One of the most disappointing losses in franchise history against the floundering New York Giants left a bad fruit cake taste in the mouth as the Detroit Lions and their fans celebrated the Holidays. Now that the Lions are officially out of playoff contention, the final game against the struggling Minnesota Vikings seems almost as pointless as Jim Schwartz’s renewed subscription to the Detroit Free Press. So why does the final game of the season for the Lions matter in any way?
There are a few key things to look for in the game against the Vikings. Right now, the game is so underwhelming Lions fans might choose to watch Michigan Football on Saturday, the only team as disappointing as the Lions right now in the state of Michigan, and do their after Christmas shopping Sunday Afternoon. Whatever the opposite is of the hype for the Lions’ recent Monday Night Football game, that’s what fans are experiencing heading into the weekend. With important players facing free agency, franchise players facing scrutiny, and a coach teetering over the crevasse of irrelevancy, the Lions still have some on-field research to do before massive decisions are made in the offseason.
Matthew Stafford will need to play well and get a win. His stock has never been lower in the eyes of Lions fans, and some are even blaming him more than The Schwartz. Well, at least as much as they blame The Schwartz. The first quarterback controversy in a few years for the Lions may occur over the offseason and into the 2014 season if Stafford continues his downslide against Vikings. Sure it could be coaching that is pushing Stafford down the hill. However, the eye test happens on the field in front of the fans, and against a mediocre at best defense, Stafford needs to shine for his last chance to quiet the naysayers.
The Schwartz is gone in everyone’s mind, but his contract situation will cause the Lions’ front office to actually consider keeping him. If the Lions destroy the Vikings and the Chicago Bears end up going far into the playoffs, it might mean Schwartz’s job security has a fighting chance. That’s doubtful I hope, but as much as coaches have been fired too quickly there are just as many that have stuck around too long.
The Lions will likely play some second stringers on Sunday, as they should. Also, Brandon Pettigrew is out again as is Dorin Dickerson, so the auditions for the tight end of the future might still be in session. Pettigrew is one of the key players that will likely be lost to free agency before the 2014 season. The benchers playing in the secondary on Sunday might provide an outlook for what the Lions need to do in the offseason as far as coverage is concerned, and David Akers may want to make a few field goals from over 40 yards if he wants to continue making a living kicking a football.
Either way, the Lions will be assessing their future on the field against the Vikings as true fans will watch with a glimmer of that lethal hopefulness still leftover like yesterday’s honey baked ham and Hollandaise sauce.