After losing three of their first four games and falling behind the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North, it looked like the Detroit Lions were facing another long season that was doomed to unofficially end in December.
Entering its Week 5 home game against the Philadelphia Eagles, there wasn’t any real reason to believe that Detroit could actually compete for what would be just its third playoff appearance of the century. But a last-minute win over the Eagles was only the beginning for a 9-4 Lions team that’s currently riding a five-game winning streak and in the thick of the NFC playoff race.
Facing the three-win Chicago Bears, the Lions had to overcome a pair of their starting quarterback’s costly fourth-quarter miscues to extend their well-timed winning streak after Matthew Stafford threw two interceptions—one of which was returned for a touchdown, in the final frame of last Sunday’s divisional match-up. Ultimately, Stafford made up for his mistakes by rushing for a seven-yard score with just a few minutes remaining to give Detroit the 20-17 win. But if the Lions are going to claim their first NFC North crown in 23 years, they’ll have to fight through several key injuries while facing what’s arguably the league’s toughest remaining schedule.
This Sunday, Detroit’s daunting three-week war begins with an afternoon clash on the road against the 9-4 New York Giants, and also includes a trip to the Lone Star State to face the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys in Week 16 before returning home to host Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in the regular season finale.
Above all else, the dislocated middle finger on Stafford’s throwing hand that’s forced him to wear an adapted glove for protection at practice this week, and caused issues with his accuracy during last week’s win over Chicago, is the Lions’ main concern heading into Sunday’s game against the Giants.
But last week’s game against Chicago was played in the cozy confines of Ford Field, and the wet weather that’s forecast for this weekend’s date with the Giants will undoubtedly test the severity of Stafford’s injury. Understandably, Lions’ head coach Jim Caldwell could only offer the obvious when asked about the injury during Wednesday’s pre-game conference call.
”You know what, we are going to work our way through that this week and kind of get a sense of it,” said Caldwell via ESPN. ”It is his first time, so we will see how it goes.”
Along with Stafford’s injured finger, Detroit is also expected to be without the services of injured dual-threat running back Theo Riddick when it takes the field on Sunday—a loss that the Lions’ 29th-ranked rushing attack can’t afford and an absence that the unfriendly weather is sure to magnify. With Riddick sidelined and third-stringer Zack Zenner also questionable, rookie Dwayne Washington will be expected to shoulder a much heavier workload against an improved Giants’ defense.
Following their visit to East Rutherford, the Lions will look to become just the second team to defeat the 11-2 Cowboys when they square-off with the NFC’s top squad on Monday Night Football. But if Detroit loses both of those games and Green Bay goes 2-0 over the next two weeks, football fans could be treated to a divisional slug-fest to decide this season’s NFC North champion when the Lions host the Packers in Week 17.
For the record, the Vikings will host the Indianapolis Colts this week and travel to Green Bay in Week 16 before entertaining the Bears, while the Packers are spending this weekend in the Windy City before hosting Minnesota in their final home game next week and travelling to Motown in Week 17. Although they currently own a two-win lead over their division rivals, the Lions’ remaining schedule has leveled the playing field.
While Detroit has earned its current position atop the NFC North by winning eight of its last nine games, and beating Minnesota twice in three weeks, only three of the Lions’ nine victories have come against teams with winning records—and two of those three were against the Vikings. And if they’re planning on the post-season, Caldwell’s ”Cardiac Cats” will have to beat more playoff-bound opponents during the next three weeks than they have all season with an injured M.V.P. caliber quarterback.
Calvin Johnson Discusses Retirement, Legacy
Back in 2015, Detroit Lions wide receiver, and NFL great, shocked the football world when he announced his decision to retire.
Despite that decision coming nearly 3 years ago, teams have still expressed interest in him over the course of the past few seasons, even at 2017’s trade deadline.
Johnson recently spoke to the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett about his retirement, and his lasting legacy.
“I told (my father), I was like, ‘Dad, I don’t think I can do it no more.’ I was like, ‘I don’t think I can keep on coming out there running miles a day.’ He said, he was like, ‘You think you can get one more?’ I thought about it. … I was like, ‘All right, I can do it one more time.’”
Johnson touched on the process of informing his-then head coach, Jim Caldwell, of his decision to call it a career.
