By Shawn Lealos
The Dallas Cowboys are in the playoffs for the first time in five years and their opponents in the first round will be the Detroit Lions. As the NFC East winner, the Cowboys get home field advantage in the first round while the Lions come in as the wild card team after dropping their final game of the season, and losing out on the NFC North, to the Green Bay Packers. Here is a look at the Detroit Lions heading into the wild card portion of the NFL playoffs.
Ndamukong Suh Suspended
The Detroit Lions headed into the Green Bay Packers game with the NFL’s top ranked rushing defense and second ranked defense overall. That seemed to be a strong point in their favor since the Dallas Cowboys rely mostly on DeMarco Murray to set the pace for the game. However, the Lions lost one of their top defensive stars in Ndamukong Suh.
There is still a chance that Suh could play, but for now he has been suspended for the wild card game because he stepped on the calf and ankle of Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the final game of the season. The incident happened when Rodgers fell to the turf and a Packers’ lineman pushed Suh backwards. Suh ended up stepping on Rodgers’ leg, but then paused and stepped on it again, without looking.
It seemed that Suh was unaware of what was happening and never looked at Rodgers when stepping on his calf. However, thanks mostly to his actions in the past, as well as the fact that there is no way Suh didn’t know he was stepping on another player, the NFL swiftly dealt out the one-game suspension. Without their most dominant defensive star in the lineup, the road to the divisional playoffs just got that much harder for the Lions. It also might have marked Suh’s final game with the team.
Lions Heading into Playoffs with Loss
The Detroit Lions have played their best football in many years in 2014. They headed into the final game of the 2014 NLF regular season with a chance to win the NFC North. They then lost, 30-20, to their rival Green Bay Packers and lost the NFC North. As a result, the Lions head in as a wild card team following a disappointing finish.
On the other hand, the Dallas Cowboys demolished their NFC East rival Washington Redskins, 44-17. The Cowboys proved that they are at the top of their game at the right time, and that will have to come into effect when it comes to the team’s mindsets coming into the big wild card game. Matthew Stafford will have to overcome the loss, where he only threw for 217 yards, but did throw three touchdowns in the game.
Speaking of Matthew Stafford, it is time for him to step up and prove that he is a quarterback on the level of the top passers in the NFL. He has the yearly stats to back up those claims, throwing for over 4,000 yards in each of the past five seasons. However, he also looks more like the Tony Romo of the past few seasons than a Peyton Manning. He lowered his interception numbers this season, but still threw 12 interceptions compared to only 22 touchdowns. With a suspect running game, he has to play better to win a playoff game, something he has never accomplished in his career.
A Stalled Offense
The Lions offensive attack starts with Matthew Stafford, but his two biggest receiver weapons were almost invisible in the loss to the Green Bay Packers. Calvin Johnson caught only four passes for just 39 yards, although he did score two touchdowns. Golden Tate led the team with 45 receiving yards on just three receptions. The other offensive weapons comes in a rushing attack led by Joique Bell, who ran for 60 yards and Reggie Bush, who had 41 total yards from scrimmage. The rushing attack won’t beat Dallas, but Calvin Johnson needs to be more involved if the Lions want to win the game.
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Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. aExaminer.com.