Five things to watch: Lions at Bengals

The Detroit Lions hit the road one last time during the regular season Sunday in an attempt to keep their two-game win streak intact and their playoff hopes alive in Cincinnati.

The Bengals have lost three straight games and are out of the playoff picture in the AFC, but they still pose plenty of threat on either side of the ball with veteran playmakers.

So, what are five things Lions fans should look out for in today's cross-conference matchup?

CAN STAFFORD STAY HOT?

The Lions veteran signal caller has been on a pretty good tear the last three weeks. How good?

Stafford has thrown at least 25 pass attempts and completed 75 percent or better of his passes in each of his past three games vs. Baltimore, Tampa Bay and Chicago. He can join Tom Brady (2007) as the only quarterbacks in NFL history with four consecutive games with at least 25 pass attempts and a 75 percent or better completion percentage.

The Bengals have the league's eighth ranked pass defense (214.0 yards per game), and are last against the run (131.5).

Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter has leaned more on Stafford the last couple weeks, throwing the ball nearly three times more (90) than he's run it (33). If Stafford comes out slinging again today, don't be surprised if that continues, even with Cincinnati's run defense being what it is.

SLAY VS. GREEN

Today's contest will feature two Pro Bowlers in Lions cornerback Darius Slay and Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green, which means this game will feature two of the best in the business squaring off against one another. Slay has traveled all season with the opponent's best receiver, and I'd expect that continue in this one.

Green is big and fast, and a technician when it comes to running routes. He needs just 20 yards to record his sixth 1,000-yard season in his first seven.

Slay leads the NFL in interceptions with seven and also has 20 defended passes.  

"Green is one of the best in the game right now and it's going to be a real competitive battle," Slay said this week. "I see him out there and he works. Run good routes. Has good hands. Just like all the best ones, you have to be consistent every year and get better every year and he is."

This matchup should be a good one to watch all afternoon.

KEEPING BENGALS DOWN

For as good as Green is, the Bengals' offense has been stuck in the mud the last 10 quarters. After jumping out to a 17-0 lead in Pittsburgh in the first half of their Week 13 contest, the Bengals have managed just 17 points in their last 10 quarters. They've been defeated 33-7 and 34-7 the last two weeks by Chicago and Minnesota, respectively.

Cincinnati's offense has amassed just 395 yards total the last two weeks and only 116 yards on the ground.

The Bengals could also be missing both of their starting tackles in this one. If anything, Detroit's defense has been pretty opportunistic this season. This is an opportunity to jump on a struggling Bengals offense and keep them down.   

Third down will be key in this one. The Bengals are last in the NFL converting on third down. They do so just 32 percent of the time.

ROAD WARRIORS

The Lions have an opportunity today to secure their sixth road victory of the season and finish the regular season 6-2 away from Ford Field. It would be the first time since 1961 the Lions have won six road games in a season.

For whatever reason, the Lions have played much better on the road than they have at Ford Field. Competition certainly plays a factor, but it's hard to win on the road against any opponent in this league, no matter their record.

Can the Lions steal another win on the road today?

WEATHER

The Lions have been pretty fortunate this season in terms of the weather they've been asked to play in on the road in open-air stadiums. It's been cold in some stops, but the Lions have avoided precipitation in all of their previous seven games on the road.

There was a rain and snow mix in the Cincinnati area on Saturday. Sunday's forecast is calling for temperatures in the mid-to-upper 30's, but there is a 50 percent chance of snow developing sometime in the afternoon and early evening.

Lions head coach Jim Caldwell always like to say this is an indoor team with an outdoor mentality. If the snow hits later today, they'll have an opportunity to prove it.

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