Detroit Lions

He said / she said – Seattle Seahawks vs. Detroit Lions

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USA Today

He said / she said – Seattle Seahawks vs. Detroit Lions

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Oregon Sports News writers Julian Rogers and Jessica Ridpath discuss and predict the Wild Card matchup between the Seattle Seahawks (10–5–1) and the Detroit Lions (9–7).

When: 5:15 p.m., Saturday, January 7, 2017 Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle

Rogers: Unless the Seahawks get to play themselves, they could not have gotten a better draw in the Detroit Lions for their first game of the NFL Playoffs. Jess, I kid because I know you’re down on their chances this year.

But look at it this way: The Lions faced only four teams that made the playoffs this season and lost to them five times. (They played Green Bay twice). In early December, the Lions were riding high having squeaked by the woeful Chicago Bears, building a 9–4 record. They haven’t won since.

The Lions dropped three straight to close out the regular season to the New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers. If you are concerned about the Seahawks’ momentum, you have to absolutely laugh at the “momentum” of the Lions.

Does that mean they are no threat against the Seahawks on Saturday? I won’t say that. But look at how they are obviously compromised: Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick are on injured reserve (their top two running backs). Quarterback Matthew Stafford’s productivity (and the Lions’ win/loss record) has plummeted since he experienced his finger injury on Dec. 11. The Lions’ top cornerback, Darius Slay, only just returned to the lineup (hamstring), but could not offer much impact against the Packers’ passing attack. The Lions’ #2 receiver, Marvin Jones, hasn’t scored a touchdown since Oct. 16 and may be out with a concussion. Old friend Golden Tate only collected four touchdowns all season. Two starting offensive linemen (Riley Reiff and Travis Swanson) missed last week and are questionable this week.

About the only thing the Lions have going well for them at this stage of the season are a not-terrible-but-still-bottom-half defense (18th overall; 18th against the rush, 19th against the pass) and a better-than-the-Seahawks offensive line (still iffy) and an overall offense that is almost parallel to the Seahawks: Lions average 21.6 points per game; Seahawks average 22.1.

Jess, the Lions should have “Playoff Fodder” stamped on their helmets. Does that cheer you up?

Ridpath: Half of my childhood icons are dead, a fascist tyrant is about to become our president, and the two football teams I despise the most are the top contenders for the Super Bowl. I’m afraid a little truth telling about the ho-hum Detroit Lions isn’t quite enough to lift my spirits. But thanks for trying.

I didn’t see much in Seattle’s performance last week to raise my spirits, either. But there were a few visible bright spots (even when viewed through my grumpy glasses):

  • After a slow start, the defense looked like it might be ready for playoff-caliber football—especially league-leading tackler Bobby Wagner, who added 10 tackles and 2 sacks to his collection.
  • Rookie Alex Collins ran the ball for 7.9 yards per carry, the highest average posted by any Seahawk running back in the regular season.
  • Russell Wilson was only sacked once.

Those last two bright spots dim a bit when you consider they were achieved against the league’s worst defense (San Francisco). But I’m still intrigued by Collins’ performance. He’s had a total of 21 carries in three of the Seahawks’ last four games, averaging more than 5 yards per carry. Thomas Rawls, on the other hand, has averaged a mere 1.5 yards per carry in his last three games.

Julian, is Collins’ performance of late enough to earn him a bigger share of the rushing gig in the playoffs?

Rogers: I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t. Rawls just isn’t having success running behind the same line. With this much production and praise from Pete Carroll, I see Collins getting in on the action even sooner than we’ve seen before. He could come in on the second series if Rawls starts off with another couple of nowhere runs.

As I noted above, the Lions have a middling rush defense. They just might get Rawls bounced early, which might not be to their benefit.

One match up I intend to keep my eye on is the way that Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin deploys his defensive ends. The Lions have a tendency to go “wide 9” with their defensive ends, meaning they put their outside linemen quite wide — primarily for the purposes of containment against mobile quarterbacks. It didn’t work last week against Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers broke the backs of the Lions with 42 yards on scrambles and designed rushes on 10 attempts (3 of which were kneel-downs for minus-4 yards). That will be a key determinant in this game. If Wilson can use his escapability to similar effect, Seattle should be able to move the ball at will.

Speaking of dreary outlooks for the new year, what are your picks for the NFL’s Wild Card round? Four teams and their fans are going to have their hearts broken this weekend. Here are mine:

Saturday January 7, 2017

Oakland @ Houston — Texans 23, Raiders 20 (Houston has a ridiculously lucky quarterback advantage.)

Sunday January 8, 2017

Miami @ Pittsburgh — Steelers, 30, Dolphins 13 (Pittsburgh’s killer Bs are rested and too good to lose at home.)