“I was so stressed out. I was thinking about that more in the last three games [of the 2015 season] than anything else. I was like, ‘Dang, man. How the hell am I going to tell Coach?’ I asked my dad, asked my sister. And I was like, ‘Maybe I’ll just tell him like right before the last game. I’ll like go to his office on Friday, or tell him like Saturday night before the game.’ And I was like, ‘Dang, (I can’t). That’s just a big ass distraction right before the game.’ It was actually tough to actually say it, to spit the words out. But when I finally told him it was like a burden off my chest like no other. I was like, ‘man, I’m free. I ain’t got to be stressing this (stuff) no more.’”
“It had to surprise [Caldwell], ’cause then he told me to wait around and he got the GM and stuff. But I knew there was going to be a problem once [Wood] talked to me and the first thing out of his mouth was like, ‘Did you earn all your bonus?’ I was like, ‘Oh, s***.’ I knew right then it was going to be a problem. I was like, ‘All right, I see how it’s going to be.’”
Despite the continued interest from NFL teams, Johnson doesn’t think he could still play, even if he wanted to.
“I don’t (think so), man, cause I get up from the bed sometimes in the morning, I’m just like, I shuffle across the ground cause I can’t bend my ankles. That was my problem when I played, just ankle’s always stuck or swelled up, I can’t flex them. If you can’t flex your ankles then you’re just running flat-footed all the time.”
Johnson will surely get his fair share of consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, in due time.
“People don’t like that I didn’t play a long time, but hey, it is what it is. I mean, I was the fastest to 10,000 yards, I had the most yards in an actual regulation game. I did some things, but if it’s not enough, it’s not enough. I’m not going to lose sleep over it.”
Lions Head Coach Matt Patricia Discusses Indictment Resurfacing
Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia held a press conference on Thursday to address a report from the Detroit News that said that he had been indicted for sexual assault back in 1996.
The case against Patricia was dismissed after, according to authorities, the victim decided not to testify due to the feeling that she could not “face the pressures or stress of a trial.”
Patricia discussed the issue during a nearly 10-minute presser saying that he wanted to “clear his name” and saying what happened in 1996 “very traumatic to me” and also saying that “there were claims made about me that never happened.”
Patricia brought up his family during his presser, stating that his parents “taught me to know the difference between right and wrong” and that he had two older sisters who taught him “respect and love”.
Patricia went on to say that he didn’t condone “any of the type of behavior that has been alleged.”
“In these times, we need to be even more sensitive and responsible in dealing with these issues and separate right from wrong,” Patricia said. “Thankfully truth is on my side. I lived with the mental torture of a situation where facts can be completely ignored or misrepresented with disregard to the consequence and pain it would create for another person. I find it unfair and upsetting that someone would bring this claim up over two decades later for the sole purpose of hurting my family, my friends, and this organization with the intention of trying to damage my character and credibility. I was innocent then and I am innocent now”
Patricia then fielded questions and was met by a question from a reporter who asked how he could not think this would have resurfaced given the ongoing #MeToo movement, to which Patricia replied that he had been interviewing for jobs for 22 years and “it was never an issue.”
Patricia followed up by saying “I am innocent.”
Another reporter followed up by asking Patricia what had happened that night back in 1996.
Patricia said that, “What’s important here is what happened 22 years ago is what didn’t happened. As I said, I was innocent then and I am innocent now. I was falsely accused of something I did not do” while pointing out that he went through the legal process and that “the case was dismissed.”
Patricia was asked if what had happened was consensual, to which Patricia responded by saying, “Again, I did nothing wrong. That’s all I will say on that matter.”
Patricia was then asked if this came up during the interview process with the Lions. Patricia answered, “There was never any situation in the Lions interview in which I did not disclose the truth.”
Patricia added that he already had talked about this issue with the team, saying “in this time, we do need to be sensitive and responsible, and I use this as a learning moment for them so that we so all can try to be better.”
Patricia was asked, as the last question, if this issue came up with any of his teams such as Syracuse, Amherst, and the New England Patriots.
Patricia replied by saying, “Thank you, I appreciate everyone’s time” before walking off the stage.
