The Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks will meet this Sunday in a game with NFC playoff race implications. These teams aren't exactly bitter rivals, but tensions are mounting thanks to a preemptive Twitter strike courtesy of the Seahawks' Richard Sherman.
According to Kevin Seifert of ESPN's NFC North Blog, Seattle's starting cornerback recently changed his Twitter handle to "Optimus Prime." This is of course in reference to the Transformers character known for soundly defeating Megatron—the nickname for Lions receiver Calvin Johnson.
In the big scheme of things Sherman's comments don't mean much. They're actually pretty light-hearted. However, the Lions are a sensitive bunch right now. They're off to a horrible start, they're frustrated and they think they're better than their 2-4 record indicates.
In other words, the last thing they need is some second-year corner making jokes about them.
So, it's no surprise that Sherman's name-change rankled the Lions more than it should have. Center Dominic Raiola responded in typical Dom fashion. You can read the comments here on ESPN's NFC West Blog. Let's just say they were colorful.
Johnson even seemed irritated. He pointed out that Sherman's nickname was "self-appointed" and he will "definitely" use it as motivation.
First things first. Sherman and the rest of the Seahawks' defense are very good. They're currently ranked eighth and fifth in the NFL in passing and rushing defense according to ESPN. Given the Lions' woes on offense, this game is nowhere near the gimme it appeared to be before the season started.
In fact, Seattle might be looking at this game as a gimme.
That's because the Lions are reeling after losing to Chicago on Monday Night Football. Actually they've been reeling all year. They need a win badly to get back on track.
That's why it might be short-sighted to consider Sherman's Twitter-jab at Johnson completely meaningless. It's bulletin board material for a team that needs it.
Johnson didn't look like himself against Chicago. He had one of the worst games of his six-year career. In fact, he's looked out of character—dropping balls, not scoring touchdowns—all year. Yet no one will dispute that he's one of the best receivers in the game.
So why would the Seahawks want to wake a sleeping giant? Why would they want to poke the gentle Lion with a stick?
Not sure, but that's exactly what they've done. So while Twitter comments don't make tackles or score touchdowns, it is very possible that such things can impact the result on the field. Players find motivation in anything.
Just this week Aaron Rodgers recounted on his weekly radio show how a college professor laughed in his face when he said he wanted to play in the NFL. "You'll never make it. You'll get hurt. You'll need your education, and you're not gonna make it through school here," she said (usatoday.com).
Rodgers used that slight as motivation ever since and thanked her for "putting that chip on my shoulder."
The point is that players can use anything for motivation, so don't be surprised if Johnson uses this.
The Lions certainly could use a big game from him. Johnson and quarterback Matthew Stafford have failed to establish the rapport that made them so dangerous last season. Their offense has repeatedly stalled and in Chicago they looked lost in the red zone.
Perhaps a little extra motivation is all that Johnson needs to return to form. If he responds with a huge game, then he can thank Sherman for it.