After Connor Barth missed what would have been a game-tying field goal, Lions fans had a sigh of relief [and a laugh] – that was the final divisional road game for Detroit, and they won. In fact – they won them all. For the first time in Lions franchise history they go undefeated on the road against all three of their division rivals.
With the Vikings winning today – they keep their 2-game lead on the Lions. The Packers losing at home to the Ravens puts them 3 games back of the Vikings, and a game back on the Lions. And the Bears – well, they’re where they have been for the past few years, last place and out of the division race.
As soon as Aaron Rodgers went down it was pretty clear that the division was going to be a race between Minnesota and Detroit. The Vikings have won 6 in row – Detroit has won 3 in a row. Minnesota has a much less favorable schedule to end the regular season. With only 2 home games left this season, they’ll have to go on the road starting Thursday in Detroit, and then head to Atlanta and Carolina to face the Falcons & the Panthers, and they will still have to face the Packers at Lambeau which isn’t an easy task even with Rodgers out – especially for an indoor team when it’s late in December, Lambeau lives up to its “frozen-tundra” nickname.
The Lions have 3 road games split with 3 home games left this season – they will travel to Baltimore, Tampa Bay, and Cincinnati. They will host the Vikings, Bears, and Packers. Winning at home on Thanksgiving would be huge for Detroit as they would hold the tie-breaker over Minnesota if necessary.
Detroit’s run defense has been awful the last few weeks, DC Teryl Austin will need to figure something out before Thursday or Minnesota will have a field day at Ford Field. On the offensive side, other than a few off-target passes – Matthew Stafford has looked sharp. He will need to utilize wide receiver Golden Tate, who can make a huge impact in the slot helping Stafford and the Lions get to the redzone where big targets like Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay can do what they do. On the other side of the ball, Detroit will need a big game out of Darius Slay – who let’s not forget picked off Vikings QB Case Keenum last year at Ford Field to help the Lions beat the Rams, Keenum’s former team. The Vikings are a tough team, but so is Detroit – and home field advantage is a hell of a factor in games like that.
Stafford and the Lions have the ball in their court now, take control of your destiny Detroit. And to use a phrase that all Lions fans hated hearing this time last season, it’s time to run the table.