Saturday, January 07, 2012

Lions season outlook, wild-card round

So McCarthy did rest a number of starters, and yet the Lions' defense, not the offense, was the guilty party in the resulting loss. With Rodgers, Starks, and Jennings on the bench, the Packers still rolled up 45 points on what was supposed to be one of the better defenses in the NFL in a game that meant so much more to the Lions than the Packers. Of course the Falcons crushed a Tampa Bay team that soon-to-be-ex-coach Raheem Morris had lost weeks ago, so now Detroit travels to New Orleans and the Falcons play the Giants.

Massey gives the Lions a 22% chance to beat New Orleans, so that makes them heavy underdogs, and that sounds about right. The overall path to the Super Bowl, if there is one, probably doesn't change much: assuming New Orleans would beat Atlanta, the Lions would have faced Green Bay in the divisional playoff round if they beat New York, and of course that's who they'll play if they manage to pull off this upset. I do think the Giants are an easier team for the Lions to beat, but that doesn't matter now.

The Playoff Odds report for the wild-card round:

NFC championship appearance: 11.0%, 5th in NFC/8th overall
NFC title: 4.4%, down 0.2 points
Super Bowl win: 2.1%, unchanged

Cincinnati gets a team hoping not to play its fourth-string quarterback. Detroit gets a team with a guy who just set a few NFL records. (Of course, he also plays for the only team to lose a playoff game to a team with a losing record, so there's that.) The Lions were missing three key defensive players in the earlier matchup on Sunday night, and they were never really in the game. That was partly because the offense couldn't find a rhythm in the noisy Superdome, and that aspect won't change today. Suh is, of course, back from suspension, and both Houston and Delmas should play; Mark Ingram is, to my knowledge, the only notable injury for New Orleans. (UPDATE: after I published this, Lance Moore was declared out for the Saints. So now they're down to eleventy-minus-one receivers.) The Lions will need all three to contribute if they are to pull off the upset. Detroit has to get pressure on Brees, they have to keep Stafford upright, and they can't afford to give away points on special teams.

It would take magic for the Lions to win this game, and this year, I think the magic is in just being in the playoffs. Saints, 34-17.

Last week: predicted 20-17, actual 41-45

Current mood: just happy to be here

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