Oct 5, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor (31) talks with Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate (15) after making a pass defense during the third quarter at CenturyLink Field. Seattle defeated Detroit, 13-10. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
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The outcome of today’s Seahawks vs Lions game may determine the Atlanta Falcons opponent in the divisional round. Lets preview this key Wild Card match-up.
A classic “David vs. Goliath” match-up in today’s NFC Wild Card game.
Ask anyone…go ahead, ask if they expected the Detroit Lions (9-7) to be in the playoffs. More than likely, those outside of Michigan would say ‘no’. Strangely enough, here they are. Resiliency best describes the 2016 Lions. Eight of their nine wins were by one score; not to mention, all eight were in comeback fashion.
Staring across the field from the gritty Lions are the bullies on the block. The Seattle Seahawks are 10-6 and making a fifth straight playoff appearance. It is also their sixth playoff appearance in the last seven full seasons under head coach Pete Carroll.
Can the Lions grind out another win on the road? Will Seattle maintain their playoff dominance? Let’s dissect this NFC Wild Card match-up.
Dec 18, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) warms up prior to the game against the Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Lions Rundown
Statistically, it was a decent season for quarterback Matthew Stafford. In the midst of his 4,327 yards and 24 TDs, Stafford looked like a completely different QB. He orchestrated eight game-winning drives this season and posted his third highest QB rating (93.3) of his career. Stafford leaned on the likes of receivers Golden Tate (91 catches, 1,077 yards, four TDs), Anquan Boldin (67/584/8,) and Marvin Jones (55/930/4), throughout the year.
A stellar season from tight end Eric Ebron (67/711/1) was also helpful. Behind Stafford and his targets, the Lions were ranked 12th in the NFL in overall passing offense.
No team can be as resilient without a stingy defense, which is exactly what the Lions have. Defensive end Ziggy Ansah missed three games and truly lacked production; however, he remains arguably the best defender on the team. Backup Kerry Hyder enjoyed a breakout season with a team-leading eight sacks. Middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead also led the team in tackles with 99. The secondary has a number of solid veterans in CB Darius Slay (43 tackles, two INTs) and FS Glover Quin (55 tackles, two INTs).
Does today’s Wild Card game have another fourth quarter run in store for the resilient Lions?
Oct 2, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Seattle Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham (88) catches the ball against the New York Jets in the second half at MetLife Stadium. Seattle defeated New York 27-17. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
Seattle Seahawks Rundown
There are very little fireworks when it comes to the Seattle offense, which makes the value of quarterback Russell Wilsonthat much greater. Wilson was sacked 42 times this season and endured another 111 QB hits. Despite the adversity, Wilson tossed for a career-high 4,219 yards with 21 touchdowns. He also totaled a career-high in interceptions with 11. Running back Thomas Rawls is key to the success of the Seattle offense. Teams will pressure Wilson leaving Seattle with the task of getting Rawls and the 25th ranked run game going.
Receiver Doug Baldwin led the team with 94 catches and posted a career-high in yards with 1,128. TE Jimmy Graham (65/923/6) is the major distributor that his talent dictates.
The defense is the clear identity for Seattle; an aggressive group that is equally effective at all three levels. A rotation of pass rushers in Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, and Frank Clark have 26.5 of the team’s 42 sacks. The two leading tacklers are linebackers Bobby Wagner (86 tackles, 4.5 sacks) and K.J. Wright (70 tackles, four sacks). CB Richard Sherman and safety Kam Chancellor are two Pro Bowlers that stabilize the defense as a whole.
Can the Seahawks defense shut down Stafford and lead to an NFC Wild Card victory?
Oct 23, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (25) and defensive end Cliff Avril (56) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The game ended in a 6-6 tie after overtime. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
This is an interesting Wild Card match-up that favors the home team. Both teams have a simple but similar identity of ‘grind the clock and play hard-nosed defense’.
What is also interesting are the run games for both teams, as neither has a “standout” ground attack. Both teams rely mainly on the hot hand in the backfield. The Lions will lean on running back Zach Zenner who is more of fullback. Zenner has ran for 136 yards and three touchdowns the past two weeks. If Detroit wants to get anything going, a run game will be crucial.
Be sure to place the Seattle offensive line under the microscope as their inconsistent season gets back in gear. A Detroit defensive line that has Ansah, Hyder, and defensive tackles Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker can pose a problem. The grit Detroit has shown all season plays well with Seattle, especially if they’re able to create a few turnovers.
What will stand out and be tough for Detroit is how different Seattle is as a home playoff team. The Seahawks are 4-0 in their last four home playoff games, have outscored opponents 105-71, and forced nine turnovers. By the way, Seattle has also forced 17 turnovers in their last nine playoff games. That theme may reoccur today and be the ultimate difference.