Matt Patricia in his last game with Patriots
Matt Patricia in his last game with Patriots
CHICAGO BEARS (4-9) AT DETROIT LIONS (7-6)
KICKOFF: Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET, Ford Field. TV: NFLN, Mike Tirico, Kurt Warner, Heather Cox (field reporter).
Detroit’s Matthew Stafford (9)
SERIES HISTORY: 176th regular-season meeting. Bears lead series, 97-73-5. Detroit has won eight of the last nine, with the only Bears victory since 2012 coming last year at Soldier Field. The Lions beat the Bears 27-24 in the other game between these divisional rivals this season on Nov. 19.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Defensively, the Bears are caught in a difficult situation. They’d like to play zone against Matthew Stafford and the Lions’ well-timed passing game, but they can’t afford to sit back. They don’t have Leonard Floyd or Willie Young as outside rush men, and Pernell McPhee’s status will be a game-time decision due to a shoulder injury.
So they’re going to need to blitz occasionally, and the Lions are going to play numerous four- and five-receiver sets to force man-to-man coverage. It might mean big plays one way or the other. It’s either effectively blitz, or the Lions will pick them apart in order to possess the ball, much like San Francisco did.
On offense, Chicago’s production must be there as it was in the first Lions game. The Bears must balance the attack much as they did last week, but it’s going to require gains outside in the passing game and downfield.
The Lions have one order of business on defense: Stop Jordan Howard. He ran for 125 yards on just 15 carries when these teams met in November, and he has played three pretty productive games against the Lions in his career.
The Lions have struggled mightily against the run recently — they have given up more than 100 yards five straight weeks — but can gang up on Howard with little else to fear from Chicago’s offense.
Last week, the Lions de-emphasized the running game on offense and put the game in Stafford’s hands. That might be easier said than done this week as Akiem Hicks and the Bears have a much better pass rush. Still, the Lions have opened the passing game up with Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay, and should have chances to push the ball downfield.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
–Lions RG T.J. Lang vs. Bears DT Akiem Hicks. The Lions’ offensive line has been a revolving door all year, with the team looking at starting its ninth combination. Lang has played most of the season at right guard, though injuries have hampered him. He’s currently dealing with a foot injury that kept him out of practice Tuesday and Wednesday, and he draws a tough assignment against the underrated Hicks. Hicks hasn’t had a sack since before Halloween, but he’s capable of destroying a game.
–Bears RB Jordan Howard vs. Lions LB Tahir Whitehead. Howard had his best game of the season last week, running for 147 yards and two touchdowns. He’s a volume runner who gets better the more he carries the football, and his success is key to an offense that starts rookie Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback. Whitehead has taken over for Jarrad Davis as the Lions’ every-down linebacker, and he’s on his way to a second straight 100-tackle season. The Lions’ recent problems stopping the run are well-documented, so Whitehead needs to be on top of his game.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
–Questionable: S Adrian Amos (hamstring), DT Eddie Goldman (hip), S DeAndre Houston-Carson (ankle), TE Adam Shaheen (chest)
–Out: C Travis Swanson (concussion), T Rick Wagner (ankle)
–Questionable: DE Ezekiel Ansah (ankle), T Emmett Cleary (ankle), G T.J. Lang (foot)
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Lions CB Teez Tabor. The second-round pick was a healthy inactive for six of the first nine weeks, but he has taken on a supporting role over the last month. Tabor played a few snaps as a dime defender in October and early November, but he has been a staple in the Lions’ nickel package and has even gotten some work as the No. 2 cornerback opposite Darius Slay. Last week, Tabor played right cornerback opposite Slay, with Nevin Lawson sliding inside as a slot defender in the nickel package. The rookie is still very much in the development phase, but there’s reason to believe he can play a big role next year.
FAST FACTS: Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky had 271 passing yards and a TD and his first career rushing TD last week. He is the first Bears rookie with a passing TD and a rushing TD in the same game since 1982 (Jim McMahon). He aims for his third game in a row with a 100-plus passer rating and a TD pass. … RB Jordan Howard rushed for 147 yards and two TDs in Week 14, his third career multi-TD game. He has 1,032 rushing yards and is the first player in team history with 1,000 in each of his first two seasons. … DE Akiem Hicks has two sacks and a fumble recovery in his past three games against the NFC North. He has two sacks and a fumble recovery in the past three games against Detroit. … Lions QB Matthew Stafford ranks third in the NFL with 3,683 passing yards. He completed 36 of 44 (81.8 percent) for 381 yards last week. He has 1,707 passing yards (284.5 per game) and 12 TDs against two interceptions in his past six games at home. He had 299 passing yards and two TDs in the last game against Chicago. … RB Theo Riddick had 93 scrimmage yards and two rushing TDs in Week 14, his first career game with two rushing TDs. Since 2015, he leads NFL RBs with 178 receptions. … DE Ezekiel Ansah tied a career-high with seven tackles and had a sack last week. He has a sack in two of his past three games at home.
