5 Bold Predictions for Detroit Lions' Week 17 Matchup
The Detroit Lions will stumble into Minnesota after a disastrous 1-5 slide. All hope for the postseason is gone, but players can still secure pride and future employment in the final week of the season.
So that means there are at least five bold predictions left for the Lions.
I'm not going to get too crazy and predict a win. If you're a fan, you know better.
But the show must go on.
Reggie Bush and Joique Bell Combine for 200 Total Yards
Calvin Johnson may have been playing with a partially torn PCL, according to Deadspin.
Granted, plenty of players have played with a similar injury. However, if he has been injured for that long, he's put in more than two months of wear and tear on a damaged knee.
His presence was vital when the Lions were chasing the NFC North title. With the playoffs no longer an option, resting "Megatron" to prevent further damage would be prudent.
If Johnson doesn't play, Matthew Stafford won't have a deep threat and will be forced to check down to his running backs more often.
And that's not a bad thing. Joique Bell and Reggie Bush are both capable receivers (Bell caught all 10 of his targets last week) and will be facing off against a linebacking corps that doesn't elicit too much fear.
Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson have combined for 29 missed tackles this season. Bell forced five alone last week, and Bush's elusiveness is his greatest asset.
What does this all mean? That the running backs should find plenty of opportunities to shrug off would-be tacklers and rumble for yards after the catch.
And They Don't Fumble
Now we're getting bold, baby.
Bell and Bush have put the ball on the ground eight times this season, so there's already greater than a 50 percent chance they do it again.
But they won't this week.
As I've mentioned before, Bell has adjusted his grip. He cradles the ball with his forearm in a manner similar to Tiki Barber after the former New York Giant corrected his fumbling ways.
As for Bush, it's a bit of a gut feeling. Fans might not believe it, but NFL players feel the pain of losing more acutely than fans. They're the ones who put in ridiculous hours of preparation, and they didn't make it this far without being uber-competitive.
Bush will try to atone for every sin during this game because it's all he has. His biggest transgression has been fumbling. Well, that and dropped passes, but let's not get greedy.
Joseph Fauria Leads the Team in Targets and Receptions
General manager Martin Mayhew hit the jackpot in undrafted free agents this year. And it's prime time for Joseph Fauria to make an indelible mark as Detroit heads to the offseason.
That's right—I'm going out on a limb. Despite all those dumpoffs to the running backs, it'll be Fauria who will be the most-targeted receiver on the Lions roster this Sunday.
Fauria has already established himself as a bona fide red-zone threat. Now, he's starting to make his case as a between-the-20s guy.
In his first action as the No. 1 tight end, he hauled in four passes for 43 yards, including 20 after the catch. Granted, two of his targets ended in interceptions, but inaccurate throws made catching the ball difficult at best.
He's ready to become a major cog in the offense. With Brandon Pettigrew out for the season and up for free agency, Fauria will get a hard, long look as the premier receiving threat that he can be.
DeAndre Levy Finishes the Season with More Passes Defensed Than Richard Sherman
The hope that linebacker DeAndre Levy could end the season with the interceptions title is probably dashed, but he can obtain another honor.
He is sitting just one pass defensed behind superstar cornerback Richard Sherman. The Seattle Seahawks stalwart enters Week 17 with 15, while Levy has 14.
Remember, we're getting bold here, but the Vikings will have Matt Cassel under center. He attempts just more than 60 percent of his passes within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.
Levy has been the fourth-best 4-3 outside linebacker in terms of coverage. And he's extremely motivated.
He's the one who let fans behind the curtain by admitting the team was looking ahead. He won't make that mistake again.
Nate Burleson Sticks by His Statement
I'm breaking the rules a bit. This is my slideshow, so deal with it. Besides, don't you want something to look forward to?
Veteran Nate Burleson publicly stated that he'd take less cash to be a part of the Lions' plans in 2014. There's no reason to think he's lying.
He has been an outspoken leader of a team in dire need of one. He isn't a part of the problem. In fact, he's one of the few steady hands that Detroit has employed this year.
Injuries limited him to eight games. However, when he was given the ball, he handled the job, as his three drops in 45 targets would attest.
The Lions will be looking for a dynamic threat opposite Calvin Johnson in the 2014 NFL draft or via free agency. Having a steady veteran with an ability to pick up first downs as the third receiver will be a huge factor in Stafford's development.