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TIM AND MIKE: Wild Card Week observations

Strike force: It won't be a surprise if the Lions' get out of the gate fast and take the lead Saturday night against Seattle. In his two previous playoff starts – at New Orleans in 2011, at Dallas in 2014 – Matthew Stafford has led the offense to early leads. Stafford's TD pass to Will Heller gave the Lions a 7-0 lead against the Saints. The lead was 14-10 in the second half, when the Saints rallied for a 45-28 blowout win. Two years ago at Dallas, a TD pass to Golden Tate and a TD run by Reggie Bush put the Lions ahead, 14-0, in the first quarter. The Lions held the lead until Dallas scored a TD with 2:32 left to win, 24-20. – *Mike O'Hara


Production standard: The Lions will need receiver Golden Tate to continue to be a playmaker for their passing game against a Seattle defense that ranks eighth in the NFL against the pass. Tate caught six passes for 77 yards against Green Bay last week, and finished the season with a team-best 91 catches. Tate became the second player in team history to record 90-plus receptions in three different seasons. He joined WR Herman Moore (123 in 1995, 106 in 1996 and 104 in 1997) as the only Lions receivers to accomplish this feat.  – Tim Twentyman

Time travelers: The Lions should be comfortable starting the playoffs anywhere, based on their travels to finish out the regular season. Saturday night's Wild Card game at Seattle will be their fourth straight game with a combination of different starting times and venues. Here are the games and start times: at New York Giants, Sunday, 1 p.m.; at Dallas, Monday night, 8:30; home vs. Green Bay, Sunday night, 8:30; at Seattle, Saturday night, 8:15. – Mike O'Hara

Turnover margin: Head coach Jim Caldwell was asked what the characteristics are of a team that can shake off losses late in the season and make a run in the playoffs. He said those traits mirror his current team. Not turning the ball over, limiting penalties and the ability to make plays in the clutch. With 15 giveaways this season (10 interceptions, 5 lost fumbles), the Lions set a new franchise record for fewest giveaways in a single season since 1940. This year's total surpassed the team's previous best mark of 20. Seattle ranks just 22nd with 19 takeaways on the year. – Tim Twentyman

Eric Ebron, rising stats & stock: The third-year tight end has become a more potent receiving force, and the proof is in how his stats compared to others at his position this year. Ebron ranked 10th among all tight ends with 61 catches in 13 games. He was eighth in yards (711), seventh in yards per game (54.7) and fifth in average gain per catch (11.7) of tight ends with 50 or more catches. – *Mike O'Hara


Zenner it is: Barring some unexpected return to the field for Ameer Abdullah, it appears the Lions are set on Zach Zenner being their featured back heading into the playoffs. He recorded 110 total yards against Green Bay last week and has three rushing touchdowns over the last three weeks. Zenner had 20 carries and played 64 snaps against Green Bay. No other running back took a single rep on offense. – Tim Twentyman

Whitehead, solo act:Middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead finished in a tie for eighth with 132 tackles – 99 solos and 33 assists. The 99 solo tackles for third most in the league. Middle linebacker Kwon Alexander of Tampa Bay led the league with 108. New York Giants strong safety Landon Collins was second with 100. Whitehead missed one game with an injury. – Mike O'Hara

Running less: Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson has dealt with knee and pectoral injuries for most of the season, but has managed to play through them and guide Seattle to the playoffs. One area where the injuries have seemed to really affect him is his ability to take off and run the ball. Wilson rushed over 100 times in each of the last two seasons for 849 yards and 553 yards, respectively. He's taken off just 72 times this year for 259 yards. He's still dangerous in that regard, but seems less prone to use his feet and more apt to try and beat teams with his arm. -- Tim Twentyman

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