We talkin bout playoffs!!! The Detroit Lions (9-7) travel to Seattle (10-5-1) for a wildcard showdown on Saturday night (8:15 PM ET NBC). Detroit is the 6th seed after losing three straight but the Seahawks have struggled lately as well (2-2). Detroit will be looking for their first playoff win since 1991 and their first playoff road win since 1957. Sixth seeds are 22-33 against 3rd seeds in playoff history. Seattle have won 9 in a row at home in the playoffs with their last loss in 2004. Let’s take a look at the matchups.
Big Day from Stafford
Matt Stafford rebounded in Week 17 with a 96 QB rating day against Green Bay. He finished the 2016 season with a 93.3 rating (13th) with 24 TDS and 10 interceptions and will look to have a productive day at Seattle. The Legion of Boom is still talented at DE, LB and the secondary. However, they have missed Earl Thomas and allow a 99 QB rating without Thomas. If Stafford can be protected from Seattle’s monster DEs, the Lions can score plenty of points through the air on Seattle.
Seattle has a strong pass rush that is 6th in sacks (42) with consistent pressure. They are led by Michael Bennett (5 sacks after missing some games), Cliff Avril (11.5 sacks) and Frank Clark (10.0 sacks). Rookie Taylor Decker and Riley Reiff will be challenged in this game by these DEs. Riley Reiff has a hip injury and hopefully can play on Saturday night. Otherwise, Lions will have to play 3rd string right tackle Cornelius Lucas. Lucas could have a nightmare matchup against Avril and Clark.
Seattle can blitz as well with KJ Wright (4.5 sacks) and Bobby Wagner (4.0 sacks). The Lions must communicate well in a loud Seattle Century Link Stadium to handle the blitzes. Seattle only has 11 interceptions on the year despite a strong pass rush. Stafford must avoid turnovers in this game on the road. Short fields and interception returns
Lions Run Game versus stout Seattle
Zach Zenner has jolted some life into the Lions run game in three of the pas t four weeks. Zenner must continue to run well and the Lions must be near perfect in run blocking. Seattle is very good in run defense. In fact, they are best in the league allowing only 3.4 YPC. Ahyta Rubin, Tony McDaniels, rookie Jarran Reed and John Jenkins are very stout at DT. McDaniels is battling a concussion and may not play in the game. Seattle’s LBs are excellent in filling gaps and Seattle’s defensive ends are solid on the edge.
If Zenner doesn’t get the blocking, he doesn’t really make guys miss. The Lions might have to be one dimensional in this game and use the short passing attack as a run game.
Seattle Passing Attack and Wilson Ninja Scrambles
Russell Wilson has a 92 QB rating. Seattle has major protection problems and allow a high number of sacks. Wilson’s scrambling ability is down this season (3.6 YPC) but Wilson did have an ankle injury earlier in the season. The key to the game will be the Lions generating pressure on a poor offensive line and Wilson being able to scramble away from that pressure and make plays.
Seattle still has good weapons in Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham. Baldwin notched 1,128 yards and 7 TDs and Graham added 923 yards and 6 TDs on 95 targets. Jermaine Kearse only had 511 yards on 90 targets and Seattle misses the injured slot WR in Tyler Lockett (IR). Paul Richardson is a sneaky deep threat unless jammed at the line properly. Slay can match up with Baldwin but the Lions safeties and LBs will need good coverage on the night to slow down Jimmy Graham.
The key will be pressure from Ansah, Ngata, Taylor and Hyder. They must get consistent pressure to force Wilson to move from the pocket. After they make him move, they must contain him and finish with sacks and ill-advised throws. Wilson has 21 TDs and 11 interceptions on the season with 64.7% at a high 7.7 YPA. Wilson is still a playmaker and Detroit had the worst QB rating allowed in the league. If Detroit doesn’t get pressure, it could be a long day for the Lions.
Seattle Rushing Attack (Missing Lynch)
Thomas Rawls had been a disappointment with 3.2 YPC on 109 carries. Wilson only has 3.6 YPC this year after many years over 5 YPC scrambling. Rookie Alex Collins notched 4.0 YPC on 31 carries and may be used more in this game. Rookie CJ Prosise is still out injured for the Seahawks. Detroit has been up and down in run defense and have had two bad weeks in a row. Detroit must be sound in their gaps and make the Seahawks a one dimensional passing team on Saturday.
This game will come down to turnovers. The Lions have forced 14 only on the season and none in the last four games. They must force at least one turnover in this game to make it easier for their offense. Seattle has forced 19 turnovers but the Lions only allowed 15 on the year. Detroit must continue to protect the ball well. Seattle getting two turnovers could spell doom for Detroit in this game.
Lions haven’t won on road since 1957 in playoffs. Seattle’s defense is weaker without Thomas and the Seahawks have offensive line and run game problems. Russell Wilson can still make big plays and Seattle has some weapons with Baldwin and Graham. The key will who win the turnover battle and gets more pressure on the opposing QB. Detroit ends the losing streak and ends Seattle’s home playoff winning streak. Detroit 20 Seattle 17 will be the score. Book it.