PREDICTION: The Bears played perhaps their best game of the year last week in blowing out the disinterested Bengals in Cincinnati. The Lions will be a bit more interested as they still have a shot at a wild-card berth, and will keep their hopes alive with another game-winning field goal by Matt Prater.
Seattle 26, Detroit 6
When: 8:15 PM ET, Saturday, January 7, 2017
Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle
SEATTLE — The Seattle Seahawks, grounded by a stagnant running game during most of the regular season, hit the ground running in their playoff opener on Saturday night.
Thomas Rawls ran for 161 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown as the Seattle Seahawks continued their home playoff success with a 26-6 victory over the Detroit Lions.
“This felt more like old times,” cornerback Richard Sherman said. “This felt great.”
Seattle advanced to an NFC Divisional Playoff game at Atlanta after winning for the 10th consecutive time at home in the postseason. The Seahawks haven’t lost a playoff game at home since 2005.
The winner of Sunday’s Green Bay-New York Giants game travels to Dallas to face the top-seeded Cowboys in the other NFC divisional game.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, playing without a knee brace for the first time since Week 3, completed 22 of 30 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns.
Rawls had 107 of his 161 rushing yards before halftime and broke the game open with a 4-yard touchdown run with 8:49 remaining. That score, which was followed by a failed point-after kick, put Seattle up 19-6.
Rawls had 27 carries after an injury-plagued regular season that saw him accumulate just 349 rushing yards.
The Lions failed to get across midfield on their next possession and the Seahawks ate up almost four minutes of clock before Wilson threw his second touchdown pass to put the game away with 3:36 remaining.
“We’ve got to play better,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “We just didn’t play well today.”
Detroit receiver Anquan Boldin, who had a frustrating night of dropped passes and had a costly unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, was frustrated with some of the officiating in the game.
“Any time you come into a place like this, you know you have to play more than just the team,” Boldin said.
Detroit held Seattle to one touchdown in the first three quarters and pulled within 10-6 on Matt Prater’s 53-yard field goal with 4:08 left in the third quarter.
Detroit Lions (9-7) at Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1)
KICKOFF: Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET, CenturyLink Field. TV: NBC, Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya, Heather Cox.
SERIES HISTORY: 14th meeting. Seattle leads the series, 8-5. Seattle has won four of the past five, including a controversial 13-10 decision in 2015. This is their first playoff meeting.
KEYS TO THE GAME: History provides an indication as to how this game might go. The Seahawks have never lost a playoff game at CenturyLink, and the Lions have not won a playoff game anywhere in its past eight tries.
Whether the Lions can debunk recent trends and come away with the upset might come down to how well Stafford can throw the ball. Stafford has been hampered by an injured finger on his throwing hand — one reason Detroit lost its final three games.
There are also plenty of issues with the Seahawks, despite their eight-game postseason home winning streak that dates back to January 2005. A 2-2 record since Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas went down has been disconcerting, and some sideline squabbles have added to the idea that Seattle is a team in turmoil.
Despite the late-season fade, Seattle has a lot on its side. The Seahawks’ six playoff wins since 2013 are the most in the NFL, and Seattle owns a 48-13 home record (including playoffs) since Carroll arrived in 2010.
On Tuesday night, the Seahawks added kick return specialist Devin Hester to help their playoff run. The 11-year veteran replaces Tyler Lockett, who broke his leg in a game against the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 24.
Aaron Rodgers killed the Lions with his feet last week, scrambling out of the pocket for big first downs and keeping plays alive by slipping away from sacks. The Lions will be similarly challenged by Russell Wilson’s mobility this week, and they need to be more disciplined with their pass rushes. Wilson scrambles to run more than Rodgers, but he still has two dangerous receivers the Lions must keep close tabs on in Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham.
Seattle will need to make the most of their red zone opportunities as Detroit ranks 30th in the league in defensive red zone percentage.
