A Capsule Look at this Week's Colts Opponent, the Detroit Lions
Synopsis: The Colts enter the final three games of the season needing to continue winning to secure a spot in the playoffs for a seventh consecutive season.
Their next opponent has a different goal: win a game.
And Colts President Bill Polian said it's one that makes them not only the next opponent, but a dangerous one, too.
The Detroit Lions, one season after finishing 7-9, are nearing the end of a difficult, disappointing season and through 13 games, they have yet to win.
They are the sixth team in NFL history to start 0-13.
Three of the previous six teams won their 14th game.
And while Polian said the desire to avoid becoming the first team to go through a 16-game season without a victory will motivate the Lions, he also said that isn't the only factor making Sunday difficult for Indianapolis.
"It is a team that will be fighting tooth and nail for their pride," Polian said. "They certainly don't want to be the only team to go through a season 0-16, No. 1, and No. 2, they have a potent offense. . . .
"It doesn't matter who we're playing and it doesn't matter what their record is or what our record is. We want to play the best we can.
"If we do that, the results will usually take care of themselves."
The Lions, who have lost 20 of 21 games, rank 30th in the NFL in total offense, and because of injuries, have started three quarterbacks, recently signing former Minnesota Vikings starter Daunte Culpepper out of retirement. He has started the last five games, and has thrown four touchdowns with six interceptions.
Offensively, the Lions also feature running back Kevin Smith, a player Polian called a "home-run hitter" and "a very talented runner." He has rushed for 684 yards and five touchdowns on 187 carries.
But the Lions' premier player offensively may be wide receiver Charles Johnson, a player Polian called the best wide receiver to enter the NFL in a long, long time. He has 56 receptions for 1,055 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Lions, despite injuries at quarterback and despite their record, have had several chances to win this season, with five of their losses coming by eight points or less. That total includes two losses by a total of six points to AFC North-leading Minnesota, as well as a four-point loss to playoff-contending Chicago.
"The Lions have had some, I don't know whether to say tough luck, but they've had some games that they really could've won, should've won, and just haven't gotten the job done in the fourth quarter," Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said. "We'll look at the tape and look at their players and what they're doing. We're not going to take them lightly."
"You can't worry about that at this time of year. We have one game this week that we have to win and it happens to be Detroit. We're happy it's a home game and we're going to try to use that to our advantage, but whoever it is you have to win these games this time of year."
Culpepper sustained a shoulder injury late in Sunday's loss to Minnesota and underwent an MRI Monday. Other quarterbacks on the Lions' roster: Dan Orlovsky, who sustained a thumb injury in Week 9; Drew Stanton; and, Drew Henson, the backup the last two games.
2008 Record: 0-13, 4th in NFC North.
Head Coach: Rod Marinelli, third season as Lions Head Coach and NFL Head Coach (10-35).
Last game: The Lions, seeking their first victory of the season had a very real chance to get it in a 20-16 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field in Detroit, Mich. The Lions took a 6-3 lead at halftime and a 13-10 lead after the third quarter. Instead, the Lions lost a fourth-quarter lead for the fourth time this season when Vikings reserve quarterback Tarvaris Jackson threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Visanthe Shiancoe early in the fourth quarter. Detroit had a chance to retake the lead on the ensuing possession, but settled for a field goal and lost for the 20th time in 21 games. "Whoever is facing them these last three games better be prepared," Vikings running back Adrian Peterson said.
2008 NFL Rankings: Offense – Overall, 30th (261.3 yards per game); Rushing, 30th (78.2 ypg); Passing, 26th (183.2 ypg); Defense – Overall, 31st (386.9 yards per game); Rushing, 32nd (173.3 ypg); Passing, 17th (213.6 ypg).
2008 Leading Passer(s): Dan Orlovsky (88-156 completions, 1,033 yards, 56.4 pct., 5 TD, 4 INT, 76.7 passer rating); Jon Kitna (68-120 completions, 758 yards, 56.7 pct., 5 TD, 5 INT, 72.2 passer rating); Duante Culpepper (60-115 completions, 786 yards, 52.2 pct., 4 TD, 6 INT, 63.9 passer rating).
2008 Leading Rusher: Kevin Smith (167 carries, 684 yards, 5 TD).
2008 Leading Receiver: Calvin Johnson (56 receptions, 1,055 yards, 9 TD).
2008 Leading Sacker(s): Dewayne White (5.5).
2008 Turnover Breakdown: Minus-7 (16 forced, 23 committed).
First-round draft choice: Gosder Cherilus, offensive tackle. With the No. 17 overall selection in the 2008 NFL Draft, the Lions selected Cherilus, an offensive tackle from Boston College.
Cherilus (6-feet-7, 319 pounds) has started 10 games at right tackle this season. He started 37 games at right tackle in college before moving to left tackle for his senior season.
Key free agents acquired: Leigh Bodden (Cleveland), CB; Chuck Darby (Seattle), DT; Michael Gaines (Buffalo), TE; Gilbert Gardner (Tennessee), LB; Brian Kelly (Tampa Bay), CB; Kalvin Pearson (Tampa Bay), S.
Key free agents lost: Boss Bailey (Denver), LB; T.J. Duckett (Seattle), RB; Teddy Lehman (Tampa Bay), LB; J.T. O'Sullivan (San Francisco), QB; Damien Woody (New York Jets), C.
2008 Review: A difficult season for the Lions started on a down cycle, with Detroit losing its first four games by double digits – at Atlanta, at home against Green Bay, at San Francisco and at home against Chicago.
They then lost a heartbreaking game at Minnesota, 12-10, the start of the Lions' most competitive stretch of the season. They lost at Houston by a touchdown before losing by eight points to Washington and four points at Chicago.
They lost to Jacksonville, 38-14, the following week, then lost by nine points to Carolina and by 18 points to Tampa Bay before a 47-10 loss to Tennessee at home on Thanksgiving Day.
This past Sunday, they had a fourth-quarter lead before losing at home to Minnesota.
Last time in Playoffs: 1999.
Last time in Super Bowl: Never.
Super Bowl Championships: None.
2007 Pro Bowl Selections: Roy Williams, WR.
Quotable I: "We played him (Colts quarterback Peyton Manning) when I was with Tampa (in 2003) and I saw one of the best games I've ever seen a quarterback play against us. So I know what he has and they also have the ability to run the ball well and then they get into the no-huddle mode, which is different for your defense. It's a different timing. So it's tough."
--- Lions Head Coach Rod Marinelli
Quotable II: "It's another loss and it's totally unacceptable."
--- Lions Quarterback Duante Culpepper