Two teams clawing to stay in their respective playoff races square off Monday night when the Detroit Lions host the Baltimore Ravens. Both are bordering on must-win situations, as the Lions enter the weekend tied with Chicago atop the NFC North and the Ravens are tied with Miami for the last AFC wild card.
"Our playoffs start this week," Detroit running back Reggie Bush told the team's website. "It doesn't start in three weeks. It starts right now."
The Lions do have some wiggle room by virtue of two head-to-head wins over the Bears, but their margin for error became slimmer when they lost 34-20 in blizzard-like conditions in Philadelphia last week. Bush sat out that game after aggravating a calf injury during warmups - a huge blow on a day when passing was nearly impossible - but is expected to be back on the field against Baltimore. The Ravens won a wild one a week ago, topping Minnesota 29-26 in a game that saw six lead changes in the fourth quarter.
Fans are being asked to take part in a "Blue Out' by wearing blue apparel all day. The goal is to show pride in Detroit. Fans can share their pictures by using the hashtag #OnePride.
ABOUT THE RAVENS (7-6): Baltimore hasn't been able to do much on offense all year and has been especially ineffective in the running game, long a staple of its success. Receiver Torrey Smith, who needs 37 receiving yards to reach 1,000 for the first time in his career, is a legitimate deep threat, though, and the Lions have given up a lot of big plays.
The Ravens' defense isn't at the elite level as in years past but is still strong against the run, though the secondary could have trouble with Detroit star Calvin Johnson.
ABOUT THE LIONS (7-6): The offense sputtered in the snow in Philadelphia, as two of the Lions' three touchdowns came on special teams and Detroit committed three turnovers, bringing its total to 15 over the past four games.
Detroit leans heavily on its passing game, and quarterback Matthew Stafford needs just 27 passing yards for his third consecutive 4,000-yard season. The defense has been solid against the run, last week notwithstanding, but is susceptible to the pass.
1. Flacco needs 262 passing yards to become the first Ravens quarterback with five consecutive seasons of 3,500 yards.
2. Johnson needs seven yards to become the first player in NFL history with 5,000 receiving yards in a three-year span.
3. Ravens K Justin Tucker has made 27 consecutive field goals, the longest active streak in the NFL.
PREDICTION: Lions 27, Ravens 23
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