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.