After another crazy NFL Sunday – with the Bears beating Cleveland and the Packers rallying to upset the Cowboys – has anything changed for the Lions going into the Monday Night TV game against the Ravens?
Mike: Nope. Nothing. Zero. Zilch. The math might have changed, but the opportunity to win the North title is the same, and so is the mission to accomplish the goal.
Win three games, and the Lions win the North. That was the situation before Sunday’s games, and it’s still the same. The Lions have everything in their own hands, and the setup favors them. They play two games at home – the Ravens, then the staggering Giants – and finish up on the road against the Vikings.
All three games are indoors. If the Lions play to their strength of being a team that performs best on a clean, dry track, then they’ll win all three.
If they don’t, they’re in for a horrible offseason.
Tim: Nothing has changed for the Lions at all. They still control their own destiny; the only difference is they’re looking up at someone else in the standings for the first time in a while.
Guess what? They can change that by playing good football tonight.
It looks like the Lions aren't going to be allowed to back into the playoffs. They’ll have to go out and earn it these next three weeks. That starts tonight against Baltimore.
It’s not necessarily a bad place to be in if you’re the Lions. Their playoffs start tonight. If they’re going to get in, they’ll need to get hot these next three weeks. If they do, they’ll be playing good football entering the playoffs, which is a nice position to be in.
Am I right?
Mike: Right on my brother. And the Ravens are in the same spot. If they win out, they get a wild card. That makes for an interesting matchup. This could be the most intense game of the season at Ford Field.
In terms of matchups, the front four of the Lions’ defense has to handle the Ravens’ offensive line. On paper, that looks like a win for the Lions.
For the Ravens, Joe Flacco has to hit some deep passes, and that’s where he has an edge on a secondary that’s prone to giving up the deep balls.
Sacks and turnovers could be the deciding issue. Flacco gives up more sacks than Stafford, and he also gives up a lot of interceptions. As a team, the Lions have been turnover prone for the last month.
I’ll narrow it to one matchup: if the Lions’ defensive line wins by a sizeable margin, the Lions win and continue to march on to win the North.
Otherwise – egads.
Tim: You had me at turnovers.
Can the Lions get out of their own way? That’s first and foremost.
I agree 100 percent about the defensive line. They can really do their beat-up secondary a favor if they can make things difficult on Flacco and Co. behind the line of scrimmage. They need to be as good as they were on Thanksgiving, when they flat out dominated the Packers.
The Lions have the edge upfront on defense and if they don’t come out set the tone early on, it could be a long night for that secondary.
If the Lions hang onto the football and get after the quarterback they should be tough to beat at home.
What about the intangibles? The Ravens have been in big games like this late in the season. Not so much for the Lions. How much can that play a factor?
Mike: Playoff experience and playoff pressure can’t hurt, and it’s something you can’t make up if you don’t have it. That’s a big edge for the Ravens.
However, the Lions have key players –
We’ve made our predictions. Mine is Lions 31, Ravens 28, which means I’m looking at a close game that could be decided by a few key plays.
How about you, and what will be the narrative Tuesday morning?
Tim: I’m with you, Mike. I see a close game between two teams fighting for their playoff lives.
The Lions have the crowd and the fast Ford Field turf playing to their advantage and I think that’s good enough for a 27-24 victory.
If it plays out the way both you and I think, Tuesday’s narrative will simply be how the Lions took care of business at home, against a good opponent, and still control their own playoff fate.
A win tonight and Lions fans will feel pretty good about the prospects of watching a home playoff game come January.