Oct. 15, 2016
The Obstructed NFC Wild Card Preview: Detroit Lions @ Seattle Seahawks
So the second of the Wild Card Games and the first of the NFC ones will kick off Saturday with the Detroit Lions and the Seattle Seahawks. For the Seahawks, they are on a bit of a nice run for playoffs (6 appearances in the last 7 years, including two Super Bowls and one Lombardi Trophy; and has made it in the divisional round all six times-a benchmark of consistency). For Detroit, 2 playoff appearances in the last 3 years and 3 in the last 6. Well, in the franchise's terms this is a golden run for Detroit. But the question will be, can Detroit, who have lost 3 straight, find their way back in Seattle or will the Seahawks and the 12th man doom the Lions in?
NFC WILD CARD: DETROIT LIONS @ SEATTLE SEAHAWKS, 8:15, NBC.
Line: Seattle by 8
THE LIONS CAN WIN IF:
1. They establish the run game (and stick with it). In each of the last two games against Dallas and Green Bay, Detroit was in it for the first half of both, largely because they gave it to Zach Zenner and neither team had answers. That said, when the teams made adjustments, Detroit abandoned it at the first issue. And those leads went out the window and fast. If Detroit has any chance, they have to keep Seattle honest with the ground game or not even Stafford can make magic in Seattle.
2. Detroit keeps it close throughout the game. The reason for this three game losing streak is the Giants, Cowboys, and Packers all pulled away late so Detroit could not mount any comeback whatsoever. If Seattle lets Detroit hang around by a touchdown or less with 5 minutes left, then all bets are off.
3. The receivers need to avoid the dropped passes. Detroit in my eyes is one of the most streakiest teams in the NFL. People point to Stafford's numbers, which are good, but probably could be so better if the likes of Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, TJ Jones, and Eric Ebron stepped up their games. It seems like the Lions will string together a couple of excellent drives, only not to have another decent drive until Stafford has to lead them from behind once more.
4. The defense needs to do a better job tackling. If you want to know why Detroit got shell-shocked in Dallas and at Green Bay, it is because they did a horrible job of wrapping up backs, receivers, and the quarterbacks. They just look bullied against the Cowboys and the Packers. And that is what really has kept the Lions from really making a big push this late of the season.
5. Ziggy Ansah NEEDS to have a big game. I think most can forgive Ansah for an ankle injury that has bothered him all season, thus going from 14 sacks to 2 this year, but it sounds like the ankle is better. And one of his best games I remember was when he faced Seattle and Wilson last year and gave him fits. Detroit should have won that game on two accounts, but Ansah was a key reason why.
THE SEAHAWKS CAN WIN IF:
1. Jump on Detroit early, often, and not let up. Detroit is a team that can come behind from a touchdown, maybe 10 points, but not a team that can go further than that. If the Seahawks at any point jump ahead of the Lions say by 17 at any point in the game, I don't see Stafford & Co. come back from that.
2. Get to Stafford as much as possible: Matthew Stafford is one tough cookie and to me is the toughest quarterback in the NFL for all the hits he has taken over the years. He isn't easily rattled like he was back from 09-12 and the offensive line isn't as bad as what we've seen, but Seattle's pass rush could still outdo Detroit's line and get to Stafford, and at times he will have issues hitting his targets when guys like Bennett are in his face.
3. Russell Wilson can't try to do too much. Yes, Detroit lost containment on the likes of Prescott and Rodgers where they killed them with their legs as well as the arms. But one thing I have noticed with Wilson is he does a few more of the dancing moves, moreso than just a few years back. Even Detroit last year got to him because Wilson acted too cute at times. He needs to play his game and not overdo it. Trust his backs, trust his WR's, and he should be fine.
4. Steven Hauschka needs to have a better game than Matt Prater. If this game does come close, the advantage you have to consider would be for Detroit and Hauschka has been awful on PAT's 29/35 (though better on FG's) and seems like he misses a FG attempt late in the game to give Seattle a win. Prater on the other hand has been money for the most part this season. If the game does end up tied or a one/two point difference late, you probably have more faith in Prater than Hauschka of delivering. And at that point, if it does go for OT, Detroit could win by FG while Seattle would be more inclined for a TD to end it.
PREDICTION: I think the Lions will do their "jump early" bit and even get up to a 14-0 lead, but they either overthink the adjustments and abandon what works and that will give Seattle what they need. Wilson will find a groove and play poised like he has this time of year and as any Lions fan knows, there will be one play that Detroit screws up on and turns the tide for Seattle. That said, I think Hauschka misses a key FG which gives Stafford one final chance for a 4th quarter comeback this season, but I think Detroit comes up short (typical Lions). SEAHAWKS 27, LIONS 21
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat