Detroit Lions (9-7 SU, 8-8 ATS) vs. Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1 SU, 8-8 ATS)
NFL NFC Wild Card Playoffs
Date/Time: Saturday January 7th, 2017. 8:15PM (EST) 2016
Where: CenturyLink Field Seattle, W.A.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: DET 8/SEA -8
Over/Under Total: 43
The Detroit Lions will try to change history this Saturday when they meet the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field in an NFC Wild Card Playoff Game. It has been 25 years since the Lions won a postseason game despite numerous playoff appearances but they will have the opportunity to end their drought against a Seattle Seahawks team that is looking to make their 3rd Super Bowl appearance in just the last 4 years under Head Coach Pete Carroll. The Seahawks have been one of the pillars of the NFC in recent years and they will put that reputation on the line this Saturday as they look to continue their postseason success.
The good news for Lionsí fans is that they have one of the best teams, from a talent standpoint, in recent franchise history with an offense that is capable of producing a lot of points against Seattleís tough defense. Not to mention Seattleís defense is not exactly as dynamic as they have been in years past especially since the loss of Earl Thomas. The bad news is that the Lions have not played well down the stretch losing their last 3 games, they are banged up with injuries, they will be playing on the road in one of the toughest stadiums in the league, and they are currently listed as 8 point underdogs meaning the NFLís 2nd longest postseason drought is in jeopardy of continuing.
I donít want to be the guy that completely dismisses the Lionsí chances this Saturday but there are so many factors that make this a nightmarish matchup for Detroit. To start things off, the Lions have been hit hard with injuries over the last several weeks. Running back Theo Reddick was added to the IR list and multiple guys are attempting to play through hampering injuries. Quarterback Matthew Staffordís performance has seen a big decline over the last 4 games while he has dealt with an injury to his middle finger on this throwing hand. Before the injury, Stafford was having a huge season but has thrown just 3 touchdowns compared to 5 interceptions since the injury.
Considering Detroit is a pass first team and most of the time a pass only team, the Lions cannot afford any lackluster performances in the passing game like they have experienced in recent weeks. The reason this matchup is so awful is because we know that the Lions are banged up with injuries, rely heavily on the pass, and have to make that formula somehow work against one of the premier pass defenses in the NFL. Despite the loss of Earl Thomas, the Seahawks still have a ton of talent in their secondary led by the likes of Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor. Over the last 5 games, the Seahawks have given up just 218 yards per game which includes clashes with quarterbacks Carson Palmer, Cam Newton, and Aaron Rodgers during that stretch.
Therefore, I do not have much confidence that the Lions are going to be able to fix their problems with numerous nagging injuries against one of the better defenses in the NFL. Detroitís offense has found a little spark with running back Zach Zenner who has emerged as the starting tailback. In the last two games, Zenner has carried the ball 32 times for 136 yards with 3 touchdowns and has also caught 6 passes for another 66 yards. He has provided some tough between the tackle runs that this Lions offense is not accustomed to having. The problem is that I just do not believe Head Coach Jim Caldwell will use the young running back enough to frustrate the Seahawks defense. Seattle has been vulnerable at times against the run but this Lions offense is so pass oriented that I doubt the Seahawks will see more than 15 carries on the ground.
The Lions biggest opportunity to end this winless streak would be via a shutdown performance from the Detroit defense. Despite Seahawks QB Russell Wilson finally being healthy again, the offense has still struggled to some degree. Thomas Rawls has missed some time but should be back on Saturday and the loss of emerging WR Tyler Lockett a few weeks ago has hurt as well. With Wilson under center, the Seahawks still have the big play potential. Wilson is an artist when it comes to breaking out of the pocket and turning plays into gold. With WR Doug Baldwin and TE Jimmy Graham in plus matchups, itís hard to imagine the Seahawks being shut down completely. If that does not happen, the Lions have to come up with some immediate answers on offense as they have averaged just 17.75 points over their last 4 contests.
Jay's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The Seahawks are 5-0 SU under Carroll in first round playoff games and have won their last 8 straight going back to 2005. Again, I think this matchup favors Seattle in almost every way and they typically play better during this time of the year. Therefore, I will lay the points and take Seattle -8!
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