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O'HARA'S FRIDAY FOCUS: Lions control performance, not fate

Glover Quin has a keen awareness of the predicament the Detroit Lions face with two games left in their stretch run to a potential playoff berth.

They can control the outcome on the field with their performance, but their fate in the standings is out of their hands.

The two games left on the schedule are winnable – Sunday on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals, and the regular-season finale against the Green Bay Packers.

If the Lions win the last two games they'll finish with a 10-6 won-loss record that might not be good enough to make the postseason as a wild card.

The Lions are at the mercy of the tiebreaker formula, with the Atlanta Falcons the biggest stumbling block in their path because of a 30-26 win over the Lions in Week 3.

The Falcons are 9-5 with a much tougher finishing schedule than the Lions face. The Falcons are on the road Sunday against the Saints and finish up at home against the Panthers.

Regardless of what the Falcons do, the formula for the Lions is clear cut. 

Win, and they have a chance to make the playoffs.

Lose, and they have no chance.

"It's the situation we put ourselves in," Quin said. "There's nothing we can do about it. We can sit here and talk about whatever. If we'd won a couple games earlier, it would be a different situation. We didn't.

"It's the situation we're in. All we can control is what we can control. If we get in, good. If we don't make it, it's our own fault."

Breakdown/prediction: No reason to overthink this one.

The Lions are solid favorites to beat a battered Bengals team that has been outscored by a 67-14 margin in losses to the Bears and Vikings the last two weeks.

Pick: Lions 37, Bengals 13.

Series history: The Bengals have an 8-3 series lead and have won the last five meetings.

Last meeting, 2013: A 27-24 victory for Cincinnati at Ford Field. Mike Nugent kicked a 54-yard field goal on the final play to win the game. Calvin Johnson had two TD catches for the Lions. Marvin Jones Jr., Tyler Eifert and A.J. Green had TD catches for Cincy.

Painful memory: Matthew Stafford played his only game in Paul Brown Stadium in 2009, and it was a painful experience. Stafford sustained a season-ending injury to his left shoulder in a 23-13 loss in Game 14. It was one of six games he missed in his rookie season.


Lions focus – deep threat:** Marvin Jones Jr. has provided it all season, and never in a more spectacular way than last week's 58-yard catch in the Lions' 20-10 win over the Bears.

The way Jones has played this year, he should have a productive game against the team he began his career with in 2012.
Jones has 54 catches for 970 yards and eight TDs. His average of 18.0 yards per catch is the highest of any receiver with 40 or more catches.

The 58-yard catch came at a pivotal moment. Midway through the second quarter, the Lions had third and 18 at their 30 with a slim 6-0 lead. A punt return could have given the Bears decent field position.

There was no punt. Jones' catch gave the Lions a first down at the Bears' 12. Three plays later, Matthew Stafford hit TJ Jones with a three-yard TD pass that stretched the lead to 13-0.

The catch was a highlight play of Week 15 in the NFL, not just in the Lions' game. Jones had one thought from the moment it left Stafford's hand and soared 60 yards to where Jones made a leaping catch to take the ball away from Bears rookie safety Eddie Jackson.

"Just go get the ball," Jones said this week. "That's it. Locate the ball. Run as fast as I can to go meet it. Just catch it.

"I wasn't really worried about whoever was behind me. I said, 'I just have to go up and get it.' I jumped early. I had to stay up there for a little bit."

Bengals focus – fix offense: Quarterback Andy Dalton doesn't focus strictly on statistics, but they don't lie in showing how the offense has performed this season.

It's been bad overall, and bad recently.

Through the first 14 games, the Bengals are last in the league in total offense (268.9 yards per game), last in rushing (77.0 per game) and last in the vital category of third-down conversions (32 percent).

"You don't want to be last in anything," Dalton said this week in an interview with the media covering the Bengals.

"We've got to get better." 

View photos of the starters for the Cincinnati Bengals.

It would be hard to get worse, especially because of how injuries have hit the offense. The offensive line has been decimated.

Even with the presence of star receiver A.J. Green, who was voted to his seventh Pro Bowl in seven seasons, circumstances could not be more favorable for the Lions' defense to turn in a dominating performance.

The Bengals have scored one touchdown in losing each of the last two games – 33-7 to the Bears two weeks ago, and 34-7 to the Vikings who continued the pummeling last week.

The Bengals were 4-of-24 (16.7 percent) combined in the two games on third down.

The Lions are catching the Bengals at a low point in a season with few high ones.

"This is obviously hard," Dalton said in his interview with the Cincinnati media. "To be where we are is not what we expected. This year has not been the year that we expected, the year we expected to have.

"We've just got to finish strong.".

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