ALLEN PARK -- With their own post-season hopes comedically impossible, the Detroit Lions have an opportunity on Sunday to play the part that every playoff contender dreads: the spoiler.
The team will travel to Pittsburgh (10-5), and if the cards fall a certain way, the Lions could potentially offset the Steelers chance of garnering the final wildcard position in the AFC.
But despite heading a ball club that has virtually nothing to play for, head coach Dick Jauron said Wednesday it would not be his team's motive.
"My view on this thing is that regardless of what happens, that other team is going to play hard because they are going to prepare hard all week," he said. "They will be prepared to play. If in fact they keep some people out, you can't keep everybody out - you just don't have enough players.
"Most of their players will be out there playing, most of their starters. It will be a challenge for us regardless of which way it goes."
If San Diego defeats the Denver Broncos on Saturday, the Steelers would earn a playoff berth via the elimination of the Kansas City Chiefs. Although that game alone could make Sunday's contest moot, it nonetheless has Pittsburgh preparing as though this is a playoff game.
And if we're judging based upon recent experience, the 17-point favorite Steelers have the upper-hand.
"I think in terms of our preparation, the most important thing that we have talked to our team about is that we are looking at this as a home playoff game and it is the one thing we have control over," said Steelers' coach Bill Cowher during a conference call. "That is really the only focus that we are going to apply this week."
A win and the Lions draft stock would plummet. However, the team could also string together its first winning streak of the season, and the first since the opening two games in 2004.
Lions' quarterback Joey Harrington, who will start his second consecutive game, said it was a matter of pride.
"If you don't want to play for pride then you shouldn't be playing at all," said Harrington, who threw for 210 yards in last week's win over New Orleans. "There's plenty incentive for this team. There's plenty incentive for you as a player. The fact that we're out of the playoffs is a non-issue. It's been that way for a couple of weeks.
"I think guys showed this (past) weekend that there still is some pride on this team. We play because we have a job to do."
Although it isn't possible to improve upon last year's 6-10 mark (the Lions are currently 5-10), Harrington wasn't as concerned about the semantics.
"I don't care about the record," he said. "Once you're out of the playoffs, records are irrelevant. Like I said, we're playing because we have a job to do and that's what we signed up for."