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The Ultimate Sports Blog

News, reports and analysis pertaining to the NFL, MLB and potentially other sports.

NFC Wild Card Preview – Detroit Lions @ Seattle Seahawks

Linebacker K.J. Wright #50 of the Seattle Seahawks bats a loose ball out of the back of the end zone during the second half of a football game at CenturyLink Field on October 5, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks won the game 13-10. (Oct. 4, 2015 - Source: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images North America)

The Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1) host the Detroit Lions (9-7) in the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs. The Seahawks won the NFC West for the third time in four years and the Detroit Lions reached the postseason for the third time in five years as the runner-up in the NFC North. Seattle won three of their last six games. Detroit is on a three-game losing streak, all against NFC playoff teams, after winning five consecutive games against teams with a combined 29-51 record.

The Lions and Seahawks have met each other 13 times, with Seattle leading the series 8-5 and 6-2 at home. Detroit’s last win at Seattle dates back to September 1999.

Seattle’s QB Russell Wilson finished the season with 353-for-546 for 4,219 yards, 21 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a passer rating of 92.6. He had career-bests in pass attempts, completions and passing yards but also threw more interceptions than ever and had the worst QB rating of his career.

Russell Wilson leads the 10th ranked passing offense, averaging 257.8 yards per game. His primary targets are WR Doug Baldwin (94 receptions for 1,128 yards and 7 touchdowns), TE Jimmy Graham (65 catches for 923 yards and 6 touchdowns) and WR Jermaine Kearse (41 receptions for 511 yards and 1 touchdown). With WR Tyler Lockett’s season-ending injury WR Paul Richardson is expected to see extended playing time.

Detroit’s QB Matt Stafford completed 388 of 594 passes for 4,327 yards while throwing 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for a passer rating of 93.3. It was his sixth consecutive season throwing for over 4,000 yards.

The Lions had the 11th ranked passing offense during the regular season, averaging 256.9 yards per game. WR Golden Tate is the clear number one receiver with 91 catches for 1,077 yards and 4 touchdowns. WR Anquan Boldin (67 receptions, 584 yards, 8 touchdowns) deserves special attention on third downs and in the red zone. WR Marvin Jones (55 catches for 930 yards and 4 touchdowns) and TE Eric Ebron (61 receptions for 711 yards and 1 touchdown) are other popular targets for Matt Stafford.

Seattle’s rushing offense ranked 25th in the league with an average of 99.4 yards per game. Primary running back Thomas Rawls has been bothered by a shoulder injury lately and experienced a subsequent drop in his productivity as well as workload. Over the past three weeks he carried the ball 37 times for 56 yards and 1 touchdown, while averaging 4.1 yards per carry and scoring 2 touchdowns in his first six games of the season. Backup RB Alex Collins has played well in the last two weeks, rushing for 83 yards on 14 carries, and could see extended playing time in this game.

Detroit had the third worst rushing offense in the regular season, averaging 81.9 yards per game. After RB Theo Riddick’s season-ending injury, RB Zach Zenner is expected to get the nod over RB Dwayne Washington in the playoffs. Since week 13, Zach Zenner had 51 carries for 224 yards and 3 touchdowns. Over the same period, Dwayne Washington rushed 44 times for 138 yards and no score but did not see any playing time in the season finale against the Green Bay Packers.

Both teams have one of the worst offensive lines in the league, especially when it comes to run blocking. Reason for concern is the moderate success on 3rd or 4th down to run across the line of scrimmage. The Seahawks as well as the Lions have a stuffed percentage of 23%, meaning almost one in four rushing attempts is for no gain or a loss of yardage.

Seattle allowed the 6th most sacks this season with 42. Their Adjusted Sack Rate, which gives sacks (plus intentional grounding penalties) per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance and opponent, is 7.3%, ranking the Seahawks 26th.

The Lions gave up 37 sacks this season, which were the 11th most sacks in the NFL. Detroit’s Adjusted Sack Rate was 6.1%, making this the 18th best pass protection in the league.

With 42 sacks, the Seahawks possessed the 3rd best pass rush in the regular season. Former Detroit Lion DE Cliff Avril (11.5 sacks) and DE Frank Clark (10.0 sacks) constantly provide pressure from both ends of the defensive line. DE Michael Bennett (5.0 sacks), LB Bobby Wagner (4.5 sacks) and LB K.J. Wright (4.0 sacks) are Seattle’s secondary threats.

