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5 reasons the Detroit Lions will (or will not) beat the Seattle Seahawks

No. 6 Lions battle No. 3 Seahaws on Saturday night

Ezekiel Ansah #94 of the Detroit Lions forces and recovers a fumble by Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks during the fourth quarter of their game at CenturyLink Field on October 5, 2015.
Ezekiel Ansah #94 of the Detroit Lions forces and recovers a fumble by Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks during the fourth quarter of their game at CenturyLink Field on October 5, 2015. (Getty Images)

The Detroit Lions are in the playoffs. They will take on the third-seeded Seattle Seahawks in Seattle on Saturday night.

Vegas has the Lions as a 7 1/2-point underdog as the sixth seed in the NFC.

Detroit enters the playoffs on a three-game losing streak, which has many fans doubting the Lions chances against Seattle. 

READDetroit Lions playoff history in Super Bowl era outlined

One could say that only a diehard, Kool-Aid drinking Lions fan could possibly believe the team could win. 

One could also say a logical, non-Kool-Aid drinking Lions fan could easily see the Lions having no chance.

ClickOnDetroit's Derick Hutchinson and Ken Haddad take on both roles in this week's debate:

1. DH: The Lions don't play with the big boys

The regular season is over, and 20 teams have already cleaned out their locker rooms and hit the golf course for the off-season. The Lions aren't one of those teams, but should they be?

Despite their 9-7 record, the Lions didn't win a single game against the 11 other playoff teams, going 0-5 without ever really threatening in any of those contests.

In fact, the Lions only beat one team with a winning record this season -- Washington -- and that team is only above .500 by the slimmest possible margin thanks to a tie.

In their nine victories, the Lions beat teams that finished the season with an average of 6.2 wins. That suggests the Lions don't belong among the best of the best, but among the best of the middle pack.

It's been well documented that the Lions trailed in the fourth quarter in 15 of their 16 games this season, and all but one of their wins were decided by one possession. That means the Lions are firmly in the middle of the pack, but managed to make plays late in games to come away with wins.

KH: It's the playoffs, nothing else matters; Seattle isn't as scary as they seem

The 1987 Vikings, the 1996 Jaguars, the 2011 Seahawks, the 2002 Patriots -- Just a few of the teams that executed huge playoff upsets. The fact of the matter is, the Lions are in -- and they have a chance.

No organization knows this better than the Seattle Seahawks, who hosted New Orleans in 2011 as a 7-9 playoff team and beat the Saints 41-36 -- shocking the world.

Another thing -- is Seattle really considered a "big boy"? I mean, yes, they win games. But they haven't been very consistent this year. They essentially have one less loss than Detroit, and have beaten easy teams like the Bills, 49ers, Panthers and Rams. 

They've lost to average or above average teams like the Buccaneers, Packers and Saints, although they beat the top-seeded New England Patriots.

2. DH: Stafford has seen a late-season drop-off in production

Stafford got off to a scorching-hot start in 2016. In his first 12 games, he completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 21 touchdowns, five interceptions and a 100.5 rating. He single-handedly carried a Lions team that was struggling on defense and in the running game.

But then, after sustaining a finger injury late in the year, Stafford's production started to decline. In his final four games, he completed just 60.3 percent of his passes for three touchdowns and five interceptions. His rating in those games was 74.1.

Even though the Lions faced three playoff teams during that span, there was no reason for that steep drop-off. The Giants, Cowboys and Packers rank 23rd, 26th and 31st, respectively, in the NFL in terms of total passing defense.

So despite playing weak passing defenses and playing from behind, the Lions couldn't get their passing game going. That's a major problem for a team that's main strength is its passing game. Or is it?

KH: Cool numbers, bro: it doesn't matter. Stafford wants to end stigma

Imagine you're the all-time best quarterback of the championship-less Detroit Lions. You haven't won a playoff game. You had a fringe-type MVP season. Your team has lost three straight games, coughing up the division title.

How can you salvage this season? Easy. Win in Seattle.

The late-season numbers don't matter. His finger was injured. He was playing from (sometimes far) behind, which makes every quarterback look bad.

We're also talking about a Seattle defense that gave up 23 points to the 24th ranked offense last week, and finished the season 2-2, allowing 30-plus points twice, including 38 to the Packers in a blowout loss.

3. DH: The Lions aren't great at ... anything

When you look at the other playoff teams, most of them have overriding strengths that determine their identities. The Patriots have Tom Brady, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Seattle has a top 10 defense and an elite dual-threat quarterback. The Cowboys have the league's best offensive line, which in turn allows their young quarterback and running back to thrive.

