The Seahawks face the Detroit Lions at home at CenturyLink Stadium tomorrow at 5:15 pm on NBC. (Yes, that means Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth will have the call).
In the nightcap on the opening day of Wild Card weekend, the 10-5-1 Seahawks will host the 9-7 Detroit Lions in the cold rain of CenturyLink. Forecast reports show a temperature of 37 degrees with a high probability of rain for the game, an advantage for Seattle.
The Lions took a long and strange journey to this Wild Card matchup. Detroit trailed in the fourth quarter in 15 of their 16 games this year. They won eight of those games by leaning on the golden-armed Matthew Stafford, who led an offensive attack more balanced than previous teams, minus his Hall of Fame receiver Calvin Johnson.
Stafford has been magical in crunch time this year. His eight fourth-quarter comebacks are the most in an NFL regular season since 1950. He has been the engine driving this mediocre team to the playoffs. Detroit beat one winning team this season, 8-7-1 (barely winning) Washington. Stafford is just 5-45 in his career against teams that finished the season with a winning record. Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott has already won six games against winning teams. But offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter deserves credit for fixing a few mechanical flaws in Stafford’s game that has led to one of his finest seasons in his career. Stafford, of course, deserves credit for his adjustments as well.
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Detroit is looking for its first playoff win since 1991, and it’s likely that that drought will continue against Seattle. The Lions are eight-point underdogs on the road. A key factor with the Seahawks, as always, is the offensive line. They appear to match up well with the Lions in this Wild Card game. Detroit mustered only 20 sacks on the season, 31st in the league. And despite their eight-game streak of holding opponents to fewer than 20 points, they allowed opponents to complete 72.7 percent of their passes on the season, the worst mark by an NFL team since 1970.
Because the Lions lack a dangerous running attack, they’re still mediocre on offense, even with a better Stafford. Their defensive line doesn’t appear to be able to take advantage of a much-maligned Seahawks offensive line. In the end, the Russell Wilson will have too many opportunities and too many playmakers for the Lions’ defense, which doesn’t seem up to the challenge of disrupting him. My prediction: Seahawks 31, Lions 20.
I was introduced to prop bets in last year’s Super Bowl. My wife thought of a fun prop bet for tomorrow night’s game: number of offsides or neutral zone infraction penalties on Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett. Under, the same as, or over two penalties?
Some key stats before you answer: Bennett has committed 46 total accepted penalties in his career. This season, he committed eight total penalties, four of them were neutral zone infractions or offsides (one was for the famous third pump). He committed one neutral zone infraction in Week 17’s win over the 49ers.
Who ya got? If the Seahawks win, they’ll face the Atlanta Falcons in the Divisional Round next week. For the record, I’m betting Bennett commits two offsides/neutral zone infraction penalties in this Wild Card matchup. It’s a big game and he’ll be excited.