Giants @ Green Bay — Packers 30, Giants 27 (Pack scores just enough and exorcises Giants playoffs demons of recent past.)

Usually one home team loses in the Wild Card round. Will it be Seattle?

Ridpath: If any team is going to lose at home in the Wild Card round, it will either be Houston or Seattle. Your predictions for Pittsburgh and Green Bay are right on, IMHO—although I expect the Packers’ victory over the Giants will be a bit more comfortable. Eli Manning’s performance this season has been unimpressive (some might even say “atrocious”), and I don’t see him leading the Giants to 27 points at Lambeau field.

Even though the Raiders have lost two starting quarterbacks to injury in the last two weeks and will likely have to start rookie Connor Cook under center, I don’t think Brock Osweiler and his 72.2 passer rating are really that big of an advantage for the Texans. I’ll give the edge to Houston because of their league-leading defense, but I think this game could go either way.

Which brings me to Seattle. The Seahawks have not lost a playoff game at home in the Carroll-Wilson era … while the Lions have not won a playoff game since 1991. And the last time they won a post-season game on the road? 1957. For real.

Considering these trends, a Seattle victory seems almost certain. But I’m not buying it. I know I’m in the minority here, but I think the Seahawks chances at victory are 50/50 at best. For a variety of reasons, some rational … others perhaps not so much:

  • Earl Thomas: His absence leaves the Hawks’ secondary vulnerable to Stafford’s big arm. The last two times Seattle faced teams with elite passing quarterbacks (Aaron Rodgers and Carson Palmer), they lost.
  • The o-line: Playoff football requires playoff-caliber pass protection. And that’s something we haven’t seen from Seattle’s offensive line all season. Watching them play has been like eating a box of chocolates … (you fill in the rest).
  • Karma: The Lions fell to the blue birds in Seattle last season after a blown call late in the 4th quarter of their week four matchup on Monday Night Football. The universe has a way of evening out these types of injustices over time.
  • 1957: That’s a loooong time ago. Things have gotta change at some point.

Julian, this is where you tease me for being a New Age Hippie from Olympia. Go for it. Then tell me who will win this matchup and why.

Rogers: Take a bath and get a job, hippie! Honestly, I have no idea why I’m supposed to castigate you for being a hippie, but when you offer me a free shot, I’ll take it. Maybe you can explain it to me sometime over some kombucha? You Olympians confuse me. I grew up there, but I got out. I remain outside the realm of understanding what Olympians are talking about.

Speaking of out, the Lions are about to have their playoff lives snuffed out. The Seahawks won’t be dropping a home playoff game this time to the weakest playoff squad in the NFC track. I don’t foresee a cakewalk for the blue birds, but a win nonetheless as the Lions continue their slide. Prediction: Seattle 27, Detroit 20.

Please allow us your patchouli-soaked prediction, if you please.

Ridpath: Seeing as how my mood obviously needs lifting, I’m going to try a little reverse psychology on myself and pick the Lions. That way, if the Hawks disappoint me by losing, at least I’ll have the satisfaction of being right. And if they win … well, then I’ll have another week of Seahawks football to look forward to. Prediction: Seattle 23, Detroit 24. (Bonus prediction: Somewhere along the way, Steven Hauschka is going to miss a field goal or an extra point. And it’s going to matter. Big time.)

Owning up Here’s what we were right and wrong about last week.

What he got right: The game winner. I’m 9–7 on my picks for the Seahawks regular season.

What he got wrong: I pointed to Richard Sherman going off the rails. Seems he’s beaten me to the punch by nowfreezing out the media. So I guess we won’t be treated to a meltdown any time soon. The San Francisco 49ers made it closer than I predicted, but the Seahawks rested starters in the fourth quarter.

What she got right: The game winner, bringing me back to even at 8–8. Congrats, Julian! That means you win our regular-season prediction showdown. Your prize awaits you in Olympia. (But since us Olympians are so “confusing,” you probably have no idea what I’m talking about.)

What she got wrong: I thought this would be a comfortable victory for Seattle. They were playing against the worst defense in the league, after all. But the Hawks fell behind early after a dismal first quarter and had to rely on their defense to get them back in the game.

Breaking Vegas with Garrett Thornton – Wild Card Round

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Breaking Vegas with Garrett Thornton – Wild Card Round

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Last year I was better than 53% in my Breaking Vegas picks and I aimed for 60% this year. As the regular season comes to a close I finish slightly over 50%.

While this might not be the best way to “Break Vegas”, I look to the Playoffs to keep up my late-season momentum.

I will pick all 11 games of the Playoffs and also have prop bet picks before the Super Bowl.

