CINCINNATI – Lions-Bengals Final Thoughts: Celebration could steal the show; rising status for Darius Slay; impact for Jamal Agnew; a first for Joe Dahl and the offensive line; Glasgow brother match; sticking with my pick, and why:
Showtime, Christmas Eve: It's not a matchup or the game within the game that could produce the most memorable highlight.
If everything goes right, a celebration could steal the show. That means the Lions beating the Bengals, and the Falcons losing on the road to NFC South rival New Orleans in a game that means a lot to both teams.
Nobody has done it better or had more fun this year than the Lions with their clever choreographed touchdown celebrations.
The spirit of the holiday season could produce something special today if the Lions score late and know they're still alive in the playoff race. Receivers a-leaping, piping, drumming, dancing? Sitting on Santa Claus' lap? Make a list. Check it twice. Replay it as many times as you want. It could be fun.
"We've always got something good," said tight end Eric Ebron with a big smile.
The Lions settle on their celebrations on Saturday, after the practice week.
And if there's a potential playoff clincher next week against the Packers on New Year's Eve, there might be reindeer on the roof of Ford Field.
Matthew Stafford might join the show. Finally.
Slay status: Cornerback Darius Slay has raised his stature among fans and peers by leading the league in interceptions and being voted to his first Pro Bowl.
That also could make him a marked man, and that's a good thing. It's a little different than how elite receivers get extra attention. Teams can't put two receivers on a cornerback the way the way they double team a receiver.
One sign of respect is how they don't challenge an elite cornerback, focusing on the other side instead.
Regardless of what happens, Slay has raised his profile.
"The competitive nature of guys in this league, they want to do well," defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said this week. "I think people know that Slay's a good corner, so they want to make sure they go against him, and they want to beat him."
Agnew, added value: The Bengals' defense has to be aware of rookie Jamal Agnew on the few snaps he gets on offense. His impact is obvious in the return game – 16.0 yards per punt and two TDs – but more subtle on offense.
He's had only four touches – two runs, two catches – but defenses are aware of him because of his speed and agility in the open field.
That opens the seams a little wider in the secondary.
Agnew said he hears opponent's calling out his number when he goes into the game on offense.
"He's been a little bit of a decoy out there when something else is going on, and that has led to maybe a big play for somebody else," said offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. "He's an explosive guy."
Three for the O-line:
1. Positive on negatives: It's been a tough season up front, in part because of injuries. Only Graham Glasgow has started all 14 games, and he has divided time between left guard and center. There were positive developments the last two weeks – no sacks allowed against the Bucs in Week 14; and no negative plays or plays for no gain on 19 called runs last week against the Bears.
2. 2016 draft class together: Joe Dahl made his first pro start last week at left guard and performed well. With Taylor Decker at left tackle and Glasgow at center, it marked the first time that the three players drafted in 2016 started a game together.
"I noticed that," Glasgow said this week. "I thought Joe made the most of it. We all lived together last year. It was fun."
Who did the chores?
"Joe. He's a neat freak."
3. Glasgow vs. Glasgow: Graham will go face mask-to-face mask on numerous occasions today in his battle in the trenches with his brother, Ryan, a rookie defensive tackle for the Bengals who plays a high snap count.
It's a new experience for the brothers. They've never been on opposite teams in any sport.
Graham is looking forward to it, and said he won't take it easy on Ryan.
"I think it'll be a lot of fun," he said. "Yeah, I'd cut (block) him."
Sticking with my pick: For a lot of reasons, the Lions want to win and need to win this game. That's a good combination late in the season, even with the odds against them of making it to the postseason.
All signs indicate that it's the exact opposite for the Bengals. Their 5-9 won-loss record shows it. So does their performance in the last two games of a three-game losing streak. They were blown out at home by the Bears, and again last week on the road by the Vikings.
Prediction: My pick stands – Lions 37, Bengals 13.