The Lions had the second worst pass rush this year with 26 sacks. DL Kerry Hyder (8.0 sacks) and DE Devin Taylor (4.5 sacks) were Detroit’s most successful pass rushers this season.

The Seahawks gave up 92.9 rushing yards per game this season, ranking them 7th in the NFL. Bobby Wagner and K.J Wright are the primary tacklers, making sure that the opposing ball carriers cannot gain a lot of yards from scrimmage.

The Lions allowed 106.3 rushing yards per game this year, placing them 18th in the league. LB Tahir Whitehead recorded 132 total tackles in 2016 and is the main guy behind the line to stuff the run.

With 225.8 yards per game, the Seahawks had the 8th best passing defense in the regular season. The team also ranked 21st with 11 interceptions. CB Richard Sherman (4 picks) and S Kam Chancellor (2 interceptions) led Seattle in this category.

The Lions surrendered 248.4 passing yards per game in the regular season, ranking them 19th in the league. Only six teams registered fewer interceptions than Detroit’s defense. Safeties Tavon Wilson, Glover Quin and Rafael Bush, as well as CB Darius Slay were tied with 2 interceptions apiece.

Seahawks Key to Success

Stop the run

Put pressure on Matt Stafford

Establish a running game

Lions Key to Success

Protect Matt Stafford

Win the battle in the trenches

Control the clock

Prediction

Seattle’s 12th man will make CenturyLink Field a hostile and difficult environment to play in for Detroit. The Seahawks may have to work hard but considering their almost immaculate home record this season and the superiority of their defense, Seattle will advance to the Divisional Round.

NHL Roundup

St. Louis Blues' Jori Lehtera, of Finland, shoots on Nashville Predators goalie Juuse Saros, of Finland, during the second period of an NHL hockey game Friday, Dec. 30, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Billy Hurst)

G Juuse Saros saved 25 shots to earn his first career shutout as the Nashville Predators (16-14-6) win at the St. Louis Blues (19-13-5) 4-0. The 21-year old Finn posts an outstanding 1.16 GAA with a save percentage of .957 in six starts this season.

G Aaron Dell records his first shutout in the NHL as the San Jose Sharks (23-12-1) blank the Philadelphia Flyers (20-14-4) 2-0. In six appearances, the 27-year old now has a 4-1-0 record and a 1.78 GAA with a .936 save percentage to show for this year.

NHL Roundup

Goalie Kari Lehtonen (#32) of the Dallas Stars makes a save against Right Wing Jakub Voracek (#93) of the Philadelphia Flyers during the third period (Insidehockey.com)
Goalie Kari Lehtonen (#32) of the Dallas Stars makes a save against Right Wing Jakub Voracek (#93) of the Philadelphia Flyers during the third period (Insidehockey.com)

C Brayden Schenn scores a hat trick as the Philadelphia Flyers (17-10-3) beat the Dallas Stars (11-12-6) 4-2 for their eighth consecutive win. The 25-year old now has 7 goals and 19 points on the season. It was the second hat trick of his career.

RW Jakub Voracek registers a goal and 3 assists in the same game. The 27-year old Czech improved his tally to 11 goals and 21 assists on the year, ranking him 2nd in points and assists in the league.

LW Max Pacioretty records 4 goals and 1 assist as the Montreal Canadiens (19-6-3) thrash the Colorado Avalanche (10-15-1) 10-1. The 28-year old has 12 goals as well as assists this season.

C Tomas Plekanec contributes 4 assists in the same contest, giving the 34-year old veteran from the Czech Republic 11 assists and 13 points this year.

RW Phil Kessel and D Kris Letang each register 3 assists as the Pittsburgh Penguins (18-7-3) win at the Tampa Bay Lightning (14-13-2) 4-3. Phil Kessel ranks 2nd in the league with 21 assists and 5th with 30 points. Kris Letang now has 16 assists and 18 points on the season.

LW Matthew Tkachuk, son of hockey legend Keith Tkachuk, scores 3 assists as the Calgary Flames (16-13-2) defeat the Winnipeg Jets (13-15-3) 6-2. The prospect, who celebrates his 19th birthday today, has 9 assists and 15 points in his first NHL season.

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