The Lions could take a few shots deep against the Seahawks’ Thomas-less secondary if they can give Stafford enough time. They won’t throw deep often, given the strength of Seattle’s pass rush, but they need to connect the few times they put Matthew Stafford in harm’s way.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
–Lions WR Marvin Jones vs. Seahawks CB Richard Sherman. Golden Tate led the Lions in receptions and receiving yards this year, but Jones is the team’s deep threat. He showed signs of life last week against the Packers (five catches, 76 yards) after a quiet second half of the season. The Lions won’t be able to nickel-and-dime their way downfield against this defense, so they’ll have to connect on a big play or two. Sherman doesn’t allow many of those, of course, as one of the best cornerbacks in the game.
–Lions DE Ziggy Ansah vs. Seahawks LT George Fant. Ansah had a disappointing season, with just two sacks, but he has played better the last month despite some lingering effects form an early-season ankle injury. He’s the Lions’ only true pass-rush threat, and he’ll match up Saturday with Fant, a former basketball player. The Seahawks allowed 42 sacks this year, sixth most in the league, so Fant and the rest of the offensive line will have their hands full protecting Russell Wilson.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Seahawks RB Alex Collins. Collins ran for 55 yards on seven carries against the 49ers and has 106 yards on his last 21 carries. He’s been one of the few options able to find success in the running game for the Seahawks recently. With C.J. Prosise still out, Collins and Thomas Rawls will have to carry the load.
FAST FACTS: The Lions are in the playoffs for the second time in the past three seasons. They had an NFL-record eight wins after trailing in the fourth quarter or overtime. … Lions QB Matthew Stafford has passed for 703 yards and four TDs in two career playoff games. This season, he threw for 4,327 yards, his franchise-record sixth consecutive 4,000-yard season. … Lions RB Zach Zenner has three rushing TDs in the past two games. He had 110 scrimmage yards (69 rushing) in Week 17, his first game with 100. … Lions WR Golden Tate spent four seasons (2010-13) with Seattle and won Super Bowl XLVIII with the Seahawks. He led Detroit with 1,077 yards, his second 1,000-yard season.
… DE Kerry Hyder led Detroit with eight sacks. He has six in his past eight road games. … The Seahawks are one of three teams to advance to the playoffs in each of the past five seasons. They have won six of their past eight postseason games and have a playoff win in each of the past four years.
… Seahawks QB Russell Wilson is 7-3 in the playoffs, with 16 TD passes and nine interceptions. In two career meetings with Detroit, he has 523 passing yards, three TDs and one interception. … Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin has four receiving TDs in his past six playoff games. Since 2015, including playoffs, he is tied for second in the NFL with 22 TD catches. … Seattle DE Cliff Avril spent five seasons with Detroit (2008-12). He ranked fourth in the NFC with 11.5 sacks this season and has six sacks in his past six home games. He has five sacks and two caused fumbles in his past eight postseason games. … Seattle LB Bobby Wagner led the NFL and set the franchise record with 167 tackles. He has 102 tackles and two interceptions in 10 career playoff games.
PREDICTION: Assuming the Seahawks’ suddenly horrific special teams don’t doom them, they should be able to survive the Lions in Seattle and move on to Atlanta for a juicy rematch against their old buddy, Dan Quinn.
Green Bay Packers (9-6) at Detroit Lions (9-6)
(Special to Digital Sports Desk by Sports Xchange)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, Ford Field. TV: NBC, Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya.
SERIES HISTORY: 173rd regular-season meeting. Packers lead the series, 97-68-7. The Packers beat the Lions 34-27 in Week 3. These two teams also met with the division on the line in the final game of the 2014 season, when a hobbled Aaron Rodgers threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-20 Green Bay victory.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The final game of the season will determine the NFC North division winner. And, depending on the results of Sunday’s afternoon games, the loser of this contest could be out of the playoff picture entirely.
The Packers will claim the division with a win. With a loss, Green Bay can secure a playoff berth with a Washington loss.
The Lions will lock up the NFC North with a win and can earn a first-round bye if both Atlanta and Seattle also lose. With a loss, Detroit can clinch a playoff berth with a Washington loss.
A prime-time shootout featuring two of the top passers in the league very well could decide this season’s NFC North title. Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford should have the advantage, going against defenses that have been riddled by injury on the back end and prone to giving up big pass plays.
Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy undoubtedly will be liberal in riding the red-hot right arm of Rodgers, who has 14 touchdown throws and zero interceptions the last six games. Rodgers had four touchdown passes in a mistake-free 34-27 victory over the Lions in Green Bay on Sept. 25.
