Penultimate Monday Game of Season Has Big Playoff Implications for Lions, Ravens

Joe FlaccoBoth the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens and the NFC North-leading Detroit Lions badly need Monday night’s game at Ford Field in the Motor City for their playoff hopes.

The Lions are six-point Bovada favorites, and there will be live betting available.

Detroit (7-6) entered Week 15 tied atop the NFC North with Chicago, and the Lions sit a half-game ahead of Green Bay. The Lions have never won the North, last taking a division title in 1993 when it was the Central. Detroit holds a tiebreaker edge over both the Bears and Packers, however, and was the -150 division favorite entering the weekend. The Lions are one of four teams to never play in a Super Bowl and are 20-1 to win the NFC.

The Lions have tremendous offensive talent in Matthew Stafford, Reggie Bush and Calvin Johnson. They rank second in the NFL in total offense and sixth in points at 26.6 per game. Stafford could reach 5,000 yards for the second time in his career, while Johnson (75 catches, 1,348 yards, 12 TDs) is battling Cleveland’s Josh Gordon for the receiving yardage title and the Saints’ Jimmy Graham for the most receiving touchdowns. Megatron may be highly motivated Monday after young Ravens safety Matt Elam called Johnson “old.”

What Detroit tends to do is beat itself through turnovers or penalties. The Lions have lost three of their past four and have turned the ball over a league-high 15 times in that stretch — nine by Stafford — for a negative-11 differential. Opponents have turned those takeaways into 40 points. Detroit turned it over just 13 times in the first nine games and was plus-1. Meanwhile, only the Rams have committed more defensive penalties this season than Detroit. If the Lions fade down the stretch and miss the playoffs for a second straight year, coach Jim Schwartz is likely a goner.

Baltimore has not only made the playoffs every season under coach Jim Harbaugh but has also won at least one postseason game each year. The Ravens (7-6) are tied record-wise with Miami entering Week 15 for the AFC’s final wild-card spot, but Baltimore won in Week 5 at Miami to hold the tiebreaker.

Thus, if the Ravens win this game, next week against New England and Week 17 at Cincinnati, which may have nothing to play for, Baltimore will be in as the No. 6 seed. If the Patriots slip to the No. 3 seed behind Cincinnati, there likely would be a wild-card round rematch of last season’s AFC title game with Baltimore, which is 22-1 to repeat as AFC champion.

The Ravens have won a season-high three straight and took an impossible 29-26 win last week over Minnesota as the teams combined for five touchdowns in the final 125 seconds of the fourth quarter, setting a record. That quarter featured 42 points overall and six lead changes, also a first for that quarter. Baltimore won it on Joe Flacco‘s 9-yard touchdown pass with four seconds left.

Baltimore has dropped three straight on the road and is 1-5 overall, its most road losses since 2009. The Ravens have been good of late on Mondays, covering six of the past eight. It’s Baltimore’s first dome game since the Super Bowl.

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