December 23, 2016
Lions-Cowboys on MNF just a
precursor of bigger things ahead?
By KEITH GAVE
We interrupt all the overnight hysteria over whether the Dallas Cowboys should play quarterback Tony Romo – and how much – in the final two games of the season to remind you of this: It matters hardly at all to the Detroit Lions and their fans.
All that Romo speculation – bizarre considering his team is 12-2 – was ignited when the Philadelphia Eagles ended a five-game losing streak Thursday night to beat the 10-5 New York Giants, one of the teams Detroit is battling for a playoff seed. That Eagles win ensured the Cowboys would have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs as the NFC’s No. 1 seed.
On the surface, it seemed as though the Giants’ loss helped the 9-5 Lions. But really it didn’t change much at all.
The Cowboys may not have much to play for in their final two games, though coach Jason Garrett says his team will play to win. Of course he does. And whether or not he decides to get Romo a little work to help prepare him for the playoffs, the outcome of this game is fairly moot.
Even if the Lions, who were 7.5-point underdogs heading into the weekend, manage an upset, it means nothing at all if the Minnesota Vikings don’t march onto Lambeau Field on Saturday and beat the red-hot Green Bay Packers. Green Bay is a 6.5-point favorite, but that doesn’t seem nearly enough after the Vikings lost, 34-6, to a bad Indianapolis team last weekend.
If both the Lions and the Packers win, it’ll still come down to the final game of the season between the two teams on New Year’s Day at Ford Field. Same as if both teams lose.
The only outcome that matters is a Lions win coupled with a Green Bay loss, which, as we said, isn’t likely.
That said, I like Detroit’s chances in Dallas now as much as I liked them even before the Giants’ loss Thursday. No matter where the two teams are in the standings, Detroit always manages to give Dallas a good game. But this match has a little bit of mustard on it, considering the Lions have a lot riding on it – and Matthew Stafford gets to make his case for NFL MVP in his hometown before a national TV audience.
Stafford and the Lions should put plenty of points on the board. The Dallas defense under coordinator former Lions head coach Rod Marinelli scares no one, even though the
Cowboys are No. 1 in the NFL against the rush. The Lions can’t run the football anyway. The challenge for Detroit will be containing one of the NFL’s most prolific offenses. With a couple of rookies leading the way -- likely league MVP Ezekiel Elliott and Rookie of the Year Dak Prescott – combined with a premier wide receiver in Des Bryant (the new Dallas “Triplets”), all protected by the finest offensive line in football, Dallas presents the most formidable offense the Lions have seen all year.
As Monday night games go, this should be one of the most anticipated by Detroit fans in years. But it’s merely an appetizer before the New Year’s Day showdown with Green Bay.
Prediction: Dallas 31, Detroit 30
For Red Wings, all news is bad news
With the headline today that goaltender Jimmy Howard will mess the next 4-6 weeks with a knee injury, the Red Wings season has been reduced to two words: It’s over.
We knew at the start of the season that for the Wings to extend their Stanley Cup playoff streak to 26 seasons they’d need all hands on deck playing at the top of their game. Howard’s injury is merely the latest in a series of debilitating injuries. But by far the worst. He has been Detroit’s undisputed MVP this season.
So Petr Mrazek gets his job back by default. Mrazek started the season as the Wings’ undisputed No. 1 goalie – but he hasn’t been able to stop a beach ball consistently this season. He’ll need to channel the same guy who made his debut a couple of seasons ago, when Mrazek came to Detroit from Grand Rapids and carried the Wings into the post-season after Howard was injured.
It’ll be tougher now. The Wings are missing three of their six defenseman, so they’ll start three rookies on the blue line again. Adding to their woes: two of their most forwards, Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm, remain out.
All this comes while the Wings are in a stretch 10 games, with nine of them on the road. That began with an awful, 4-1 loss at Tampa Bay on Tuesday, when Howard suffered the right knee injury.
The only home game should be a memorable one: On Tuesday when Buffalo visits, the Wings will honor their 1997 Stanley Cup championship team, a silver lining over the dark clouds hanging over this forgettable season.