The Detroit Lions finish the 2020 season in Week 17 against the Minnesota Vikings, with both teams out of the NFC playoff picture. Lions star quarterback Matthew Stafford, who has been banged up all season long, is expected to play even though the game is meaningless.
Week 17 against the Vikings could be Stafford’s final game with the Lions since the team is rebuilding. The veteran gunslinger is better suited to play for a winning franchise at this stage of his career, and there could be a few contenders in need of a new quarterback this offseason.
If the Vikings game is indeed Matthew Stafford’s last contest with the Lions, he’ll leave the franchise in the most Staffordesque way.
Matthew Stafford is the best quarterback in Lions franchise history
The Lions drafted Matthew Stafford with the first overall pick in the 2009 Draft out of Georgia. Although the Florida native has a below .500 record with Detroit, he’s the franchise leader in passing yards, touchdowns, completions, and wins.
Stafford has appeared in three playoff games with the Lions, going 0-3 against the New Orleans Saints, Dallas Cowboys, and Seattle Seahawks. Stafford apologists will say that the Lions have failed the QB more than he has come up short, but stats don’t lie, and Detroit has been a below-average team during the Stafford era.
However, there is no doubting that Stafford is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL. He’s got a rocket arm and is more mobile than people think. Stafford’s best statistical season came in 2011 when he threw for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns. Surprisingly, the 32-year-old has only made the Pro Bowl once, mostly because the Lions have been awful as a club.
With over 140 interceptions under his belt, Matthew Stafford’s decision-making will always be questioned by pundits. However, one thing no one can take away from Stafford is his toughness.
Matthew Stafford has played through some serious injuries
Matthew Stafford is among the toughest players in NFL history. The Lions’ franchise player has played through a bevy of injuries during his career and never seems to make excuses.
Lions fans will always appreciate Stafford for his willingness to play hurt and be out there for his teammates. He’s played in all 16 games eight times in his career, and that number will increase to nine after his Week 17 start against the Vikings to wrap up the 2020 campaign.
Since he was the No. 1 overall pick of his draft class and has never won a playoff game in his career, Stafford has failed to meet the grand expectations placed on his shoulders when the Lions drafted him. If Week 17 of the 2020 season is Stafford’s final game with the Lions, though, he’ll be going out in a fashion Detroit fans are familiar with.
The Lions could trade or release Stafford after the season
There’s a $10 million roster bonus due on March 21 for Matthew Stafford. The Lions could trade or release the one-time Pro Bowler and draft a quarterback in the 2021 Draft.
Stafford likely knows that Week 17 could be his final game for Detroit. With that being said, he’s not going to let his rib, thumb, and ankle injury prevent him from suiting up even though the Lions have nothing to play for. It’s ironic that Stafford’s possible last start for the Lions is taking place when he’s badly hurt, which has seemingly been the case his entire tenure in Detroit.
It’s a shame that Lions fans won’t be able to attend Week 17 and say their possible goodbyes to Matthew Stafford due to COVID-19.
Stats courtesy of Football Reference.