But what are the Lions great at? They're average on offense, gaining the 21st most yards per game and scoring the 20th most points per game. Their rushing game ranks 30th in the league, while even their passing game doesn't crack the top 10.

Defensively, the numbers are very similar. The Lions are 18th in yards allowed, 13th in points allowed, 19th in passing yards allowed and 18th in rushing yards allowed. None of those numbers rank in the top 12, and only 12 teams are alive in the playoffs.

If you dig a little deeper, there are two areas where the Lions are dominant: punting and kicking 50-yard field goals. Sam Martin has been great this season, averaging 48.5 yards per punt -- third in the NFL.

Meanwhile Prater is a perfect 7-7 on field goals of at least 50 yards. The Lions might not be great on offense or defense, but when they drive down near the 30-yard line and the offense stalls, you'd better believe Prater's going to rock that 54-yarder.

KH: The Lions aren't great at anything, but they're good at enough things

Derick, be nice.

The Lions have some really good indicators on both sides of the ball. For example, the Lions are eighth in third down conversion percentage (43 percent), sixth in fourth down conversion percentage (70) and are in the bottom 10 for penalties, which isn't very Lion-like, historically speaking.

What does this show us? The Lions are (mostly) pretty disciplined. We haven't seen any huge mental error or Suh-like penalties. They are also pretty clutch, which can really come in handy during a playoff game.

Another X-factor is Andre Roberts. The Lions are third in the NFL in touchdown returns. Seattle hasn't allowed any returns, but who knows?

The Lions rush defense isn't too bad either. they're ranked 15th in yards per game, but ninth in yards per rush, and they've given up the second least rushing touchdowns (6), behind only the Patriots.

4. DH: The Lions' pass defense is historically bad

To put it kindly, the Lions have struggled to contain even the most mediocre quarterbacks this season.

To put it bluntly, the Lions have the worst pass defense, in terms of completion percentage, of all time. That's not an exaggeration. It's not hyperbole. The Lions allowed opponents to complete 72.7 percent of their pass attempts this season -- 1.5 percentage points worse than the 2011 Indianapolis Colts.

Take a look at some of the individual performances the Lions allowed this season. Case Keenum, who completed just over 60 percent of his attempts this season, went into Detroit and completed 84.4 percent -- and this wasn't some 13 for 16 statistical anomaly. The former college star and NFL backup completed an insane 27 of 32 passes against the Lions' defense.

He wasn't the only backup-level quarterback to thrive against the Lions. Brian Hoyer completed 77.8 percent of his passes against Detroit. Sam Bradford completed 83.8 percent.

The chart below shows the opposing quarterbacks from all 16 games. In 15 of those contests, the Lions allowed the opposing quarterback a higher completion percentage than their final season mark.

 

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Russell Wilson completed 64.7 percent of his passes this season, so you can expect that number to be even higher on Saturday.

KH: Russell Wilson has been running for his life in 2016

Yes, Wilson is a solid quarterback with playoff experience and a low interception rate. But he isn't a statistical monster. The Lions pass defense is a mess, but they have improved over the last six games.

Wilson sports a 64 percent completion percentage, ranked 13th.

Another point -- Seattle's offensive line is terrible. Wilson has been sacked 41 times this season, second only to Tyrod Taylor. Wilson's passer rating is 92.6, only 14th overall (Stafford is 13th).

In Wilson's last five games, he has thrown seven interceptions to 10 touchdowns. If the Lions' defensive line can get to Wilson, the passing defense will have an easier day.

5. DH: Seattle doesn't lose at home

Especially in the playoffs, Pete Carroll's team is almost impossible to beat in Seattle.

Since Carroll took over in 2010, the Seahawks are 5-0 at CenturyLink Field in the postseason. Their last home playoff loss came in 2004.

This season, Seattle lost one home game -- a 34-31 thriller against Arizona. They knocked off fellow playoff teams Atlanta and Miami at CenturyLink Field and stomped the defending NFC champion Panthers by 33 points.

The 12th Man is one of the loudest crowds in football, and will be the most difficult atmosphere the Lions have played in all season.

Detroit finished 3-5 on the road this season, with its last two road games resulting in losses by 11 and 21 points. If a team can't win in Chicago, it's unlikely to win in Seattle.

KH: Seattle's home schedule was a joke; Lions road schedule was tough

Yes, they've lost one game at home this year, but all of their home wins are suspect.

They've beaten Miami (before they were good), San Francisco, Atlanta (barely), Philadelphia, Carolina and the Los Angeles. In 2015, Seattle lost three home games.

The Lions, on the other hand, had to play on the road against Houston, New Orleans, Dallas and New York, in addition to division games. Four of their road opponents are playoff teams, and the Saints were close.


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