How about these Detroit Lions? From 9-8 to 12-5 with an NFC Championship game appearance on the way, the Lions have surely had a statement season – and are still on their feet as we get one week closer to the Super Bowl. After defeating the Los Angeles Rams in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs, the Lions advanced and took care of business against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Divisional Round.
A lot has clearly happened since my last article in early November, so let’s catch up.
The last three weeks of the season wrapped up pretty much as I expected them to, with Detroit clinching the NFC North title on Dec. 24 versus the Minnesota Vikings, losing in a controversial ending to the Dallas Cowboys (no surprise there) and finishing the sweep of Minnesota in Week 18.
One standout game to me late in the season was against the Denver Broncos on Dec. 16. I expected this to be a pretty close game, one that Detroit could even lose with Denver being really hot at the time, but boy was I blown away. The Lions absolutely routed the Broncos 42-17, showing off some really impressive offensive prowess.
But where would Detroit be without its fearless leader, head coach Dan Campbell? Frankly, nowhere. He has brought in a group of coaches who really care about the program and want to see success. Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson is one of the hottest head coaching candidates across the NFL, being the mastermind behind the Lions’ electric offense this year.
The same can be said for defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, who made a National Football League Players Association list as the best Defensive Coordinator in the league. Both Glenn and Johnson are big targets for other teams across the NFL for the recently vacant head coaching positions, but I hope the Lions’ success this season will convince the organization to keep them around for the near future.
Overall, the Lions played pretty well down the stretch, but a few miscues on defense allowed Detroit to get cooked by big-name wide receivers like Chicago’s D.J Moore, Dallas’ CeeDee Lamb and Los Angeles’ Puka Nacua. This issue carried into the divisional round, with Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans having a monster game with 12 receptions for 147 yards and a touchdown.
The Lions’ struggles on defense fall a lot on our young and oft-injured secondary unit. These guys have been put through the wringer this year and while they haven’t been up to some fans’ standards, I see them becoming a much more cohesive and lockdown unit in the near future. This coming weekend the Lions will face some of the best pass-catchers this season in Deebo Samuel (who is currently questionable for this week), George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk, so I just hope we can figure something out.
As the regular season wrapped up, it came to light that we would be playing the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams and Lions have a special relationship, stemming from an early 2021 trade that sent beloved Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to Los Angeles for now-beloved Lions quarterback Jared Goff.
This trade broke my heart initially. I felt that while Stafford made his mistakes, he was a great player for us, and I was sad to see him go. Fortunately for me, Stafford saw immediate success in Los Angeles, winning a Super Bowl with them in the 2021 season. But two years later, Detroit would be the one finding success by knocking Stafford and the Rams out of the playoffs in the Wild Card round.
While I wasn’t fully on the Stafford hate train like many Lions fans were, I did not want to see us lose to him in the first round to a team that struggled to find their footing early in the year. Now that the game against the Rams is over, I think it is fine to be a Stafford fan again. For now.
While watching the Lions this season has been very exciting and engaging, the Wild Card game was an absolutely unreal experience for me. As a lacrosse player here at Albion, I moved in early and had my seasonal mini-camp, full of meetings and practices. Typically at night during mini-camp, my team watches a movie and discusses it afterwards. This was not the case this year though; my head coach Jake DeCola let us watch the game together as a team.
This was so much fun, as most of my teammates are Lions fans, so we were all ecstatic watching such a great game unfold. There were almost tears in my eyes as we watched the Lions take a victory against a former player.
In the Divisional Round, the Lions faced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This game felt a little more in-control from the Lions’ perspective, but was still an entertaining watch nonetheless. Albion College’s Union Board held a watch party for this game, in which many students gathered to watch the Lions play.
On to San Francisco
Looking forward to this Sunday now, let’s see how the Lions match up against the 49ers. My overall prediction for this game is a high-scoring affair. I don’t see either team getting too comfortable on defense, especially with the explosiveness of both teams’ offenses. I also expect Lions Wide Receiver Jameson Williams to have a bigger impact on Detroit in this game. He’s been inconsistently used throughout the season, and when he is he usually does something really cool.
While I’ve already mentioned a lot of 49ers players to be on the lookout for, there are a few more names I feel I should bring up. Running back Christian McCaffrey has had a monster year so far, netting himself over 2,000 all-purpose yards (rushing and receiving yards). Quarterback Brock Purdy has also had a pretty good year with the highest passer rating in the league at 72.8.
No matter what happens in the NFC championship, I am very pleased with how the Lions have played overall this season, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds in Detroit.