You can watch the press conference below:
Philadelphia, The City of Underdogs
This Saturday, January 13th, the NFC’s top seeded Philadelphia Eagles will be kicking off the NFL’s Divisional Playoff Round against the defending NFC Champions, the Atlanta Falcons. The road to the Super Bowl has to come through South Philadelphia and the fans of the Eagles are ready to make their impact.
These blue-collar, tough-love fans may have even more motivation this weekend to be the notoriously loud fan base that they are. The Eagles are entering the game in historical fashion, as the first ever number 1 seed in the NFL playoffs to be considered as home underdogs. The Falcons are coming into South Philly as 2.5 point favorites.
Historically, the Birds have had no problem dealing with being chosen the home underdog in the playoffs. They have been chosen as home underdogs three previous occasions in 1981 against the Detroit Lions, 1995 against the Dallas Cowboys, and most recently in 2000 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Each of these underdog performances lead to dominant wins for the Eagles, winning by at least two possessions each time and by an average of 17 points.
The city of Brotherly Love is no stranger to being considered the underdog across all realms of sports and perhaps may even feel more comfortable as the underdog. But there is no doubt that it still feels like a Rocky Balboa left-hook to the jaw to be the first ever number one seed chosen as underdogs. Many players have spoken out about feeling disrespected by the sports world and it’s clear that the odds-makers are feeding the Eagles even more motivation for Saturday.
These two teams are somewhat familiar to each other, having played last year at Lincoln Financial Field. Last year, the Atlanta Falcons had a very dominant season with the NFL’s Most Valuable Player, Matt Ryan, carrying the Falcons all the way to a half time Super Bowl victory. I think we all know what happened in the second half of last year’s Super Bowl.
During this triumphant year for Ryan and the Falcons, they had major issues when they came to The Linc. Their high powered, top of the NFL offense was held to only 15 points. Julio Jones, the Falcons top Wide Receiver, was able to have a good day recording 10 receptions for 135 yards, but beyond that, the Falcons offense was put on lock.
The Eagles defense held the Falcons to a total of 48 rushing yards, leaving it up to Matt Ryan to try and beat the Birds through the air. As for the Eagles offense, Ryan Mathews had one of his best games as an Eagle rushing for 109 yards and two trips to the end-zone. Along with Mathews’ day, the Eagles ran for a total of 208 yards, having their way with the Falcons defense.
This year, the Falcons have a new Defensive Coordinator in Marquand Manuel and have improved to become a top-10 rush defense in the NFL and just shut down one of the top running backs in the NFL last week when they faced Todd Gurley.
This Divisional Round match-up will come down to the Eagles ability to run the ball against the Atlanta Falcons defense. Without the Pro Bowl, All-Pro Second Team quarterback Carson Wentz, the Eagles offense can not expect too much out of Nick Foles.
The Birds will have to be carried by mid-season acquisition, Jay Ajayi to run the ball early and often as well as fellow bruising running back, LeGarrette Blount, to slowly wear down the Falcons defense. The Eagles Defense will be challenged again by the Falcons offense filled with studs.
By shutting down the Falcons rush attack last year, the Birds should be very confident coming into Saturday’s match-up, especially with all the improvements they have along their defensive line. The Eagles come in as the number 1 rated rush defense in the NFL and will likely force Matt Ryan to beat their new and improved 2017 secondary.
I believe with the newly added motivation for the City of Philadelphia as well as for the players themselves, the Eagles will win a nail-biter in South Philly, another Jake Elliott game-winner, 17-14.
- NHL7 years ago
SportsRantz All-Star Snubs Roster
- MLB2 years ago
Pablo Sandoval Is Reportedly Reuniting With The San Francisco Giants
- MLB2 years ago
Mets Make The Smart Decision To Commit To Yoenis Cespedes Long-Term
- NFL2 years ago
Cameron Brate: The League’s Hot New Fantasy Tight End
- NHL2 years ago
Have a deep talk with the young prospects about drugs
- NHL2 years ago
A lot of hockey teams training wrong?
- Arizona Cardinals2 years ago
2016 NFL Season Week 14 Pick ‘Ems
- Houston Rockets2 years ago
Houston Rockets Target Donatas Motiejunas Is Being Hustled By His Agent