This Wild Card Round is completely bi-polar. The games are either must-watch television or they are matchups that fans of the teams don’t even have interest in.

Let’s see who I pick this week…

Oakland Raiders +4 @ Houston Texans

Let me start with one of the most lackluster Playoff matchups in NFL history. If you polled the 100+ players on these two teams, I doubt 50 of them would even watch this game if they weren’t in it.

The Texans are a bad team that won the worst division in the AFC. Even though they won the division, I would much rather watch Andrew Luck and the Colts or Marcus Mariota and the Titans. This Texans team has underwhelmed all year but is hosting a game in the Wild Card Round. The worst investment in the NFL was the contract given to Brock Osweiler. He can earn some of that contract with a home Playoff win.

On the other hand, the Raiders were one of the feel-good stories of the NFL season. A late-season injury to Derek Carr brought that to a screeching halt. Carr is one of the good guys of the NFL and was really developing into the franchise quarterback that the Raiders so desperately needed for so long. All of that is in the past and not the Raiders are starting fourth round pick Conner Cook under center. It will be the first time ever that a rookie quarterback made his first start in a Playoff game. Not a lot of precedence here, but let me give you a hint, it won’t go well.

Neither team can score enough points to run away with it, but the Texans find a way to win.

Texans 16 – Raiders 14

Detroit Lions +8 @ Seattle Seahawks

Seattle is one of the toughest places to play in the NFL. That only gets intensified entering the Playoffs. Home field advantage is absolutely crucial for the Seahawks this year because this is not the team that people are accustomed to. Without Earl Thomas, this defense is missing their captain. The passing game has been hot and cold. The offensive line and running game have been abysmal at points. If the Seahawks want to make a run, they need major efforts from Russell Wilson and Jimmy Graham.

The Lions are a sleeper in my opinion. If Matthew Stafford can adjust to his finger injury on his throwing hand, this team has the offensive firepower to play with anybody. The last two weeks of the regular season the Lions lost to the Cowboys and the Packers. Those two teams just so happen to be two of the best teams in the league. There isn’t a lot of belief in this Detroit team right now and that has driven this line. Bet the Lions in this one.

Seahawks 24 – Lions 20

Miami Dolphins @ Pittsburgh Steelers -10

This is the line that I have the least faith in. This is also the first time that the Steelers will play a Playoff game with Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and LeVeon Bell on the field at the same time. That will be the difference.

Pittsburgh can score 50 any given night. In the Playoffs, with a little bit more motivation, I expect their best performance of the year.

Steelers 38 – Dolphins 27

New York Giants @ Green Bay Packers -4.5

I fully admit that I am a Cowboys fan and I am hoping they can go to and win the Super Bowl this year. If I take my biased lenses off, I don’t know that there is a hotter team in the NFL than the Green Bay Packers.

Despite several flaws, the Packers have won 7 games in a row and have a healthy Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is, arguably, the most talented quarterback to play the game. He is playing at the top of his abilities and has the team around him believing in him. He is the rare quarterback and leader that has every other person on that team bought in. This is a dangerous Packers team heading into January.

Although the Giants have some very quality victories this season, and have a track record of success in the Playoffs, I just don’t see this team a legitimate contender. This team is not a great offensive team, despite having Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. The Giants only scored 310 points this season, good for only 26th in the NFL. The other NFC Playoff teams…

Atlanta Falcons scored 540 (1st)

Green Bay Packers scored 432 (4th)

Dallas Cowboys scored 421 (5th)

Seattle Seahawks scored 354 (18th)

Detroit Lions scored 346 (20th)

While you can make the case that defense wins championships, you still have to score points to win games. This Giants team just hasn’t scored enough points for anyone to have much faith in them. The stakes get bigger and the opponents tighten down their defenses come January. Giants just won’t have enough to make a dent in the NFC Playoffs.

Packers 28 – Giants 21

  Wins Losses Push Percentage
Week One 1 3 1 30%
Week Two 1 4 0 20%
Week Three 2 3 0 40%
Week Four 2 3 0 40%
Week Five 3 2 0 60%
Week Six 2 2 1 50%
Week Seven 3 2 0 60%
Week Eight 2 3 0 40%
Week Nine 3 1 1 70%
Week Ten 3 2 0 60%
Week Eleven 3 2 0 60%
Week Twelve 2 2 1 50%
Week Thirteen 1 4 0 20%
Week Fourteen 3 2 0 60%
Week Fifteen 4 1 0 80%
Week Sixteen 3 2 0 60%
Week Seventeen 3 2 0 60%
OVERALL 41 40 4 50.6%

*All betting lines provided by Bovada.LV on the Thursday preceding particular NFL week.