2011 NFL Week 14 Picks: Lions over Raiders
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Game of the Week: Lions at Raiders
The National Football League promotes parity beyond any professional sports association in this country. This equality conveys that every franchise and fan base has a pragmatic shot at Super Bowl glory while warning powerhouses are just a schedule glitch or injured player away from pedestrianism.
This sentiment of equality has seemingly been verified with the pigskin proceedings of the past decade; alas, a few outliers confine this opinion from law. The New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers have consistently refrained from this uniformity, producing championship-caliber teams in ostensibly every campaign. On the other end of that spectrum rests the Detroit Lions and Oakland Raiders, two squads that just can’t help themselves from football failure.
Yet, low and behold, both sides find themselves in a postseason race in the middle of December, a rare circumstance indeed. Apropos, then, that these models of mediocrity square off in the WhatIfSports.com Game of the Week.
The Lions stole the early-season headlines thanks to a 5-0 start that was littered with second-half heroics. Former first-round pick Matthew Stafford was coming to fruition, teaming up with Calvin Johnson to form one of the most dynamic passing duos in the league. Second-year stud Ndamukong Suh was quickly transforming a historically dormant defense into a tenacious unit that gave opposing signal callers nightmares. This young core of talented assets not only instilled hope in the Motown faithful for 2011’s prospects, but for years to come.
Unfortunately, the Lions have somewhat spiraled out of control since their surprising start. Detroit proceeded to lose five of their next seven contests, and were suddenly ousted as punks of the NFC, highlighted by head coach Jim Schwartz starting a fracas with San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh after a defeat to the Niners and Suh earning a two-game suspension for stomping on a Green Bay offensive lineman on Thanksgiving. Detroit stopped the bleeding with a win over the lowly Vikings last week, although that nearly was a disaster, as Minnesota fumbled on the one-yard line on a controversial no-call facemask penalty. The win gave the Lions a one-game advantage over Chicago and Dallas for the final conference playoff berth.
The Raiders can sympathize with Detroit’s free-fall. Despite losing quarterback Jason Campbell for the season, Oakland appeared to have a postseason berth locked down in mid-November. The acquisition of veteran quarterback Carson Palmer brought a calming presence to an unstable situation, and backup Michael Bush was filling in admirably for the injured Darren McFadden. Couple this tranquility with the turbulence suffered by seemingly every other AFC West division team, and the Raiders appeared guaranteed to be playing in the second week of January.
However, two straight losses and Tebow-mania have now thrown that assurance awry, with the Raiders now a game behind the Broncos in the West and the Jets for a Wild Card berth. Worse, the offense that looked to be running on all cylinders just weeks ago seems disjointed, with a rash of injuries to the receiving corps correlating to that confusion.
With both teams desperately needing a win to right their proverbial ships, who comes out on top in this anxiety-filled foray? According to the WhatIfSports.com award-winning simulation engine, the Lions prevail 55.8 percent of the time by an average margin of 22-20. For the rest of this week’s scores, check below:
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