The Lions enter the postseason as losers of three straight, heading into this weekend's Wild Card matchup with the Seahawks following losses to the playoff-bound New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, and Green Bay Packers, who defeated Detroit 31-24 on Sunday night to claim the NFC North title. That Lions loss, coupled with a Washington Redskins loss earlier Sunday, ensured Detroit of the No. 6 seed in the NFC playoff picture, and with it a date with No. 3-seeded Seattle on Saturday, January 7 at CenturyLink Field.
"They've had an unusual season," Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said of the Lions on 710 ESPN Seattle Monday, the day after his team's 25-23 road win in the regular-season finale over the San Francisco 49ers. "It's been hard lately for them, the last few weeks has been hard for them."
Detroit finished the regular season with a 9-7 record. Just one of its nine wins came against a team that finished the year with a winning record, with the Lions defeating the Redskins, who finished the year 8-7-1, back in Week 7. But prior to those three losses to close the season the Lions were winners of five straight, and after their 1-3 start to open 2016, Detroit won eight of its next nine. Quarterback Matthew Stafford's impressive play has been one of the primary reasons for the success Detroit has seen, but he's also had his numbers decline since injuring a finger on his throwing hand in Week 14, tossing 21 touchdowns and five interceptions before the setback compared to three touchdowns and five interceptions since.
"The quarterback has been phenomenal, he played really well yesterday," Carroll said of Stafford, who completed 26-of-41 throws for 347 yards, two touchdowns, and one pick in Week 17 against Green Bay. "But he did hurt his finger on his throwing hand and it affected his numbers and stuff. You'd like to say that it wouldn't, just like [Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek] Carr when he hurt his finger too, he had a couple weeks that was not as sharp.
"But they're very well equipped," Carroll added. "They've got experience, they've got good guys to go to, they've got a very aggressive defense, so it's a well-tested team and the quarterback can do whatever he needs to do. He can throw for 400 [yards] on any day, so we've got to get our act together and get ready."
Defensively, the Lions have allowed 73 points the past two games after allowing no more than 20 in each of their eight games prior. Detroit finished the year ranking in the top half of the League in points allowed (22.4, 13th NFL), and despite finishing the year tied for the second-fewest sacks in the NFL (26.0), Carroll identified the Lions' defensive front as one of their strengths.
"It's a good front," Carroll said. "They really rush the passer well and they're tough up front. It's just been an aggressive group for years. You've got some big names on that side, too."
When the two teams kick off at 5:15 p.m. PT this Saturday, the Lions will be looking for their first playoff win since the 1991 season, while the Seahawks will look to improve upon an impressive postseason mark at CenturyLink Field, where the team has gone 5-0 in playoff games under Carroll and won nine in a row dating back to the 2005 season.
"I would think that the 12s are ready to go and I hope that they'll come just expecting the best and go crazy and we'll try to play up to it and make it a great event," Carroll said. "This is your favorite time of year if you love football. This is it. It's playoff time. Playoff time in Seattle is awesome. It's hard for everybody coming in here, I know that. We need to do our part, I know the 12s are going to do their part. We'll go crazy."