The Detroit Lions’ slim playoff chances are riding on the health of Matthew Stafford’s ribs.
During Sunday’s 31-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers, Stafford was hit from the side as he made his way to the end zone. He was able to get up, but moved gingerly to the sideline and would not return to the game> He attempted to warm up before being shut down.
On Tuesday, it was reported Stafford suffered a rib cartilage injury, and the team is not optimistic he will be able to play on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.
But interim coach Darrell Bevell is leaving open the possibility that Stafford may heal enough to return later this week.
“You guys know how tough Matthew is,” Bevell said during Monday’s news conference. “We’ll take it to the end of the week. We’ll see how it goes and how he can progress.”
Sports bettors have already jumped on the chance to bet against a Stafford-less Lions team. Detroit opened as 8.5-point underdogs against Tennessee, but that number has risen to 10.5 with Stafford’s status in doubt. The Lions (5-8) sit at +450 on the moneyline, meaning a $100 bet on Detroit would result in a $450 win if the Lions beat the Titans (9-4).
Missed opportunity for Lions
Detroit entered its matchup with Green Bay two games out of the final playoff spot — two games back of the No. 7 Minnesota Vikings. At the time, the Lions’ odds on FanDuel to make the postseason was at +1160. And by the 4:25 p.m. kickoff between Detroit and Green Bay, the Vikings lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, meaning the Lions would be just a game back of the final playoff spot with a win.
But the Lions had no answers for Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, who completed 26 of 33 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns. The loss makes Detroit’s playoff chances even more improbable, with FanDuel currently not listing the Lions as a playoff prop.
A Detroit victory would have left the Lions a game back of the Arizona Cardinals for the final playoff spot, with Detroit holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over Arizona because of a 26-23 win on Sept. 27. Instead, the Lions’ season appears over, and their franchise quarterback may be out for the rest of the season.
For any other fanbase, Sunday afternoon would be a devastating turn of events. But for the Detroit faithful, it’s just the same old Lions.
Tennessee brings top running offense
A week after facing one of the league’s top passing attacks, the Lions get to face the leading rusher.
Tennessee running back Derrick Henry leads the NFL with 1,532 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. He’s been even more dominant as of late.
In five of Henry’s last six games, he’s eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark, including a 178 yards and three touchdowns against the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts have been a top five run defense all season, but they looked afraid to tackle the 6-foot-3, 247-pound Henry when he came barreling through the line.
But Henry’s best game, statistically, came last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He averaged 8.3 yards per carry and finished with a season-high 215 yards rushing and added two touchdowns.
Henry’s production is tied to the team’s success. When he runs for more than 100 yards, the Titans are 6-2 this season.
This does not bode well for Detroit.
The Lions have the fourth-worst run defense in the league, surrendering 132.8 yards per game. When Detroit allows more than 100 yards, the team is just 2-7 this season.
The stats don’t align in Detroit’s favor to earn an outright win, and the Lions’ chances are worse with Stafford’s health in question.
Detroit’s playoff chances could officially end this weekend.