Lions at Vikings: Five things to watch
Of the 16 games on the final day of the NFL season, only three are match-ups between teams who have both been eliminated from postseason consideration.
One of those "meaningless" games Sunday afternoon includes the Detroit Lions (7-8) against the Minnesota Vikings (4-10-1) in Minneapolis.
Here are five storylines to watch:
Now he will be playing in the final game of the facility as an opponent.
The Metrodome will be torn down after Sunday’s game and turned into a state-of-the-art stadium to open for the 2016 season. The Vikings will play the next two years at the University of Minnesota’s stadium.
"I think it’s going to be crazy," Burleson said of the atmosphere for the building’s going-away party. "I might try to steal something when I leave."
He won’t be alone. Many Vikings’ fans also will likely try to bring home a souvenir of the dome that opened in 1982.
The Lions have lost 14 of their last 15 games there and have an overall record of 7-23.
"It’s a loud place to play," Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. "Their fans are going to want to close that stadium out with a win. The Vikings are going to want to close it out with a win. It’s our job to make sure that the last game played there is a Lions’ victory."
Schwartz and Leslie Frazier of the Vikings are rumored to be among those expected to get fired on Black Monday, the day after the regular season that NFL coaches annually dread.
Schwartz has done his best to try to ignore the speculation.
"I don’t read any of it, I don’t listen to the radio, I don’t know very many coaches that do," he said. "I have other work to do. If you get bogged down in stuff that is other than your work, you’re not on the right track.
"This business is a lot of highs and a lot of lows. You need to find a way to balance those. The way I balance that is try to tune that stuff out. That’s difficult to do now in the NFL."
So difficult that Frazier finally decided to address his players earlier this week about the rumors concerning him.
"I want them to just concentrate on their jobs, not be worried about the coach or what’s going on with me," Frazier said during a conference call with Detroit reporters. "I felt like last week when I didn’t address it, it did become a distraction and I don’t want it to be."
For that reason, this game will be a challenge mentally and emotionally for the visitors.
They believe they should be getting ready for the playoffs, not to pack up for the offseason.
"It’s tough," Burleson said. "But what are you going to do, drag your shoulders, keep your chin down for a week straight?
"It’s just like life. Sometimes things don’t go your way but you’ve got to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and take advantage of the last moment. This is the last moment in time for a lot of guys for different reasons, whether new contracts, old contracts, free agents. Whatever it is, you’re putting one last piece of tape on your resume."
So they’ll try to suck it up one more time but that’s going to be easier said than done for a team that was in first place before plummeting at the end with five losses in their last six games.
"To have the last taste in your mouth a loss, that’s insult to injury," Burleson said. "I want to play big, win big."
And then what?
"When Monday comes around," Burleson said, "I think it’s going to hit like an avalanche emotionally."
No other team has a winning record in the division entering the final game. Green Bay is 2-2-1 against NFC North teams, Chicago 2-3 and Minnesota 1-3-1
Aren’t those division games supposed to be the ones that determine which team wins the title?
You would think so, but not always.
Three years ago, the Oakland Raiders ran the table in the AFC West with a 6-0 record against division foes but finished 8-8 overall, two games behind the Kansas City Chiefs, who were just 2-4 in the division.
They can become the first running-back duo ever in the NFL to both finish with 500 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving.
Surprisingly, it’s Bush who still has some work to do to make it happen.
He needs 27 receiving yards to get to 500 for the season. Bell already has eclipsed both milestones with 619 rushing and 522 receiving.
Meanwhile, Bush also needs 26 yards rushing to become the first Lion to run for 1,000 in a season since Kevin Jones in 2004.
Offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle (ankle) and defensive end Israel Idonije (neck/knee) have been ruled out.
Cornerbacks Bill Bentley (concussion) and Chris Houston (toe/illness) are doubtful. Jonte Green (shoulder), another corner, is questionable.
The Lions announced Friday that they had put Idonije on injured reserve to make room on the 53-man roster for cornerback Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, who was promoted from the practice squad.
Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson (groin/foot), who has rushed for 1,266 yards and 10 touchdowns, is listed as doubtful.
Running back Toby Gerhart (hamstring) and linebacker Audie Cole (ankle) are out for the Vikings.
Like Peterson, nose tackle Letroy Guion (quadriceps) is doubtful while cornerback Xavier Rhodes (ankle) is questionable.