Last week, the Detroit Lions allowed the Green Bay Packers to “Run the Table” and defeat them in the final week of the season to win the NFC North title. Detroit has yet to win that title since the division was renamed and realigned in 2002. Instead of hosting the New York Giants, the Lions must now fly to Seattle and face the Seahawks along with their home crowd, also known as the 12th man. Seattle had an up-and-down season and comes into the game with a 10-5-1 record. Detroit has backed their way into the Wild Card game by losing their last three games and finishing at a 9-7 record. As Lions punter Sam Martin stated on Twitter, “Good news is a brand new season starts tomorrow no matter what! On to Seattle”.
Detroit Lions Wild Card Keys to Victory
Contain Russell Wilson
Limiting Russell Wilson will be one of the keys for a Lions victory. One strategy is to keep him inside the pocket and force him to throw the ball downfield. This season, Wilson has thrown the ball more times than any other season in his career. The higher passing attempts has led to a career high in passing yards (4,219) but also to a career high number of interceptions (11). The key focus has been the big drop off of his touchdown percentage at 3.8% of his passes, down from 7.0% from the 2015 season. Wilson has been forced to throw the ball more often and create plays outside the pocket due to his inconsistent offensive line play. That offensive line played into his Total QBR being at a career low of 59.6, down from 74.91 just a season ago. He has a very dangerous weapon in Jimmy Graham, a cause for concern as the Lions have been dreadful against tight ends this season. If Detroit is able to limit the escapability of Russell Wilson and cover Graham, the Lions could find themselves moving on to the next round of the playoffs.
Continue Rushing Attack in Second Half
In the first half of the last two games, Detroit were able to run the ball very consistently with Zach Zenner. The second half of those games were a completely different story as they go away from the success of that offensive play-calling. Instead, the Lions threw the ball more often which lead to quick possessions and more often than not, a three-and-out and a punt. In the first half against the Green Bay Packers, Zenner had 16 carries for 63 yards and a touchdown. He had just four carries for six yards in the second half and did not score. The inability to keep Zenner in the game plan for the second half has been a head-scratcher for Lions fans and even the announcers calling the game.
Make Good Halftime Adjustments
The Lions have played tough against their opponents in their last three losses, especially in the first half. They trailed the Giants at half 10-3, against the Cowboys it was tied at 21, and against the Packers they held a lead at 14-10. However, in these games, Detroit has failed to make good halftime adjustments. The Cowboys game was the most obvious as they were shutout in the second half. The game plans come down to the coordinators and head coach Jim Caldwell. Caldwell will be retained at least through the 2017 season as announced by the team earlier this week. His status for any season beyond that is still up in the air.
Detroit has not had a single win against a playoff bound team this season and if they lose to the Seahawks on Saturday, will end the season on a four-game losing streak. They must be able to move the ball in the second half to stay toe-to-toe with the Seahawks and prevent a disappointing end to the season. As has been seen multiple times this season, if Detroit is able to stay in striking distance in that fourth quarter, they have a shot to win any game. The game plan will need to be strong throughout the entire second half for the Lions to pull off a Wild Card weekend upset.
The Detroit Lions have their toughest matchup of the season on Saturday: a Wild Card game against the NFC West leading Seattle Seahawks with the entire season on the line. For many fans, getting to the playoffs is a big accomplishment for a Detroit team that had very low expectations from around the league at the beginning of the season. Most “experts” had them pegged for last in the NFC North with maybe four to six wins.
The Lions may have overachieved with their forecasted win total, but the real goal is to win games that matter. They lost the game against Green Bay with the NFC North title on the line at home last week. With that loss, they put themselves in a tough spot. They now face a surging Seahawks team in an environment so loud it has been known to cause earthquake-like seismograph readings.
Detroit must come in with a good strategic game plan for the full 60 minutes, be able to contain Russell Wilson and force him to throw the ball, as well not being afraid to run the ball to open up passing lanes. Detroit will need an almost perfect game to upset the heavily favored Seahawks team. This Saturday will start the Lions playoff run, and it will be truly Detroit vs Everybody.