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Seattle Seahawks vs Detroit Lions: prediction, preview, pick to win

By
The Sports Xchange
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin (89) runs for a 42-yard touchdown against Arizona Cardinals on December 24, 2016. Baldwin has four receiving TDs in his past six playoff games. Since 2015, including playoffs, he is tied for second in the NFL with 22 TD catches. Photo by Jim Bryant/UPI
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin (89) runs for a 42-yard touchdown against Arizona Cardinals on December 24, 2016. Baldwin has four receiving TDs in his past six playoff games. Since 2015, including playoffs, he is tied for second in the NFL with 22 TD catches. Photo by Jim Bryant/UPI | License Photo

Detroit Lions (9-7) at Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1)

KICKOFF: Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET, CenturyLink Field. TV: NBC, Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya, Heather Cox.

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SERIES HISTORY: 14th meeting. Seattle leads the series, 8-5. Seattle has won four of the past five, including a controversial 13-10 decision in 2015. This is their first playoff meeting.

GAMEDATE: 1/7/17

KEYS TO THE GAME: History provides an indication as to how this game might go. The Seahawks have never lost a playoff game at CenturyLink, and the Lions have not won a playoff game anywhere in its past eight tries.

Whether the Lions can debunk recent trends and come away with the upset might come down to how well Stafford can throw the ball. Stafford has been hampered by an injured finger on his throwing hand -- one reason Detroit lost its final three games.

There are also plenty of issues with the Seahawks, despite their eight-game postseason home winning streak that dates back to January 2005. A 2-2 record since Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas went down has been disconcerting, and some sideline squabbles have added to the idea that Seattle is a team in turmoil.

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Despite the late-season fade, Seattle has a lot on its side. The Seahawks' six playoff wins since 2013 are the most in the NFL, and Seattle owns a 48-13 home record (including playoffs) since Carroll arrived in 2010.

On Tuesday night, the Seahawks added kick return specialist Devin Hester to help their playoff run. The 11-year veteran replaces Tyler Lockett, who broke his leg in a game against the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 24.

Aaron Rodgers killed the Lions with his feet last week, scrambling out of the pocket for big first downs and keeping plays alive by slipping away from sacks. The Lions will be similarly challenged by Russell Wilson's mobility this week, and they need to be more disciplined with their pass rushes. Wilson scrambles to run more than Rodgers, but he still has two dangerous receivers the Lions must keep close tabs on in Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham.

Seattle will need to make the most of their red zone opportunities as Detroit ranks 30th in the league in defensive red zone percentage.

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The Lions could take a few shots deep against the Seahawks' Thomas-less secondary if they can give Stafford enough time. They won't throw deep often, given the strength of Seattle's pass rush, but they need to connect the few times they put Matthew Stafford in harm's way.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

--Lions WR Marvin Jones vs. Seahawks CB Richard Sherman. Golden Tate led the Lions in receptions and receiving yards this year, but Jones is the team's deep threat. He showed signs of life last week against the Packers (five catches, 76 yards) after a quiet second half of the season. The Lions won't be able to nickel-and-dime their way downfield against this defense, so they'll have to connect on a big play or two. Sherman doesn't allow many of those, of course, as one of the best cornerbacks in the game.

--Lions DE Ziggy Ansah vs. Seahawks LT George Fant. Ansah had a disappointing season, with just two sacks, but he has played better the last month despite some lingering effects form an early-season ankle injury. He's the Lions' only true pass-rush threat, and he'll match up Saturday with Fant, a former basketball player. The Seahawks allowed 42 sacks this year, sixth most in the league, so Fant and the rest of the offensive line will have their hands full protecting Russell Wilson.

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PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Seahawks RB Alex Collins. Collins ran for 55 yards on seven carries against the 49ers and has 106 yards on his last 21 carries. He's been one of the few options able to find success in the running game for the Seahawks recently. With C.J. Prosise still out, Collins and Thomas Rawls will have to carry the load.

INJURY UPDATE:

The Lions downgraded center Travis Swanson to out. Swanson will miss his fifth straight game with a concussion. The Lions previously listed Swanson as questionable.

Third-round rookie Graham Glasgow will start again at center in place of Swanson.

Linebacker DeAndre Levy (knee), offensive tackle Riley Reiff (hip) and returner/wide receiver Andre Roberts (shoulder) Are listed as questionable on Friday's injury report for the Lions.

For the Seahawks (10-5-1), running back C.J. Prosise (shoulder) and defensive tackle Tony McDaniel (concussion) were ruled out.

FAST FACTS:

The Lions are in the playoffs for the second time in the past three seasons. They had an NFL-record eight wins after trailing in the fourth quarter or overtime.

Lions QB Matthew Stafford has passed for 703 yards and four TDs in two career playoff games. This season, he threw for 4,327 yards, his franchise-record sixth consecutive 4,000-yard season.

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Lions RB Zach Zenner has three rushing TDs in the past two games. He had 110 scrimmage yards (69 rushing) in Week 17, his first game with 100.

Lions WR Golden Tate spent four seasons (2010-13) with Seattle and won Super Bowl XLVIII with the Seahawks. He led Detroit with 1,077 yards, his second 1,000-yard season.

DE Kerry Hyder led Detroit with eight sacks. He has six in his past eight road games.

The Seahawks are one of three teams to advance to the playoffs in each of the past five seasons. They have won six of their past eight postseason games and have a playoff win in each of the past four years.

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson is 7-3 in the playoffs, with 16 TD passes and nine interceptions. In two career meetings with Detroit, he has 523 passing yards, three TDs and one interception.

Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin has four receiving TDs in his past six playoff games. Since 2015, including playoffs, he is tied for second in the NFL with 22 TD catches.

Seattle DE Cliff Avril spent five seasons with Detroit (2008-12). He ranked fourth in the NFC with 11.5 sacks this season and has six sacks in his past six home games. He has five sacks and two caused fumbles in his past eight postseason games.

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Seattle LB Bobby Wagner led the NFL and set the franchise record with 167 tackles. He has 102 tackles and two interceptions in 10 career playoff games.

PREDICTION: Assuming the Seahawks' suddenly horrific special teams don't doom them, they should be able to survive the Lions in Seattle and move on to Atlanta for a juicy rematch against their old buddy, Dan Quinn.

OUR PICK: Seahawks, 24-20.

--Chris Cluff

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