When I pitched writing an article on the Lions (6-4, 3-3), I promised my editor that this year’s Lions were “Good. Like, really good.” Yet after Sunday’s frustrating loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers (4-6, 3-2), it seems impossible not to wonder if these are the “same old Lions?”
This debate has been prevalent in Detroit for years. Much like the 2011-2012 season, a strong start has brought Lions fans hope for a breakthrough year. And yet, losses like the one on Sunday remind fans of the Lions’ perennial losing. So is this team different from the Lions of our childhoods?
The truth is we don’t know yet.
There is no doubt that this is one of the best Lions teams in the past decade. Stats alone dictate that. Calvin Johnson is having another monster season, leading the league with 1,083 receiving yards and 11 touchdown receptions, despite having missed a game to injury.
A large contributing factor to the Lions’ success this season lies is the receiving depth. Consistent production from receivers such as (name them here) has resulted in a more dynamic aerial attack for the Lions.
Stafford, who is having another exciting year at quarterback, has thrown for 3,198 yards through 10 games, putting him on pace for a career high 5,117 yards. Stafford’s new targets, such as fan-favorite Joe Fauria, who has caught five touchdowns on only 10 receptions, have reaped the rewards.
Stafford and Megatron have been putting up insane numbers for years now, but the Detroit offense has been somewhat stagnant without a competent running game.
Offseason acquisition Reggie Bush has electrified Ford Field with thrilling jukes and exciting escapes. His versatile offensive acumen allows him to line up as a slot receiver as well, giving the Lions a threat on the option. Wayne State’s Joique Bell compliments Bush’s electrifying playmaking ability with hardnosed, downhill running, giving Detroit a great third down option.
The Lions got some help on Sunday from the New York Giants, who defeated Green Bay, preventing another three-way-tie for first place in the NFC North. The Lions control their fate, by beating the Bears in a tiebreaker. But they still have to meet the 5-5 Green Bay Packers at Ford Field, in what is likely the most important Thanksgiving game in Ford Field history.
Despite the recent improved records of their second-half opponents, it looks like the wind remains in the Lions favor. If Detroit can win four of its remaining six games, they will almost certainly play in the post season.
Four of Detroit’s remaining games will be played at Ford Field.
The Lions can win all four at home with marquee matchups in the Thanksgiving contest and a Monday night game against the Baltimore Ravens. Winning either game would do wonders for the Lion’s playoff chances, especially with an additional home game against the 2-8 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a Giants team that may be eliminated from the playoffs by then. And it seems likely the Lions will take one on the road between disappointing Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings teams.
The “same old Lions” would likely lose most of the games on the remaining schedule. But these Lions have a chance prove that this is a franchise reborn.
A win on Thanksgiving and an elusive NFC North Championship would allow Ford Field to host a playoff game and put to rest any talk of these being the classic Lions.