Fri, 28 Jan 2022

O'HARA: Breaking down the Lions' remaining six games

Detroit Lions
01 Dec 2021, 00:25 GMT+10

Mike OHara

Don't expect a warm greeting and an invitation to sip Gatorade between quarters if you're playing the Detroit Lions in one of the last six games of this season.

Head coach Dan Campbell wants to spoil your day -- whether the game is at Ford Field in Detroit or in the opponent's stadium.

Campbell wants to share the misery of what has been a rough season for the Lions. They are 0-10-1 going into Sunday's home game against the Minnesota Vikings.

The only game the Lions have not lost was a 16-16 tie with the Steelers in Week 10.

Campbell does not expect his team to exit the season quietly.

"The message is that we've got six to go, and we're playing spoiler now. We're trying to ruin peoples' day is what we're trying to do.

"Now it's all about, 'How do we make these last six opponents kind of have to to deal with what we've dealt with for the season?'"

Tight end T.J. Hockenson doesn't disagree with his coach's message, but he's more interested in winning for winning's sake.

That's something he hasn't experienced enough in his three seasons as a Lion.

"That's a motivation you take in every week," Hockenson said. "Just being a competitor each week, you want to go in and win a game. I don't really care whose season it or whose season it ends. I want to win every game.

"I've been here three years. Each year, it's been the same thing at the end of the year -- spoil someone's season.

"That's great. On the same hand I want to win a few games."

Of the Lions' last six opponents, only the Seattle Seahawks at 3-8 would rank in the "miracle" category for at least making the NFC playoffs as a wild card.

The Vikings and Falcons, both at 5-6, are in contention because of the group of teams hovering within a game of .500.

Whoever gets hot can make the postseason.

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Following is how the Lions shape up in throwing cold water on those hopes:

Week 13 vs. Vikings

Better than their record shows, they've been up and down. They started the season with three losses in the first four games and arrive at Ford Field with three losses in the last five. They should be better than their 5-6 record.

Ranking in Final 6: No. 3.

Lions' win formula: Keep it close, like they did in the 19-17 loss Week 5. Tighten up on defense if it comes down to a final possession. It was too easy for the Vikings to get in range to win that game with a 54-yard field goal on the last play.

Week 14 at Broncos

A tough team all the way around under head coach Vic Fangio. With six games left, they rank third in the league with 196 points allowed. Cornerback Patrick Surtain II had two interceptions Sunday in a win over the Chargers.

Ranking in Final 6: No. 4.

Lions' win formula: Be aggressive. Get a lead and protect it. Offense is the Broncos' weakness.

Week 15 vs. Cardinals

A legitimate Super Bowl contender, especially if quarterback Kyler Murray is healthy.

Ranking in Final 6: No. 2.

Lions' win formula: The Lions have two wins and a tie in the last three meetings. They'll need help in the form of turnovers, penalties and misplays to win this one.

Week 16 at Falcons

They beat the Giants, Jets, Dolphins, Jaguars and the Saints for their five wins. A win is a win, and the Lions would take any one of them, but the Falcons aren't an unbeatable powerhouse. Rookie tight end Kyle Pitts has 45 catches and a TD with an average of 14.7 yards per catch. He is just getting started.

Ranking in Final 6: No. 6.

Lions' win formula: Play good, solid ball. The Falcons have had a way of coming apart. That's mostly why the Lions beat them last season.

Week 17 at Seattle

The Seahawks used to be able to beat you on offense or defense -- whatever it took. Now they can't do it with either. They're likely to miss the playoffs for only the second time since quarterback Russell Wilson arrived in 2012.

Ranking in Final 6: No. 5.

Lions' win formula: Get an early lead and keep the pressure on Wilson. Getting him back from the hand injury that caused him to miss three full games did not provide the lift that was expected.

It's a winnable game for the Lions.

Week 18 vs. Packers

Despite playing on only nine good toes -- I've always wanted to write that line -- Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is still the best. He showed that again in taking the Rams apart with his arm, legs and brain Sunday night. Packers management has built a team with depth, and there's a star to lead it.

Ranking in Final 6: No. 1.

Lions' win formula: Get an early lead, keep adding to it, and hope Rodgers is sitting out to stay fresh for the playoffs.

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