Converted receiver Ty Montgomery could be the X-factor on the Ford Field turf Sunday night.
Given the lack of punch for the Lions on the ground, the Packers’ defense can zero in on applying steady pressure on Stafford. He has been playing with a glove on his throwing hand as he soldiers on with a badly injured middle finger. Stafford has limited the mistakes he was notorious for making in previous seasons. He had only one interception in the first meeting with Green Bay. The opportunistic Packers, however, have an NFL-best 12 takeaways the last three games while not turning the ball over once.
The Lions haven’t proven capable of winning high-scoring affairs in the second half of the season, so they need to do their best to keep Rodgers and Co. off the field. That means taking care of the football, finding some semblance of a running game and capitalizing with touchdowns once they get into the red zone.
On defense, the Lions insist they need to shut down Green Bay’s rushing attack first in order to make the Packers’ offense one-dimensional. Rodgers hurts teams by getting out of the pocket, so containing him with disciplined pass rushes is important.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
–Lions LT Taylor Decker vs. Packers OLB Nick Perry. The grind of the season doesn’t appear to be getting to Decker, but the rookie left tackle has struggled with some of the smaller, quicker pass rushers he has faced. Olivier Vernon gave Decker fits two weeks ago when the Lions lost to the Giants, and Perry had two fourth-quarter sacks against the Lions in the first meeting. Can Decker outplay the Packers’ best pass rusher this time around?
–Packers WR Jordy Nelson vs. Lions CB Darius Slay. Slay practiced Wednesday for the first time in nearly two weeks and could return from the hamstring injury that has nagged him much of the year. If Slay plays, he’ll see plenty of time on Nelson, who’s coming off two straight 100-yard games and is starting to round into form after last year’s knee injury. Nelson had 101 yards and two touchdowns in the first meeting against the Lions, production the Lions can’t afford to let him duplicate.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Lions DE Ziggy Ansah. Ansah has had an incredibly disappointing season, with just two sacks, but the right end has played some of his best football in recent weeks. Ansah has one sack each of the last two games and is coming off a season-high seven-tackle performance against the Cowboys. The Lions need to get pressure on Aaron Rodgers, and they’ve been loath to blitz him in the past. If Ansah, who missed the first meeting with a high ankle sprain, can win up front against left tackle David Bakhtiari, it should go a long way toward helping the Lions win the division.
FAST FACTS: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has 4,128 passing yards, his team-record sixth 4,000-yard season. He has thrown for 1,718 yards, 14 TDs and no interceptions in his past six games. In 15 career meetings, he has 30 TD passes and six interceptions. … Packers WR Jordy Nelson leads the NFL with 14 touchdown catches and also has 1,191 yards, his third 1,000-yard season. . In his past four games, he has 30 receptions for 437 yards and five TDs. … Packers TE Richard Rodgers has caught a TD pass in three straight games vs. Detroit. … Lions QB Matthew Stafford needs 20 yards for his sixth consecutive 4,000-yard season. In his past seven home games vs. division foes, he has 1,879 passing yards, 13 TDs and three interceptions. … Lions RB Zach Zenner rushed for a career-high 67 yards and two TDs in Week 16. … Lions WR Golden Tate has 85 receptions for 1,000 yards, his second career 1,000-yard season. He has two TDs in his past three home games vs. Green Bay.
PREDICTION: Rodgers has been lighting up good defenses recently and the Lions just gave up 42 to Dallas. Rodgers figures to put the Pack over 30 points for the fourth straight game.
Detroit 16, Minnesota 13
When: 12:30 PM ET, Thursday, November 24
Where: Ford Field, Detroit
DETROIT — Matthew Stafford takes exception to the notion that the Detroit Lions are lucky to be in first place.
What is certain is that the Lions have a knack for late-game magic. The NFL’s version of Comeback Kids this season notched another fourth-quarter rally, as Matt Prater’s 40-yard field goal on the final play gave the Lions a 16-13 victory over the Minnesota Vikings and sole possession of first place in the NFC North at Ford Field.
“A charmed life? We’d be up by 30 in the fourth quarter,” Stafford said. “We’re just battling, that’s more than anything. We don’t feel lucky to be down in every fourth quarter. We feel like we’re working our tails off to get wins.”
The Lions (7-4) have trailed in the fourth quarter in all of their victories. Darius Slay’s interception of a Sam Bradford pass set up the game-winner.
Prater nailed a 58-yard kick at the end of regulation in Minnesota earlier this month, setting up Detroit’s 22-16 overtime win.
