3 Detroit Lions players who are sneaky x-factors vs. 49ers in NFC Championship Game

Beyond the names you know the best, these three players are sneaky x-factors for the Detroit Lions in the NFC Championship Game.
Gregory Shamus/GettyImages
2 of 4

3. Kicker Michael Badgley

Badgley has been steady since being elevated from the practice squad to replace Riley Patterson as the Lions' kicker. He is 6-for-6 on field goals over six games (counting both playoff games of course), with two missed extra points on 22 attempts. Against the Rams in the Wild Card Round, he made a 54-yard field goal that proved to be vital in a one-point win.

The Lions have not played outdoors since Week 14 at Chicago, and Sunday's game at San Francisco will be just their second outdoor game since Week 7 in Baltimore. As such, Badgley has not kicked in an outdoor game for the Lions yet this season.

The weather is expected to be fine in Santa Clara on Sunday evening, not the rainstorm that happened during the 49ers-Packers Divisional Round game. But the field conditions at Levi's Stadium are always a question mark regardless of the weather, making footing a battle for players and a potential factor in the kicking game. No less authority than Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells, a mentor of Dan Campbell, acknowledged that footing issue with a simple message Campbell revealed on Thursday.

"Yeah, (he) said, ‘Congratulations, shoes,’” Campbell said of his conversation with Parcells after advancing to the NFC title game. “Shoes. Did you watch the game the other night, San Francisco Green Bay? All the slips, the falls, the everything."

“And that’s coach Parcells. Classic. And he’s right. He’ll always give you some substance.”

All season, whether anyone has cared to see it or not, the looming specter of a missed long-range kick in a big spot, or an overly aggressive fourth down decision driven by Campbell not trusting his kicker in a big spot, has lingered over the Lions.

In what promises to be a close game on Sunday, a missed field goal by either kicker could be the difference. Badgley has to continue his steady run when the lights are brightest, in potential less than ideal field conditions, or the Lions could be cleaning out their lockers on Monday.