DETROIT LIONS (8-6) AT CINCINNATI BENGALS (5-9)
SERIES HISTORY: 12th regular-season meeting. Bengals lead series, 8-3. The Lions haven't beaten the Bengals since 1992. They lost in the last meeting, 27-24, when Mike Nugent made a 54-yard field goal as time expired for Cincinnati and A.J. Green and Calvin Johnson traded big plays. Green finished with six catches for 155 yards and scored on an 82-yard touchdown, while Johnson had nine catches for 155 yards and two scores for the Lions.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Lions have followed a similar recipe to win their last two games and stay in the playoff hunt, and they'll stick to the blueprint.
They need to force turnovers, get off to a fast start on offense and let Matthew Stafford let 'er rip. Stafford has more turnovers than he'd like (16), but he's playing some of his best football and spreading the ball around to all of his receivers.
Theo Riddick has emerged as the Lions' No. 1 running back, although they've de-emphasized the running game. There may be more opportunities on the ground here, especially in an outdoor game on the road where the elements could be a factor.
The Bengals need to somehow muster some motivation in the final two weeks, which reportedly will be Marvin Lewis' final weeks as coach. But it could get ugly, like last week when the Bengals lost to the Vikings, 34-7.
Behind an injury-riddled offensive line, the Bengals need to find a way to control the line of scrimmage and establish some semblance of a rushing attack now that Joe Mixon appears to be out of concussion protocol.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Lions WR Marvin Jones vs. Bengals cornerbacks. Jones played three seasons with the Bengals before signing a $40 million deal with Detroit after the 2015 season. He has 54 catches for 970 yards and a team-leading eight touchdowns this season.
--Bengals WR A.J. Green vs. Lions CB Darius Slay. The Lions haven't been shy to leave Slay one-on-one against the best wide receivers they've faced this year, including Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones and Antonio Brown. Slay has more than held his own in those matchups, and he's already set a career-high with seven interceptions. Green is 20 yards away from 1,000, but the Bengals' offensive struggles have eaten into his production. Still, especially in the red zone, Slay vs. Green will be appointment viewing.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
--Out: C Travis Swanson (concussion)
Doubtful: G T.J. Lang (foot)
--Questionable: DT Rodney Coe (illness), T Brian Mihalik (illness), T Rick Wagner (ankle)
--Out: T Cedric Ogbuehi (shoulder), T Andre Smith (knee), LB Nick Vigil (ankle, back)
--Questionable: S George Iloka (shoulder)
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Bengals DT Geno Atkins. He has 61 sacks, fourth on the franchise list and most for an interior lineman. Atkins leads the Bengals with nine sacks and was named to the Pro Bowl for the sixth time. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said his influence on young teammates is evident. "One thing about Geno this year is that he has done a great job of being a mentor, more so than any other year I've been around him. He's a quiet guy, but any time young players can receive feedback from a player they respect, it's tremendous."
FAST FACTS: Lions QB Matthew Stafford ranks third with 3,920 passing yards and is tied for fifth with 25 TDs. He has 2,492 yards (311.5 per game), 13 TDs and five INTs in his last eight games. He has three consecutive games with at least 25 attempts and 75-plus completion percentage, tied for the second longest streak in NFL history. ... RB Theo Riddick has three rushing TDs in his past three games and has two straight games with a TD against the AFC. ... WR Golden Tate has 33 receptions for 395 yards and two TDs in his last five road games. Since 2013, he is one of five players with 400 catches and 5,000 yards. ... WR Marvin Jones spent four seasons with the Bengals (2012-15) and had 15 TD catches. He is tied for fourth in the NFC with eight TD receptions. ... DE Ezekiel Ansah has six sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in his last eight road games. ... CB Darius Slay leads the NFL with seven INTs and is tied for first with 20 passes defensed. He has three INTs, five passes defensed and a fumble recovery in his last two games. ... LB Jarrad Davis leads NFL rookies with 79 tackles. He is the only rookie with 70 tackles (79) and a sack (two). ... Bengals QB Andy Dalton has 2,860 passing yards and can join Peyton Manning as the only QBs with 3,000 passing yards in each of his first seven seasons. ... RB Joe Mixon has 316 yards from scrimmage (105.3 per game) and a rushing TD in his past three home games. He ranks fifth among rookie RBs with 784 scrimmage yards. ... WR A.J. Green had six catches for 155 yards, including an 82-yard TD, last time he played the Lions. He has 394 receiving yards with two TDs in his last five games against the NFC. He is one of four players with more than 950 receiving yards and at least eight TD catches. He can become the second player in team history (Chad Johnson) with six seasons with at least 1,000 receiving yards. ... DT Geno Atkins had two sacks in Week 15, his ninth career multi-sack game. He has nine sacks, second most among DTs. Since entering the league in 2010, he has 61 sacks, most among DTs.
PREDICTION: The Lions are motivated; they still have a chance to make it to the postseason. The Bengals are a mess. At least they could show up and try to send Marvin Lewis off after 15 years as their coach with a win or two in the final weeks. Playing for the postseason prevails.
OUR PICK: Lions, 27-7.