Lions not quite in playoffs yet

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford throws against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Sunday. (AP photo)


AP Sports Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas — Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions aren’t quite in win-or-go-home mode like the last time they visited his hometown Dallas Cowboys for a wild-card playoff two years ago.

The Lions could do their postseason hopes a lot of good Monday night with a victory, though. That includes scenarios where Detroit (9-5) clinches the NFC North by beating the conference-leading Cowboys, who were the first team to lock up a playoff berth this season.

It’s the second straight week Detroit can take a significant step toward the playoffs on the road against an NFC East contender. The Lions didn’t take advantage in a 17-6 loss to the New York Giants.

“Last week, we had opportunities to make some plays and we just didn’t make them,” Stafford said. “For the majority of the season, we’ve done a really nice job of, in those crucial times, making those plays. I’m sure this week and from here on out will be no different.”

Tony Romo made the crucial play to rally the Cowboys past the Lions 24-20 two years ago for just their second playoff win in two decades since their last Super Bowl title. He’s the backup now, replaced by Dak Prescott because the rookie led an 11-game winning streak while Romo was recovering from a preseason back injury.

The streak ended with Dallas’ second loss of the season to the Giants, but Prescott and the Cowboys (12-2) recovered by beating Tampa Bay.

Then the Cowboys clinched the NFC East title and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs when the Giants lost to Philadelphia on Thursday night.

The Giants-Eagles outcome didn’t concern Prescott, who followed his worst game as a pro against New York with the second-best completion percentage with at least 30 attempts in NFL history (88.9 percent).

“This game is going to matter,” he said. “Any game I play, I participate in and think pretty much everybody in this locker room, we want to win. We hold ourselves to high standards and I know I do individually. We want to win this game.”