I'm not sure how this happened. I don't know in exactly what completely random order the stars fell into alignment to make this happen, but according to the "Playoff Machine" at ESPN the Detroit Lions, if they can manage to win one of their next two games have something like an 80-90% chance of making the playoffs.
It's weird, I know.
Due to an interesting set of tie breakers, if the Lions can manage to beat both the Raiders and the Chargers, they will be guaranteed a berth and a shot to make magic as a wild card team.
Of course, they have to win.
They have to stop the ancient Carson Palmer and the powerful and punishing Micheal Bush.
1. The Raiders went and dug up the grave of Carson Palmer after both of their quarterbacks from training camp went down with season ending injuries. Palmer has played in six games and has amassed a 3-3 record, while quickly joining the top 10 in interceptions.
2. The Raiders have lost their last two games by a combined score of 80-30...losing to Green Bays is understandable, if not expected, but getting blown out by the 4-9 Dolphins...that's not a good sign for a Raiders team that is also on the playoff bubble.
3. Deion Sanders does not like the Detroit Lions...I don't know if this goes all the way back to Sanders saying before his 1989 NFL Draft that "Detroit would have to put me on layaway" if they decided to draft him...but ever since, he takes every chance he can to say how he does not believe that the Lions are for real. Last night, during the Atlanta Falcons-Jacksonville Jaguars pregame show, NFL Network did a segment with balloons, each balloon with a team that is on the bubble of the playoffs...even though the Lions only need to win 1 of 3 remaining games to have a legitimate shot of getting in....Sanders jumped at the chance to pop their balloon. It just seems weird to me, that's all.
4. This is the first game that Ndamukong Suh will play since his two game suspension. I can't help but think he will be more than a little motivated by his experiences so far in the month of December. Here's hoping he plays Big 12 Championship - type football (where he owned the game, became incredibly famous and registered four sacks of Colt McCoy) and can manage to not get flagged anymore.
5. Kevin Smith has practiced this week and should play. Nick Fairly practiced early this week, but hasn't since and shouldn't.
6. The secondary is still in trouble. While Chris Houston should be coming back this week, it is possible that Eric Wright will simply take his place on the bench. It also appears that star safety Louis Delmas will miss another game. Here's hoping that Alphonso Smith can continue to be the playmaker he's shown himself to be when he gets the chance to get on the field.
Oakland Offense vs Detroit Defense
Carson Palmer is old, immobile and prone to throw dangerous picks. Mike Bush is a powerful runner that needs to get into a rhythm. If the Lions couldn't stop Toby Gerhart, I'm a little worried about how they'll do against Bush. The Raiders also have a handful of speed burners at receiver that might prove a problem for Detroit's depleted secondary.
Personally, I think this is going to be a big game for Suh. I look for him to dominate at times and force a couple fumbles and probably an interception or two.
Oakland Defense vs Detroit Offense
This is a team that has given up 80 points in the last two weeks. Obviously, something is going wrong there. The Lions are making a west coast trip and while that usually has a negative impact on teams, I don't think that the Raiders secondary can keep up with Johnson, Burleson and the emerging Titus Young. Furthermore, the return of Kevin Smith--if he can somehow manage to play an entire game--will also add to the firepower.
If the Lions let Bush run like Gerhart ran, they will lose this game. I just think that Suh and the boys will step up against the Raiders, a team that appears to be falling apart down the stretch. The Lions need this game and a big, big game from Suh.