Lions are perfect at night, but Cowboys present big prime-time challenge

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ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Once upon a time, nan Detroit Lions were nan NFL’s only squad without a scheduled prime-time game. These days, they can’t look to flight nan spotlight.

“I conjecture everybody wants to spot nan Lions,” Detroit linebacker Derrick Barnes said Wednesday, smiling.

The NFL surely does. The Lions will play their 5th prime-time crippled of nan play Saturday, erstwhile they return connected nan Dallas Cowboys astatine AT&T Stadium astatine 8:15 p.m. ET. Detroit is simply a cleanable 4-0 successful its nighttime games this season.

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It’s each a stark alteration from past year.

When nan NFL announced its first 2022 schedule, nan Lions were unopen retired from prime-time games. Their lone nationalist TV quality was their yearly Thanksgiving Day game. In immoderate ways, it was understandable. A 3-13-1 team, paired pinch nan history of this franchise? Maybe not nan astir enticing option. At nan aforesaid time, nan different 31 teams would get their moment. Lions players felt slighted.

The NFL yet reversed people and recovered a prime-time spot for nan Lions, but it took a Week 18 flex pinch playoff implications for them to beryllium featured. Even then, nan communicative astir that crippled had much to do pinch a storied Packers franchise perchance sneaking into nan playoffs, hoping to make 1 last tally pinch Aaron Rodgers successful Green Bay.

The Lions, meanwhile, utilized it to showcase nan squad they would yet become.

“I dream it gets flexed to Sunday night,” near tackle Taylor Decker said starring up to nan game. “I really dream it does, because that’s a historical stadium, historical franchise successful nan division. We’re playing a divisional opponent. What other could you want?”

The Lions wanted that prime-time crippled to show what they had been building. More importantly: They wanted nan win, and sewage it. It capped disconnected an 8-2 tally that intelligibly caught nan attraction of schedule-makers, who made Lions-Chiefs nan Thursday nighttime kickoff crippled of nan 2023 season.

The Lions (11-4) hit nan defending champion Chiefs astatine Arrowhead Stadium successful Week 1. They hit nan Packers successful premier clip astatine Lambeau Field successful Week 4, mounting nan reside successful nan division. They hosted “Monday Night Football” for nan first clip successful 5 years, taking attraction of nan Raiders 26-14 successful Week 8. They moreover saw their crippled against nan Broncos flexed to a Saturday nighttime successful Week 15, winning 42-17.

Perfect successful primetime pic.twitter.com/bHRJOazpfR

— Detroit Lions (@Lions) December 18, 2023

Now nan Lions person a chance Saturday to spell 5-0 successful prime-time games. It won’t beryllium easy: The Cowboys are 10-5 wide and 7-0 astatine home.

“I conscionable deliberation it is thing that we talk astir and hole for,” Campbell said successful September aft beating nan Packers. “We ever effort to stress that you should really unrecorded successful nan moment. You should clasp it. You should bask it. It shouldn’t beryllium a stressful situation. It should beryllium 1 of those that 1 time you are going to look backmost and say, man, that was a typical moment. To beryllium capable to play nether nan lights pinch my teammates, pinch these guys and get a large triumph and make immoderate plays retired there.”

“This is premier time,” protect extremity Aidan Hutchinson said. “It’s not difficult getting hyped for this one.”

The Lions understand what’s astatine stake. Playoff seeding is connected nan statement for some teams. For nan Lions, winning retired locks up nan No. 2 seed astatine nan very least, and gives them an extracurricular changeable astatine nan No. 1 seed if nan San Francisco 49ers suffer 1 of their last 2 games. For Dallas, an NFC East title and a location playoff crippled are connected nan line. This is simply a large crippled for some teams.

It’s besides a measuring instrumentality game, correct earlier nan playoffs.

“I deliberation it’s perfect,” Campbell said Thursday. “You couldn’t constitute a amended script. … It gives you a really bully thought of wherever you’re astatine because this is 1 of nan apical teams successful nan NFC, it conscionable is. … Coach (Mike) McCarthy’s done a heck of a occupation pinch that team.”

In nan past, nan Lions would get a mates of nationally televised games each play and often laic an egg. NFL fans would watch pinch small logic to judge things would beryllium different. It was conscionable nan Lions. But this group has done good to slow but surely triumph folks over. It has developed an personality for being a reliable retired pinch an expertise to close. Now, it’s clip to spot really nan Lions stack up pinch 1 of nan NFL’s best, and really quickly they tin displacement their attraction backmost to nan task astatine hand.

“I deliberation it’s decidedly a bully trial for us,” Jackson said. “They’re a playoff-contending team. What different trial would we want astatine this constituent successful nan play to spot wherever we clasp up?”

This is wherever things get real. The Lions judge they’re battling complacency, aft clinching nan NFC North. Sunday was an affectional precocious that hasn’t been felt successful 30 years. They celebrated accordingly. But nan attraction this week has been astir putting that accomplishment down them, and aiming for nan adjacent one. It’s a bully measurement to spot really nan Lions are wired.

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Dallas, meanwhile, is coming disconnected a nonaccomplishment to Miami that knocked nan Cowboys out of nan apical spot successful nan NFC East. They request 2 wins, and an Eagles loss, to reclaim it. Perhaps immoderate location cooking will do nan trick.

Either way, some teams will beryllium fighting for thing successful premier time.

“It’s decidedly gonna show america who we are and what we’re tin of,” Barnes said. “We’ve played a batch of bully teams this twelvemonth and person travel retired pinch a triumph against a batch of bully teams. Dallas is simply a awesome team. Great players, awesome athletes, truthful we cognize that we person we to bring our best.”

(Photo of Amon-Ra St. Brown: Patrick McDermott / Getty Images)


“The Football 100,” nan definitive ranking of nan NFL’s champion 100 players of each time, is connected waste now. Order it here.

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