The Seattle Seahawks will bid to reach the divisional round of the post-season for the fifth campaign on the spin when they play the Detroit Lions.
Pete Carroll’s men have stuttered into the playoffs going 3-3 in their final six matches of the regular term. However, the club have proven pedigree in January and will be a forced to be reckoned with.
The Lions were eyeing a first-round bye when they were 9-4 heading into the final three weeks of the campaign. Jim Caldwell and his men were unable to secure another victory, and were only kept alive in the post-season when the Washington Redskins lost their week 17 clash.
The Seahawks have been outstanding in the post-season under the tenure of Carroll. They’ve won a Super Bowl and were a yard away from another title, only for Malcolm Butler to crush their dreams.
Last season they were grateful to a miss from Blair Walsh to advance over the Minnesota Vikings in the wildcard round, but were then sent packing from the playoffs by the Carolina Panthers, despite a spirited second-half performance.
Seattle do have their problems and have been inconsistent on both sides of the ball, but especially on defense without the injured Earl Thomas that could leave them vulnerable.
Detroit backed into the playoffs and are heading into CenturyLink Field on a run of three-straight defeats. Quarterback Matt Stafford has been battling a finger injury, while the club have no meaningful running game to support him, leaving them with an uphill challenge on the west coast.
As a result, the Seahawks should be able to claim the victory to advance at -380 with Bovada sportsbook. However, due to the home side’s recent problems on defense, Detroit could be a solid option to cover the +8 spread.
The Seahawks endured an unsteady start to the season, needing a late effort to overcome the Miami Dolphins on the opening day before suffering their annual defeat to the Los Angeles Rams.
A win over the Atlanta Falcons proved their mettle, only for a tie against the Arizona Cardinals in a crazy contest and a loss to the New Orleans Saints to knock them off track.
However, within a week all was right for Carroll’s men as they produced a fine defensive stand to beat the Buffalo Bills before heading to New England to knock off the Patriots by holding Tom Brady and company at the goalline.
Russell Wilson produced his best performance of the term at Gillette Stadium, shredding Bill Belichick’s defense with ease, and hinting that the club’s peak form was right around the corner.
However, Carroll’s men stuttered to the finish line with a 10-5-1 record, suffering a crippling injury to Thomas in the process. The safety is the best player in his position in the NFL and an important leader for the Seahawks in the secondary.
His absence has seen his side exposed by Aaron Rodgers in their defeat to the Green Bay Packers as well as Carson Palmer against the Cardinals.
Other than Wilson, Thomas is probably the player that the Seahawks could ill-afford to lose for their push for the Super Bowl. And although their secondary still possesses All-Pros Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, the safety blanket provided by the 27-year-old has been removed.
Even in their win over the San Francisco 49ers on the final day they still gave up 23 points to a poor offense. For once heading in the post-season there are questions marks surrounding Seattle’s defense that they will have to answer without arguably their best player.
Many quarterbacks have entered the post-season with a point to prove. At the age of 28 it is time for Stafford to make his move to put him – at the least – in the conversation as one of the top 10 signal-callers in the NFL.
The Lions quarterback can look no further than the example of Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens, who led the franchise to the Super Bowl in the 2012 campaign. He produced four flawless performances to secure the crown and a huge contract extension in the process.
Flacco is not regarded as one of the top quarterbacks in the league due to his inconsistent play, but remains a potent threat in January. Stafford can take follow in his footsteps should he rise to the challenge in the playoffs, along with having solid regular-season numbers to back up his claim.
The Lions made a habit of winning close games at the start of the season, defeating the Philadelphia Eagles, the Washington Redskins and the Los Angeles Rams late in their respective contests. Stafford’s performances in the fourth quarter were crucial to those victories as were the displays of his receiving corps led by Marvin Jones, Eric Ebron and Anquan Boldin.
Detroit’s defense has been inconsistent throughout the campaign, and let them down badly on their stretch run. They were porous in the second half against the Dallas Cowboys and in their defeat to the Packers, forcing them to take the road to Seattle and miss out on the NFC North crown.
They will have to step up to the mark at CenturyLink Field, while their playmakers will also need to rise to the occasion. The talent is there, but Caldwell will have to ensure that they can pull it together to advance to the divisional round.
The Seahawks are a fearsome prospect on home soil, having won their last nine post-season matches on the spin in front of their own supporters. Their last defeat at CenturyLink Field in the playoffs came in the 2004 season against the Rams, highlighting the task at hand for the Lions.
It will take a flawless performance for Caldwell’s men to advance and Stafford will have to carve apart the vaunted Seahawks’ defense.
That will be an incredible tough task with Seattle likely to emerge to place themselves in the final four in the NFC Conference for the fifth season in a row.
Seattle Seahawks to beat Detroit Lions
Saturday 7th January 20:15 ET (Sunday 8th January 1:15 GMT)
Detroit Lions to cover +8 spread
Saturday 7th January 20:15 ET (Sunday 8th January 1:15 GMT)
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