Lions vs Vikings

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The Lions aren’t in playoff contention anymore, but the Vikings are. That sets Sunday’s game up as a critical one for one NFC North rival and a spoiler opportunity for the other. Here’s everything you need to know before the game:

WHO: Detroit Lions (5-9) vs. Minnesota Vikings (7-6-1)

WHAT: NFL Week 16

WHEN: 1 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Ford Field in Detroit

TV: FOX

RADIO: WJR 760 AM

STREAM: fuboTV (free trial)

On Twitter, follow beat reporters Nate Atkins and Kyle Meinke, who will provide live updates from Ford Field.

MLive will also have the live game chat running on the Lions page starting an hour before kickoff.

Here’s some pre-game reading to hold you over:

  • A lineman at heart, Matt Patricia’s top task is saving Matthew Stafford’s back
  • Lions’ Glover Quin could play his last game at Ford Field on Sunday
  • The Lions have reached the NFL’s worst intersection of bad and boring
  • Ask Kyle: Top 5 reason the Lions failed this year
  • Eric Ebron’s goal was to make the Pro Bowl — he just had to leave Detroit to do it

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If you’re carrying a balance on a high interest credit card or are looking to make a big purchase in the coming months, it’s time to switch cards and save money.

ALLEN PARK — The Detroit Lions now have enough players on injured reserve to play a game.

Receiver Bruce Ellington and special teams ace Charles Washington are the latest victims, landing on IR on Saturday afternoon. Detroit has now lost four players to IR heading into the home finale Sunday against Minnesota, following rookie standouts Kerryon Johnson and Da’Shawn Hand.

T.J. Lang, Marvin Jones, Ezekiel Ansah, Michael Roberts, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Nick Bawden and Steve Longa are also on IR. That’s 11 players in all, enough for a full side.

The receiver position has been hit especially hard, where three of their top four pass catchers are gone. Golden Tate was dealt at the training deadline, then Jones suffered a season-ending knee injury, then Ellington — their primary replacement in the starting lineup — suffered a season-ending hamstring injury.

Kenny Golladay leads Detroit with 64 catches for 1,005 yards. The next healthy receiver is TJ Jones, who has 10 catches for 108 yards and no touchdowns.

The Lions have promoted receiver Chris Lacy from the practice squad to take Ellington’s place. He is an undrafted rookie who has never played in an NFL game.

Cornerback Dee Virgin was also promoted from the practice squad. He takes Washington’s place on special teams.

ALLEN PARK — Every Saturday for years, this space of MLive has been home to a game preview, presented in the form of players and matchups to watch that ended with a prediction. It was our way of hyping up the next game, and for years, the Lions offered plenty to reel you in. Almost every NFL game does if you look hard enough.

That is no longer the case in Detroit. I’m picking the Lions to lose 24-10 to the Vikings on Sunday, but this team has no players or matchups worth dissecting, and it would be disingenuous to tell you otherwise just for the sake of routine.

This is my time to tell you not to bother.

At 5-9, the Lions are eliminated from any playoff contention. It’s a disappointment after general manager Bob Quinn said 9-7 seasons were unacceptable, but 20 of 32 teams miss the playoffs every year. Plenty rebuild along the way, and many of those teams have components to watch even after they are mathematically eliminated.

This year’s Lions team isn’t just bad, though it has beaten just one team with a winning record, has lost two home games by at least 14 points and has losses to rookie quarterbacks on the Bills and Jets.

This Lions team is also so boring. The team has no personality among active stars or coaches, no soundbites, no trash talk, no fun personal stories, no splashy young players for fans to pour hope into after Kerryon Johnson and Da’Shawn Hand went to injured reserve. It trudges through games, showing no aggressiveness, working just to survive. It has taken a game that is meant to be entertaining and turned it into the biggest chore of the week.

The best part of the Lions is their fans, and they’re the ones who take the punishment.

The Lions are failing as a football team and as a business. They rank 24th in the league in attendance and have the second-lowest franchise value only ahead of the Bills, according to Forbes. Although neither of those marks are exactly new in Detroit, the team is trending in the wrong direction. The Lions didn’t have the most exciting coach or locker room under Jim Caldwell, but they offered high-flying offenses that came back to win more than any other team in the NFL. They had the ability to turn Ford Field into an inferno.

This year’s Lions are the opposite of that. By being bad and boring, they are entering the worst place to be in the NFL.

One or the other is always avoidable, as the Browns showed by going 0-16 last year with fun stars like Myles Garrett and Jabrill Peppers and an organizational plan for it all with two top-five draft picks coming up. “Hard Knocks” covered that team.

The Lions’ plan was to just win in the contract window of Matthew Stafford. They wanted to kill all the other noise and let their play do the talking.

What you hear instead are crickets.

As much as Quinn and Matt Patricia have said that they aren’t just trying to copy the Patriots, the only other NFL team either had worked for before here, that’s exactly what they’re doing. Almost every decision they make stems from the “do-your-job” culture, from their non-answers to their stripping of player personalities to their treatment of a question like “Who is your emergency long snapper?” as if it’s a threat to national security. Only Patricia speaks anymore, rambling about hard work and getting ready to play, cliches that lose value when the games don’t matter. Quinn hasn’t shown his face publicly since the draft.

The Patriots have shown that this muted approach can work when you win. People forgive and forget when the games are exciting. But when you pull that act and lose, you leave people thinking up better uses of their time and money.

This isn’t a condemnation as much as it is an apology. I am sorry that I haven’t provided better coverage of your favorite team this year. The Lions aren’t interested in it. They aren’t earning it either.

On Christmas weekend, you can find so many happier and healthier uses of your time than this Lions team.

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