The Detroit Lions will come to Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday hanging on to some slim playoff hopes.
The Lions need help in the form of losses by Atlanta, New Orleans and/or Carolina, but nothing is possible if they don’t win out, so they will have plenty to play for against a Bengals team that keeps losing games and starters.
Detroit (8-6) has won two in a row and five of seven, but their resume is more suspect than the results would indicate with those five victories coming against teams that are a combined 19-51 (Green Bay, Cleveland, Tampa Bay and Chicago twice).
The Lions’ success in 2017, as it has been for years, is tied to the right arm of quarterback Matthew Stafford, the league’s third leading passer with 3,920 yards and 25 touchdowns against nine interceptions.
Stafford and his favorite targets – Golden Tate (82 catches, 885 yards, four touchdowns) and former Bengals receiver Marvin Jones Jr. (54 catches for a career-high 970 yards, eight TDs) – have Detroit ranked sixth in passing offense at 263.5 yards per game.
But only the 32nd-ranked Bengals (77.0) are worse in rushing offense than Detroit (77.4).
It’s been an ongoing issue for the Lions, who haven’t had a 100-yard rusher since Reggie Bush on Nov. 28, 2013, a span of 66 games.
Only twice this year have they had a back top 54 yards. Ameer Abdullah leads the team with 513 yards and three TDs, while Theo Riddick has 260 yards and three TDs.
The heavy pass-run imbalance has Detroit ranked near the middle of the pack at 13th in total offense (340.9).
Defensively, the Lions are near the bottom of the league in yards allowed (27th, 362.3) and points allowed (25th, 24.2).
Detroit doesn’t get a lot of pressure on the quarterback with just 28 sacks, but they’ll be going against a Bengals offensive line that appears to have lost starting tackles Cedric Ogbeuhi and Andre Smith to season-ending injuries Sunday in Minnesota.
If the Lions are able to win, they will clinch back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1994-95, which also was the last time they went to the playoffs in consecutive seasons.
Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones was a fifth-round draft pick (166th overall) of the Bengals in 2012 and was with Cincinnati through the 2015 season … Bengals defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow and Lions center/guard Graham Glasgow are brothers, and they played together at the University of Michigan … Lions running back Tion Green played at the University of Cincinnati … Lions tackle Taylor Decker is from Vandalia (Vandalia Butler High School) and played at Ohio State … Bengals running back Cedric Peerman (Reserve/Injured) was with the Lions during the 2009 season … Bengals tackle Jake Fisher (Reserve/Non-Football Illness) is from Traverse City, Michigan (Traverse City West High School) … Bengals cornerback Darqueze Dennard played at Michigan State University … Lions defensive tackle Christian Ringo was with the Bengals briefly earlier this season … Bengals assistant head coach/offensive line coach Paul Alexander coached at the University of Michigan from 1985-86, and at Central Michigan University from 1987-91 … Lions linebackers coach Bill Sheridan coached at the University of Cincinnati from 1989-91.
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AFC North Outlook
Baltimore (8-6) vs. Indianapolis (3-11) on Saturday afternoon. The Ravens can clinch their first playoff berth since 2014 by winning their final two games, the first of which is against a Colts team that has beaten them in seven of the last eight meetings.
Cleveland (0-14) at Chicago (4-9) on Sunday afternoon. The Browns will try to get their first win on Christmas eve for the second year in a row, but in order to do it they’ll have to win in Chicago for the first time since 1969.
Pittsburgh (11-3) at Houston (4-10) on Monday afternoon. The Steelers need a win to stay ahead of Jacksonville for the No. 2 seed in the playoffs that comes with a first-round bye.