Three of the four wild-card games around the NFL are rematches from the regular season. The one that isn’t features the NFC No. 6 seed Detroit Lions looking for their first road playoff win in generations when they visit the NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks, who simply don’t lose home playoff games these days. It’s Saturday night action from the Pacific Northwest and the Seahawks are solid favourites on Sports Interaction NFL odds.
Detroit Lions vs. Seattle Seahawks
Point spread:Seahawks -8
Date: Saturday, Jan. 7, 8:15 p.m. ET
Location: CenturyLink Field, Seattle
The Lions (9-7) have no one to blame but themselves if they are one-and-done in the playoffs again. Following a Week 14 home win over Chicago, the Lions were 9-4 and in total control of the NFC North as they looked for their first division title and home playoff game since 1993.
However, Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford not only dislocated his middle finger but tore ligaments in it during that Chicago win. You could see him struggling with his throwing and it has continued with the Lions losing their final three games and totaling just 51 points in those losses. Stafford is wearing a glove and splint on that finger and you will almost never see him take a snap under center because of that — he can’t bend the middle finger.
The Packers-Lions game in Week 17 was flexed to Sunday night as it was for the division title. Detroit got really fortunate earlier in the day when Washington was upset as a big favourite at home against the New York Giants, who had nothing to play for with their playoff position locked in. The Redskins were down 13-10 late in the fourth quarter and driving, but Kirk Cousins was picked off to clinch the win for New York. That eliminated the Redskins from the playoff hunt; had they won, the Packers-Lions loser was out.
Instead, Detroit backed into the playoffs, but it hasn’t won a postseason game away from the Motor City since 1957. Stafford is going to have to play out of his mind here because the Lions can’t run the ball, ranking 30th at 81.9 yards per game. Former starting running back Theo Riddick has been placed on season-ending injured reserve. Starting center Travis Swanson has missed the past four games with a concussion. He might get back Saturday.
The Detroit defense didn’t allow more than 20 points in a game from Week 7 through Week 15 but has given up 73 points the past two games combined. I’m doubting the Lions can score more than 21 points on Saturday, so that defense needs a better effort. The Lions are 8-8 ATS this season and 3-5 ATS away from home.
The Seahawks (10-5-1) have made the playoffs every year since stealing quarterback Russell Wilson in the third round of the 2012 draft. The previous two times that Seattle won the NFC West it reached the Super Bowl, losing an epic game two years ago vs. New England and routing Denver for the franchise’s first title the season before. The Seahawks were a wild-card team last year and lost at Carolina in the divisional round.
One of the most important defensive injuries in the NFL happened on Dec. 4 when Seattle Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas broke his leg in a win over Carolina. He is the heart-and-soul of the NFL’s No. 5 total defense and No. 3 in scoring (18.3 ppg). But that group has looked very shaky at times since Thomas left, allowing 38 points in a loss at Green Bay, 34 in a home loss to Arizona and then 23 in a Week 17 close win over a terrible 49ers team.
Although not as bad as Detroit, the Seahawks also have struggled to run the ball this season behind a questionable offensive line. The Seahawks finished the season averaging 3.95 yards per carry (24th in the league). Seattle’s running backs are averaging 1.57 yards per carry after contact this year. That ranks 25th in the NFL. The Seahawks used to be among the NFL leaders in that category when they had Marshawn Lynch, also a stellar playoff performer.
So the postseason likely rests all on Wilson’s right arm, but most of his numbers are worse than last season because Wilson is often running for his life. Seahawks QBs have been sacked 42 times, the most of any playoff team. The Lions aren’t strong getting to the QB with just 26 sacks, tied for second-worst. Seattle is 8-8 ATS this season and 5-3 ATS at home.
Lions vs. Seahawks Predictions
Detroit did visit Seattle in Week 4 of the 2015 season and hung tough in a 13-10 loss. You may remember that game on a Monday night as Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright illegally punched a Lions late fumble at the Seattle goal line out of the back of the end zone for a touchback. Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, now retired, fumbled right as he was about to score. Wright should have been flagged for the play but officials missed it. Weird things tend to happen of late when the Lions go to Seattle.
The weather looks to be a factor on Saturday night with a rain/snow mix. That clearly benefits the Seahawks over the Lions, who play their home games in a dome. Stafford played in the elements in Week 15 at the Giants and really struggled. Take Seattle here, as it has won nine straight home playoff games, but go down to the 6.5-point alternate line at -133. Go under the total.