For the first time since 2018, the Detroit Lions will play a Sunday Night Football game. The Lions won that game, with Matt Patricia as head coach, over his former team the New England Patriots.
Sunday Night Statistics
Heading into Week 18 the Lions have nine total appearances on Sunday Night Football (SNF). They have the 24th-fewest appearances since the game became a weekly occurrence in 2006, and an awful 1-8 record in those appearances.
Two of their games on SNF were playoff matchups, and both of those games were losses. The lack of success for the Lions in recent memory could be a reason to explain the lack of appearances in this prime time slot, but even their failure to be competitive at times should not account for this amount of disrespect. The other teams in the NFC North – Green Bay, Chicago, and Minnesota – have had significantly more opportunities on SNF with 45, 32, and 24 appearances, respectively.
Playoffs Or No Playoffs, These Lions Have Earned Respect
The Lions still have a chance to make the playoffs if they beat the Packers at Lambeau on Sunday night, but their odds are not great. See here for more details on the Week 18 clinching scenarios in the NFC. Regardless of whether or not they take care of business and get the help they need from the Rams, this Lions’ squad has earned a prime-time game.
Further, they should be in consideration for more appearances next season. On offense, Amon-Ra St. Brown has emerged as a star wide receiver in this league, and both Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift have been great playmakers all season behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFC. Yes, their defense has been bad, even horrible, at times. However, rookie Aidan Hutchinson has put together a nice first campaign, and with a good offseason, an improved defense could make this team a force in the NFC next season. Last, we have to mention head coach Dan Campbell, who has this team playing to win.
Lions In Lambeau – Win At All Costs
I decided to write this article when I was racking my brain trying to remember the last time the Lions played on SNF, and that’s when I realized they have not had a lot of prime-time opportunities. But, let’s put that idea aside for a moment as there is an important game to be played.
At the time the game starts, the Seahawks will have either knocked the Lions out of contention or left the door open. Regardless of the playoff status, though, this Lions team should be playing to win. They have a chance for their first winning season since 2017, and this momentum could be huge heading into the off-season. They are, in my mind, a middle-of-the-road defense away from being a near-lock for the playoffs next season. Dan Campbell has created a great culture in Detroit, and if he can continue to add consistent winning to that culture, we may have to respect the Lions as contenders sooner rather than later.
Lions Versus Packers: Keys To The Game
It’s quite simple for the Lions on Sunday night: run the ball and play mistake-free football. The Lions have won five out of their last seven games, and in their two losses, they have failed to hit the century mark in the rushing game.
They also have lost the turnover battle in each of these losses. The Packers dominated the Vikings in Week 17, but remember that they were very opportunistic on defense, and had a 105-yard kick return touchdown. If the Lions avoid these miscues, they can keep it close. Aaron Rodgers will be fighting for a playoff spot, so the Lions’ defense will be key as well, but with a consistent running game, the Lions should be able to control this game.
Keys To The Game: Let’s Get More Specific
I could say “avoid miscues and run the ball” for any team’s keys to any game. Even though it’s true, I do feel like it is a bit of a cop-out. So, for the Lions’ keys to the game this week, I have a couple more specifics regarding those miscues to avoid.
- Jared Goff has to be efficient. Goff has had a great season this year, throwing for over 4,200 yards with 29 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. Having said that, Goff is still prone to missing open receivers and untimely turnovers. He cannot afford to give Rodgers a short field under any circumstances on Sunday night.
- The Lions’ defensive backs need to avoid penalties. They are in the top 10 in defensive holding penalties and fourth in defensive pass interference calls. While these penalties are not necessarily always committed in the secondary, I can say as a Vikings fan that the Lions’ secondary is the primary culprit. They are a physical, handsy bunch, and while that is good when throwing receivers off of their routes, they cannot afford to keep Packers’ drives alive with these types of penalties.
I do not typically offer unsolicited respect toward my division rivals, but I do feel like the Lions have not been given enough chances in prime time. I predict they will make the most of their opportunity to knock the Packers out of the playoffs, and the NFL will have no choice but to get them on the SNF slate at least twice next season.
My Vikings were not able to knock the Packers out last week, so I will be cheering alongside Lions fans in Week 18. Be sure to stay on Stadium Rant for all of your Week 18 NFL content needs as the season heads full-bore into the playoffs!