Lions at Bengals: 10 things to watch
It may be slim and dim, but there’s still a chance.
The Lions have had their backs against the walls the last couple weeks and clawed out wins to keep themselves in the postseason conversation.
Sunday the playoff push heads to Cincinnati, where Detroit will look to stay in contention and complete the NFC North’s sweep of the lame Bengals, who apparently began waving the white flag two weeks ago.
Here are 10 things to watch in Sunday’s Lions-Bengals game at Paul Brown Stadium (1 p.m. Fox/WJR 760):
1. Where it started: Marvin Jones will make his first return to Cincinnati, where he spent his first four seasons. While Jones admitted there won’t be any nostalgia and he won’t catch any feelings, he could be targeted often and motivated to have a big game to show the Bengals they made a mistake by letting him walk in free agency two offseasons ago.
2. Digging it: Quandre Diggs has made a seamless transition from nickelback to safety following Tavon Wilson’s injury in Week 12. Diggs has stepped in and performed well in three solid outings with 15 tackles, four passes defensed, two interceptions, a sack and a forced fumble. It’s worth watching to see if he can continue to build off his past performances.
3. Brotherly battle: Lions offensive lineman Graham Glasgow and Bengals defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow often went head-to-head in the backyard growing up. After teaming up together at Michigan, the duo will line up against one another for the first time in their professional careers. It’ll be a game within a game to see who knows how to take advantage of the other’s weaknesses and comes out on top most plays.
4. Slay’s day: Lions cornerback Darius Slay has traveled against the top receivers all season long and left many frustrated. Slay will get another chance to prove he’s one of the best in the business against Bengals star A.J. Green, who was named to his seventh Pro Bowl and torched the Lions for 155 yards and a touchdown on six catches in 2013.
5. Ebron’s rise: Believe it or not, tight end Eric Ebron has been one of the most reliable receivers for Matthew Stafford the last four games. During that span, Ebron has caught 23 of the 26 passes thrown his way for 199 yards and a score, and has been targeted more the past two weeks (18 times) than any other point this season.
6. O-line shuffle: Protection and run blocking has been an issue all season long. And it won’t get any better with the starting unit taking another big hit with injuries. Center Travis Swanson (concussion) has already been ruled out for Sunday, while right guard T.J. Lang (ankle) is doubtful and right tackle Rick Wagner (ankle) and backup tackle Brian Mihalik (illness) are both questionable.
7. Scoreboard watching: While the Lions will be focused on the task at hand, they will need an assist in a couple of NFC South games with major playoff implications. Most importantly, the Lions will be rooting for the Saints to beat the Falcons and the Buccaneers to beat the Panthers, which would keep the possibility of Detroit leapfrogging Atlanta and a multi-team tie with Carolina in play heading into Week 17.
8. Paging Ziggy: Injuries have gotten the best of defensive end Ziggy Ansah in what has been a trying season in his contract year. Ansah has shown signs on life in recent weeks with two sacks the past four games, but time is running out for him to make a free-agent push with a strong finish.
9. Gunning it: The Lions had success in the run game last week against the Bears using the pistol formation, with the quarterback in shotgun and running back directly behind him. While it’s a small sample size, it’s an alignment that may be worked into the offense more and utilized against the Bengals’ worst-ranked run defense.
10. Holiday cheer: The Lions have been one of the more entertaining teams in the league when it comes to group touchdown celebrations. They broke out The Rockettes kick routine last week and it’ll be worth watching to see if they have another festive number in store.