Believe it or not, the Detroit Lions still have control of their playoff destiny. Even with the Chicago Bears pulling off a victory against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon, the Lions can claim the division title if they win the remainder of their games.
The biggest challenge, by far, of the Lions’ remaining schedule is the defending Super Bowl champions. The Baltimore Ravens, also 7-6, come into Motown fighting for a playoff berth themselves.
The Lions have a clear home field advantage heading into Monday night. The Ravens have played poorly on the road this season, sustaining a 1-5 record away from M&T Bank Stadium.
There is no doubt that Ford Field will be a hostile environment. In 2011, the Bears received nine false start penalties in Detroit’s last home game on Monday night. It is likely that Monday’s atmosphere will be just as deafening, as the Lions added 1,500 standing-room only tickets.
Statistically, Detroit’s offense has been much more successful than Baltimore’s. The Lions are gaining nearly 100 more yards per game, 70 of which are through the air. However, the Raven’s stingy defense is only allowing 20 points per game.
Keys to a Lions’ victory
The most important and challenging key for the Lions this week will be to win the turnover battle. Over the past six games, Detroit has turned the ball over, a discouraging, 20 times.
Reggie Bush is officially listed as questionable for Monday’s game but he is expected to play. It is unclear if he will be receiving a majority of the touches in the run game or if that duty will fall into the hands of Joique Bell. Either way, they must have a balanced attack against this Ravens’ defense.
With the combination of the Ravens’ speedy wide receivers and the injuries of Lions’ corners, Darius Slay and Chris Houston, it is likely Joe Flacco will take many shots down the field. Regardless of who is in the Lions’ secondary, they must run help over the top to try to eliminate Baltimore’s big play capability.
Just as they were on Thanksgiving, Detroit is in a position where they need to make a statement to legitimize their playoff contention.
With the aid of the rowdy crowd at Ford Field, the Lions will win this game, 41-24.
Look for the Lions’ defense to force multiple turnovers and help the offense with good field position. I expect big things out of the running game as well as Matthew Stafford.
Regardless if Bush is in the starting backfield or not, Detroit’s biggest contributor on offense will be Bell. I predict he will have more than 120 total yards to go with two touchdowns. Bell is the type of running back to fearlessly attack the teeth of the Ravens’ defense.
Not only will the Lions win this game, but this game will be the catalyst of a winning streak to put Detroit into the playoffs as NFC North champions.