125 yards, 5 TDs) have split carries in recent weeks. Defensively, Seattle is fifth in the league with 318.7 yards allowed per game and third with 18.3 points allowed per game. The absence of Hall of Fame S Earl Thomas from the secondary (broken leg) has been noticeable in recent weeks and will be a vulnerability as long as the Seahawks are in the playoffs.