The Detroit Lions (9-7) lost three straight games to end the regular season, but snuck into the playoffs as a wild-card team and will play the Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1) on Saturday at CenturyLink Field at 8:30 p.m.
This is Detroit’s first playoff game since 2014, while the Seahawks have made the playoffs every year since 2012, winning the Super Bowl in 2013.
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford will have his hands full on Saturday, going up against one of the better secondaries in the league. Seattle boasts the eighth ranked passing defense in terms of yards allowed per game. Stafford threw for 347 yards, two touchdowns and one interception against the Green Bay Packers last week, and he’ll need to build on that performance if the Lions want to win.
Over the past couple of weeks, the Lions have put together some sound rushing performances in the first half, but have struggled in the second half. Against the Packers, Zach Zenner rushed for 63 yards and a touchdown in the first half, but was only able to generate six yards in the second half. One week earlier against the Dallas Cowboys, Zenner rushed for 67 yards, but 64 of those yards came in the first half. Detroit’s run game has had some success, but the offensive line needs to open holes the entire game, not just in the first half.
Lions receivers are led by former Seahawk Golden Tate, who had 91 receptions, 1077 yards and four touchdowns in the regular season. Tate has been Stafford’s favorite target this season, and that shouldn’t change against the Seahawks as Detroit should find success in shorter passing routes. Besides Tate, Stafford likes Anquan Boldin, who had 67 receptions, 584 yards and eight touchdowns this season. Stafford likes to target Boldin in the red zone, but he could struggle on Saturday, as he will most likely see Kam Chancellor close to the goal line.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has been very inconsistent this season. Wilson has thrown five interceptions in one game, but has also thrown for 350 yards and four touchdowns in a game. Wilson will be a determining factor in the outcome of this game, and if the Lions can’t force him into bad throws, they will not win the game.
Seattle lost Marshawn Lynch in the offseason, and that has hurt them this season as they currently have the 25th ranked rushing attack. Thomas Rawls entered the season as the starter, but he has battled injuries. Seattle then turned to Christine Michael, but he was waived midway through the season. Alex Collins led the team in rushing last week with 55 yards on seven carries. As of right now, Wilson and Collins are the most dangerous rushing threats on the team. The Lions should be able to stifle the Seahawks’ poor rushing attack.
Seattle’s receiving corps is led by Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham. Graham had 923 yards and six touchdowns this season, while Baldwin had 1,128 yards and seven touchdowns in the regular season. Seattle will be hurt by the loss of Tyler Lockett, but Jermaine Kearse is a name to keep an eye on. Kearse won’t replace Lockett’s deep threat ability, but he can find holes in this Lions defense. Kearse caught two passes for 44 yards against the San Francisco 49ers last week.
Keys to the game
Russell Wilson will be a big factor in this game. Wilson has been sporadic this season, and a bad game from Wilson could allow the Lions to sneak out with a win.
Detroit will need to get pressure on Wilson. The Seattle quarterback does turn the ball over a lot, and getting pressure could force him into bad throws.
Detroit’s run game will be something to keep an eye on. The Lions have had success over the past couple of weeks, but they need to put together a complete game. Zenner has shown flashes of greatness, but this will be a true test for him. Not only does Zenner need to put together a complete game, but the offense as a whole does as well. Detroit started fast last week against the Packers, scoring 14 points in the first half, but slowed down in the second half, scoring just three points before getting a garbage time touchdown with 13 seconds left in the game.
This is going to be one of, if not the best wild-card games this weekend. Detroit has lost three straight, but Seattle is just 3-3 over the past six games. Detroit is 3-5 on the road, while Seattle is 7-1 at home, leading me to believe that Seattle has the advantage here. This will be a close game throughout, but Seattle is the better team and will come out with the victory in the end.
Seattle 24, Detroit 17.