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Detroit Lions stumbling to finish with an uncertain future

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, left, throws during the first half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Saturday in Detroit. (AP photo)

By NOAH TRISTER

AP Sports Writer

DETROIT — This season will end like so many others for Matthew Stafford: His Detroit Lions have a losing record and won’t be in the postseason.

What’s different now is that there are real questions about Stafford’s future with the Lions.

“I’m not thinking about it,” Stafford said earlier this week. “All I’m thinking about is the Vikings and trying to get myself healthy. I know that’s probably hard for people to believe, but that’s the way this business is.”

Detroit hosts Minnesota on Sunday in a matchup of two teams that are out of the NFC playoff picture. The Lions are heading into an important offseason after firing their coach and general manager. Stafford has been a mainstay in Detroit for 12 years, but given the uncertainty about the team’s plan going forward, it’s easy to imagine him being elsewhere next season.

And if this is Stafford’s last game with the Lions, it could be anticlimactic. The coronavirus pandemic means there won’t be a packed stadium of fans in Detroit — and Stafford’s own status has been unclear because of thumb, rib and ankle injuries. The Lions (5-10) are coming off a 47-7 loss to Tampa Bay in which Stafford didn’t play much.

On Friday, Stafford was still listed as questionable as head coach Darrell Bevell said Chase Daniel would start if Stafford can’t go.

Detroit will finish with double-digit losses for a third straight season and the sixth time in Stafford’s tenure. That’s despite the efforts of a quarterback who is closing in on 45,000 yards passing for his career.

“You play this game to go out there and play in big-time moments, and we didn’t do a good enough job this year as a team to make sure we have those opportunities this late in the season,” Stafford said.

The Vikings (6-9) are also left to play for pride after three straight defeats. They lost 52-33 last week to New Orleans, allowing six touchdown runs by Alvin Kamara.