A few weeks ago, the Detroit Lions, who had won eight of nine, were in the mix for a possible first-round playoff bye. Following road losses to the Giants and Cowboys, however, Detroit (9-6) is in danger of missing the playoffs.
Lions fans, well, they’re nervous.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, I think the nervous level is about 35 here in the city this morning,” 97.1 The Ticket host and anchor Tony Ortiz said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “People expected the Lions to lose to the Cowboys, but the thing is, nobody expected Green Bay to get as hot as they were and now suddenly it’s a one-game season at Ford Field. It’s the worst possible scenario because Green Bay usually plays well in Detroit, so Lions fans are not real happy this morning.”
The Lions lost 17-6 to New York on Dec. 18 and 42-21 to Dallas on Monday night. Detroit scored just three second-half points combined in those losses, as injuries have taken their toll on an offense that was humming earlier in the year.
“It hasn’t looked the same because there’s no Theo Riddick, who is a major weapon for the Lions coming out of the backfield, but also no Travis Swanson,” Ortiz said, referring to the 25-year-old center. “He’s been out the last couple of games in the concussion protocol. That’s moved the rookie, Graham Glasgow, over to center, and that’s put Laken Tomlinson back in at left guard. And I think those two injuries – Riddick and Swanson – are the key reason why the Lions offense just does not look good the last couple of weeks. If those guys are back, maybe the offense looks better, but without them, this offense does kind of look lost.”
Despite Detroit’s recent struggles, Ortiz believes that Matthew Stafford deserves to be in the MVP discussion. Stafford has completed 65.6 percent of his passes for 3,980 yards, 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season.
“He’s the guy who has basically been in charge of this offense and the reason – up until the last couple of weeks – that the Lions were in the midst of a playoff race and their offense was playing well,” Ortiz said. “Will he win it? No, I still think Tom Brady might be having the best season of any quarterback in the NFL this year. But Matthew Stafford definitely deserves some MVP consideration.”
A win over the Packers on Sunday would certainly help his cause. The same could be said for Jim Caldwell, who, in many ways, has changed the culture in Detroit.
“He’s gotten the trust of the players, and that’s the biggest thing,” Ortiz said. “The players trust Jim Caldwell because he is a guy who will let them know what they have done wrong. If you make a mistake, he will call you out. It doesn’t matter if you’re Matthew Stafford or the 53rd man on the roster. He will call you out equally and the players respect that.”
Still, if the Lions miss the playoffs, Caldwell could be on the chopping block, just as Tony Dungy was in Tampa Bay 15 years ago.
“Dungy got them to a certain point, Jon Gruden took them to the next point,” Ortiz said. “The question Bob Quinn has to (answer) if they miss the playoffs is (whether this is) as far as they can go with Jim Caldwell and, with the talent that they’re building, could another coach take them higher?”
Kickoff on Sunday is at 8:30 p.m. ET.