OAKLAND – Lions-Raiders Final Thoughts: "Danny Playoff" not talking playoffs; Kenny Wiggins fitting in; quote to note from Raiders head coach Jon Gruden and Random Thoughts – Da'Shawn Hand, Marvin Hall and more, and sticking with my pick.
Wide receiver Danny Amendola, who got the nickname "Danny Playoff" for his clutch performances in the postseason in five seasons with the New England Patriots, didn't want to talk about the playoffs.
It's that time of the season when teams start to get in position for a legitimate run, and the Lions are at least in position to get into position as they reach the halfway point of the season in today's game with a 3-3-1 record.
"I'm not going to talk about playoffs – 100 percent," Amendola said. "You know how it is."
But what's different about this time of season?
"Colder practices," he said. "That's what's different. I enjoy every time of year, not just this year."
Amendola's been a good addition to the Lions' receiving corps – as he has been elsewhere in his career – to go with Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. He's a high-energy player, with 28 receptions and an average of 12.4 yards per catch.
He knows the importance of games as teams get deeper into the schedule.
"The stakes are higher the later you get in the season," he said. "Everybody knows that. Everybody's playing better football than they were at the beginning of the season. Everybody knows that.
"There's a lot of film on a lot of teams. Everybody knows that. You've got to play good football."
6th man: It's not a shooting guard. It's Kenny Wiggins, who is more than a traditional backup on the Lions' offensive line. He hasn't started a game this season, but he has played a substantial role in all seven games as the three-man guard rotation with starters Joe Dahl and Graham Glasgow.
Wiggins, who started 10 games at right guard last year when T.J. Lang was out with injuries, is the third man in. He's played a little more than one third of the Lions' 473 snaps.
"It's no different than on defense, when we roll defensive linemen based on whatever packager I have in the game," said head coach Matt Patricia. "I know traditionally with the offensive line you have five guys, but we feel we have six. No different than we have seven defensive linemen who are going to play."
Quote to Note:
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden on Matthew Stafford: "He protects the offense at the line of scrimmage. He doesn't get fooled often. If you blow a coverage, he shreds you. If he sees a blitz, he throws it to his hot receiver, or he fixes it and changes the play. He's sharp."
Helping Hand: My primary thought for today is that defensive end Da'Shawn Hand made a difference in his first game back after missing the first six with an elbow injury. He showed by his presence what was missing in his absence.
Hand had four tackles against the Giants, the most of the Lions' defensive linemen, a tackle for loss and a pass deflection. He played 40 defensive snaps, second most on the defensive line to Trey Flowers. As head coach Matt Patricia says, the defensive line's pass rush flows together in a way that's unlike the offensive line.
Hand is a piece of that moving puzzle.
Hall's haul: Wide receiver Marvin Hall's 40.2-yard average on five catches for 201 yards is amazing on its own. So are some of his other stats that go with it.
For example: His five catches have come on seven targets in the last four games – an average of 28.7 yards per target; he's had the Lions' longest reception in three of the four games – 34 yards vs. the Chiefs, 47 vs. the Vikings and the 49-yard TD catch vs. the Giants.
So why not use him more? They do. He's had snap counts of 29, 10, 14 and 14 in the last four games.
The great outdoors: Playing on the road, and outdoors, has not been an issue for the Lions so far this season and shouldn't be one today. In three road games, they started the season with an overtime tie against the Cardinals with the stadium roof closed and followed that with a 27-24 win at Philly and a 23-22 loss at Green Bay.
The Lions are 3-2-1 in their last six road games, dating back to the last three of last season. Both losses were by one point. Last year's loss was 14-13 at Buffalo.
Sticking with my pick: The Lions' defense gave up four TD passes to Giants rookie quarterback Daniel Jones last week, but the defense came around against the run. If you're looking for a good sign, that's one. Offensive coordinator Darell Bevell is crafting an attack around the lack of a running game. The passing game should get the Lions through this game against a Raiders' defense that's had trouble defending the pass.
With a win, the Lions can stay in touch with the playoff race at the halfway point. And they will.
Pick: Lions 34, Raiders 20.