Stop me if you have heard this before: the Detroit Lions are not winning the NFC North.
Not only will the Lions not win the division (again), their hopes for a wildcard are all but done. The Lions are two games back of the NFC Wildcard with four games to go, and according to Football Outsiders have only a 9.9% chance to make the playoffs. That's not very good.
The Lions lone saving grace would usually be quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford is used to leading improbable comebacks, though a hand injury prevented him from coming back on the field during the Lions 44-20 blowout loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
If the Lions are smart, they will keep Stafford on the bench and not risk any further injury to the man they gave the richest contract in NFL history to this past summer. There are a few different reasons the Lions should punt the season and shut down Stafford. The most obvious is the hand injury.
Ravens linebacker stepped on Stafford's hand, and according to Lions head coach Jim Caldwell, Stafford “isn't out of the woods yet”. That's all I need to hear. Caldwell went on to say it is not an “insignificant injury”.
The Lions season is over. It does not make a modicum of sense to send Stafford out with a bad hand that you know teams are going to target. And if you somehow believe the upstanding players and coaches in the NFL would never exploit an opponent's injury, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter is here to get you right.
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter on Matthew Stafford's injured hand: “We try to find a way to get a hold of that hand” https://t.co/c3GFxLjPkb via @freep
— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) December 7, 2017
Again, that's enough for me.
It is irresponsible to send out your quarterback in meaningless games to perhaps do irreparable damage to his throwing hand.
For those thinking the Lions could just use a more run-heavy offense so Stafford wouldn't have to throw as much, congratulations, you haven't watched a single Lions game this year.
The Lions are 31st out of 32 teams in terms of running the football. The running game has been so pathetic, they have yet to crack 1,000 yards on the ground as a team this year.
Add in the mix continuing to play Stafford means trotting him out behind one of the worst offensive lines in football where he is guaranteed to get hit and potentially create problems beyond his very real hand injury.
Not shutting Stafford down would be a gross mismanagement of the franchise's most valuable asset and a reckless hindrance to Stafford's career. It is not happening for the Lions this year and the only logical next step is to recognize that and prepare for the future.