Both the Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions have a chance of staying in the playoff hunt, but both need a win on Sunday.
Twelve weeks ago, the prospect of Sunday's game between the Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions would have resulted in unanimous claims that the Lions, finding their stride, would easily beat the NFL's worst team in 2011. However, in a perfect example of NFL parity, it's Andrew Luck and the Colts who enter Sunday's game at 7-4, while the struggling Lions remain a sub-.500 team.
This is a critical game for both teams. The Colts are trying to hold onto their current wild card spot, while the Lions are looking to win two more games and make an improbable push to the postseason, with a wild card spot not being mathematically out of reach, despite their 4-7 record.
Meet the Detroit Lions
Looking to build off a 2011 season that saw quarterback Matthew Stafford assert himself as one of the NFL's elite and Calvin Johnson become arguably the best in the league, the stage was set for Detroit to challenge the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears as the class of the NFC North. However, things haven't gone according to plan.
The primary issue for Detroit is a lack of offensive weapons. Stafford and Johnson are still as dangerous as they were last year, but the lack of a reliable No. 2 receiver has held Detroit's offense back. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew is their second-most productive receiver, with Titus Young, Ryan Broyles and Nate Burleson fighting over the scraps.
On the ground, the Lions are struggling even more. Mikel Leshoure is their leading rusher, but with barely 500 rushing yards, the offense lacks the balance needed to take the next step.
Meet the Indianapolis Colts
The decision to part ways with veteran quarterback Peyton Manning to move forward with Andrew Luck has been a sage one. While the Denver Broncos are having success of their own, the Colts boast just one less win, despite starting a rookie quarterback.
Andrew Luck may not be dominating NFL offenses the way he did at Stanford, but with 3,200 passing yards it's easy to overlook his 1:1 TD/INT ratio. The Indianapolis Colts also boast just one true receiver and lack a single elite running back, but they do everything just a little bit better than the Detroit Lions, and that's why they're on the other side of the ledger 11 weeks in.
Local Takes: Detroit Lions
Jeremy Reisman from Pride of Detroit says this about the change from Titus Young to Ryan Broyles:
it is pretty clear how valuable Broyles will be in the future. Of his six catches [last week], four went for first downs (two on third down), three were for 20+ yards and five came on scoring drives. For every reason there is to be down on Titus Young, there are a few reasons to be high on Broyles.
Local Takes: Indianapolis Colts
Matt Grecco from Stampede Blue doesn't have a lot of faith in the Colts being able to put Detroit away:
I either think Johnson will have a huge day, or the Colts will have to double him all day, thus getting no pressure on Matthew Stafford and less help in the run game, and the Lions other WRs will have big days. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Another rough day for the Colts, who keep playing the better teams on their schedule away from home.
Follow the Fun
Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Pride of Detroit and Stampede Blue, for more analysis and highlights from the game.
Add these fine follows to your Twitter time line:
Basically, Titus Young is still grounded.— Pride Of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) November 29, 2012
Basically, with Howell now in 53, roster seems set for Detroit. Please, stop asking me if Colts will claim Jason Babin. The answer is no.— Brad Wells (BBS) (@StampedeBlue) November 28, 2012
The Colts are probably going to make the playoffs this year. One thing I'll be keeping an eye on until then is their ability to create turnovers. Or, as it stands now, their inability to create turnovers. The Colts defense has created seven turnovers this season. Three of those came in one game against the Jaguars. That means in more than half the Colts games this year, they haven't created a turnover. It's hard to see a serious playoff run with a team that can't do that. But they will still win on Sunday.
The pick: 23-21, Colts
The Detroit Lions are getting the home bump, and then some. They are favored by five points, according to OddShark.com.
The Indianapolis Colts return home to face the Tennessee Titans on Dec. 9, while the Detroit Lions go on the road to face the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football.