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NFL playoff matchups: Rams vs. Lions showdown is fantasy football come to life

Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff, left, and Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford.

The Motor City is turbocharged.

Not only is the University of Michigan playing for a national championship on Monday night, but also the Detroit Lions will play host to the Rams on Sunday night in a must-see NFL showdown.

It’s a tale of two quarterbacks — the Rams’ Matthew Stafford and the Lions’ Jared Goff — both facing their former teams.

As of Sunday night, nosebleed seats were going for around $500 on the secondary market.

Stealing the spotlight on wild-card weekend is no small feat, especially with the Dallas Cowboys playing host to the Green Bay PackersCowboys coach Mike McCarthy looking to upend his old team — and last season’s Super Bowl teams, Kansas City and Philadelphia, fighting for their lives.

Read more: Rams beat 49ers to set up classic Matthew Stafford vs. Lions, Jared Goff playoff game

The playoff picture didn’t fully come into focus until Sunday night, when Buffalo won at Miami. The Bills secured the No. 2 seed with that victory and will face seventh-seeded Pittsburgh.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, will play at Kansas City.

As for Rams-Lions, it’s fantasy football come to life.

Detroit hasn’t hosted a playoff game in 30 years, and last won in the postseason 32 years ago, with a wild-card victory over Dallas in the long-gone Silverdome. Since that triumph, the Lions are 0-9 in postseason games.

Enter Stafford, who remains such a Detroit hero that when he played in the Super Bowl for Los Angeles two years ago, a lot of Lions fans wore T-shirts that read “Detroit Rams.”

 

“Ford Field might not be the 'House That Matthew Built,' but he certainly helped pay the mortgage for the 12 seasons he played there as a Lion,” said the now-retired Bill Keenist, a Lions executive for three decades.

“No Lions player has ever embodied the grit and spirit of Motown more than Matthew.”

In the other big reunion of the weekend, McCarthy will face the Packers, the franchise that fired him late in the 2018 season. His Cowboys have finished 12-5 three seasons in a row. The only other time McCarthy has played his former team was 2022 at Lambeau Field, when the Packers won in overtime.

Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy smiles as he walks off the field following a win over the Washington Commanders on Sunday.

“The drama of it, I’m sure you guys will love,” McCarthy told reporters Sunday in the wake of the Cowboys’ 38-10 victory at Washington. “I will not participate in it. … It’s playoff time. It doesn’t matter who we play, to be honest with you.”

San Francisco and Baltimore already had clinched the coveted top seeds a week ago, so both automatically advance to the divisional round.

Defending NFC champion Philadelphia will play at Tampa Bay in a Monday night wild-card game, with the Eagles looking to right themselves after getting off to a 10-1 start then losing five of six.

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts appeared to jam the middle finger on his throwing hand in Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants, but didn’t miss a snap before he was relieved by Marcus Mariota in the blowout loss. Another especially troubling moment came when Philadelphia receiver A.J. Brown crumpled to the turf clutching his knee and had to leave the game.

Tampa Bay and Philadelphia have met five previous times in the postseason. The teams played in Tampa in Week 3 with the Eagles winning, 25-11.

Read more: Jared Goff got closure from Sean McVay, and it helped make him a Detroit Lions hero

“When you get hit in life, when you get hit in football, you’ve got two options,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “You either stay down, or you can get the … up. And I know this group is fighters. I know this group will get up.”

As with the Eagles, the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs also are struggling to return to glory. Before finishing the regular season with victories over Cincinnati and the Chargers, the Chiefs had lost three of four.

In the first game of the weekend, Cleveland plays at Houston on Saturday afternoon in a rematch of a Christmas Eve game in which the visiting Browns, led by the newly signed Joe Flacco, cruised to a 36-22 victory.

But the Texans were without rookie sensation C.J. Stroud in that game, as the first-year quarterback was sidelined in concussion protocol.

With Detroit, Buffalo and Cleveland still alive, this marks the first time in NFL history that all three teams ringing Lake Erie have made the playoffs in the same season.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.