“When Slay got the interception at the end, I wasn’t surprised,” Prater said while clutching his 10-month-old son, Pax. “I went over (earlier) and actually kicked a couple in the net. I felt pretty confident we were going to be able to close the game out at the end.”
And why not? Detroit has won six of its last seven and all of its games have been decided by seven or fewer points. That streak is an NFL record.
“I do think that our group plays loose and aggressive,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “You can’t play uptight, and they don’t get uptight even at the end of ballgames in tough situations. That can be a little bit uncomfortable but it doesn’t bother them.”
Detroit now essentially holds a two-game advantage over the Vikings (6-5) because of the head-to-head tiebreaker with five games to play.
“We’re in a decent position but they don’t hand out trophies after a few wins like we’ve had,” said Caldwell, whose team has won four straight on Thanksgiving Day. “But we’re happy we were able to find a way to pull them out, that’s for sure.”
Stafford completed 23 of 40 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown. Anquan Boldin caught seven passes for 69 yards, including the 2-yard score to complete Detroit’s first possession.
The Vikings have lost five of their last six.
“Tough to lose today,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “We fought hard and didn’t execute well enough at the end of the game. It’s disappointing. We weren’t good enough on third down. Offensively, we can’t continue to shoot ourselves in the foot with some of the penalties and negative plays.”
Zimmer’s club only plays one team with a winning record the rest of the way, which gives the Vikings hope.
“We’ve got five games left to play,” he said. “We’re going to keep fighting.”
Minnesota (6-5) played without its leading receiver, Stefon Diggs, who was inactive with a knee injury. Diggs caught 13 passes in the first meeting with the Lions.
Without him, the Vikings relied on a short passing game. Bradford completed 31 of 37 passes for 224 yards. Tight end Kyle Rudolph caught nine passes for 64 yards and Adam Thielen gathered in eight passes for 53 yards.
Bradford was efficient until the game’s lone turnover. Slay stepped in front of Thielen on a third-and-7 situation and intercepted Bradford’s pass at the 33. Slay returned it to the 20-yard line.
An illegal formation penalty had wiped out an apparent Vikings first down pass to Jerick McKinnon on the previous play.
Vikings kicker Kai Forbath’s 28-yard field goal with 12:38 left gave Minnesota a 13-10 advantage.
The Lions couldn’t get anything going offensively in the second half until they started a drive from their own 2. Boldin’s 29-yard reception on third-and-8 from the Detroit 18 gave the Lions some breathing room. Detroit advanced the ball far enough to set up Prater’s 48-yard field goal, tying it at 13-all with 1:45 remaining.
NOTES: Along with WR Stefon Diggs (knee), Minnesota played without CB and PR Marcus Sherels (rib), CB Terence Newman (neck) and DT Sharrif Floyd (knee). LB DeAndre Levy (knee) and S Don Carey (hamstring) were among the Lions’ inactive players. … The last time the teams met on Thanksgiving was 1995, when Detroit pulled out a 44-38 overtime victory. … Minnesota plays another Thursday game next week at home against NFC East Division leader Dallas. Detroit faces New Orleans in the Superdome on Sunday, Dec. 4. … The Lions won their last three Thanksgiving Day games by an average of 26 points. …Minnesota C Joe Berger exited in the first half with a concussion.
FOXBOROUGH – (Wire Service Report) – The New England Patriots acquired linebacker Kyle Van Noy from the Detroit Lions and shipped tight end A.J. Derby to the Denver Broncos in two separate trades on Tuesday. New England received a fifth-round draft pick from the Broncos in the deal for Derby. The Patriots sent a sixth-rounder to the Lions and received Van Noy plus a seventh-round pick.
Van Noy, a second-round pick in 2014, has been considered an underachiever with the Lions. But New England was looking for insurance at linebacker with Jamie Collins (hip) and Dont’a Hightower (knee) both playing through injuries.
Derby was a sixth-round pick in 2015 and doesn’t have an NFL catch. But Broncos general manager John Elway is high on the 25-year-old.
“A.J. is a young tight end who can help us immediately,” Elway said in a press release. “He has tremendous upside and will fit in well on our team.”
Denver waived safety Shiloh Keo to open up a roster spot. Keo has played with the Houston Texans and the Broncos since reaching the NFL in 2011.
Detroit re-signed linebacker Josh Bynes to fill the opening created by Van Noy’s trade. Bynes had a career-best 82 tackles for the Lions last season but was released with an injury settlement after suffering a knee injury in the preseason.