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Lions will likely be without record-breaking rookie in wildcard round

TE Sam LaPorta was carted off in Lions’ regular season finale vs Vikings

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The seeding in the NFC playoff picture is set. The Los Angeles Rams have secured the sixth seed and will take on the Detroit Lions in the wildcard round at Ford Field.

The Lions did not have much to gain in Week 18 in terms of seeding position. They had locked in no worse than the third seed but could have moved a rung higher if the Dallas Cowboys fell short against the Washington Commanders—instead Dallas resoundingly took care of business and won 38-10. Dan Campbell made the decision to play key starters, including QB Jared Goff, and it may have cost him the availability of one of his most important offensive playmakers.

Record-breaking rookie tight end Sam LaPorta was carted off with a knee injury late into Detroit’s Week 18 game against the Minnesota Vikings. LaPorta hauled in his 82nd reception for a new rookie tight end mark and caught his 10th touchdown pass to tie him with Rob Gronkowski and Mike Ditka in NFL history.

Early indications on LaPorta’s injury suggest that he’ll be out for at least next week’s game against the Rams, according to Campbell and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport:

Lions tight end Sam LaPorta suffered a hyperextended knee and a bone bruise in the team’s 30-20 win over the Minnesota Vikings and is likely to miss some time, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per sources.

“The best way I can put it is it’s not as bad as it looked, but it’s not good news,” head coach Dan Campbell said of the injury in his postgame news conference. “We’ll know more tomorrow. I know it looked awful. It’s not as bad as that.”

Rams fans should appreciate Sean McVay’s conservative approach to Week 18, especially since he managed to lead the team to a win over their NFC West rival San Francisco 49ers. LA sat Matthew Stafford, Aaron Donald, Cooper Kupp, Kyren Williams, and Ernest Jones. Puka Nacua played two and a half quarters for a chance to earn his rookie receiving records but was pulled immediately after.

It’s a stark juxtaposition to the Lions’ decision to play Goff and other key players. Star receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown was also dinged up in the game against the Vikings but is expected to be available for the postseason.

How will LaPorta’s absence affect the matchup against Los Angeles in the wildcard round of the NFC playoffs?