The Detroit Lions have a big game on Sunday. The result will probably lead to either pure jubilation or massive gloom and doom.
Welcome to life as a Lions’ fan.
A victory over the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field on national TV on Sunday Night Football would do more than just give the Lions a 10-6 record.
It would give them the NFC North title, their first division title in 23 years. It would send them to the playoffs in dramatic fashion.
It would erase a lot of bad football and bad feelings about this franchise the last 25 or so seasons.
It might even make up for the Lions’ playoff loss to The Pack at the Silverdome in 1994. Remember, Brett Favre’s 40-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Sharpe with 55 seconds to go. For Lions’ fans, it still hurts, especially since this franchise has won just one playoff game since 1991.
But a win Sunday would also prove finally that Lions’ quarterback Matt Stafford and the Lions can, indeed, beat a team with a record over .500 and defeat a star quarterback. In this case, the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers.
A loss in front of the home faithful, would mean the Lions have completed the hat trick – losing their final three games to playoff teams.
In the process, they totally collapsed, losing the division and probably the postseason as well.
Oh yes, all the marbles are on the table.
“I can’t wait,” Lions receiver Golden Tate said to the media in Detroit. “I’m excited for this team. I’m excited for this city.
“We have a great opportunity to do something that hasn’t been done in a looooong time.”
Indeed, a win would send a message to NFL America that the Lions honestly have something going on — that they didn’t just beat the also-rans on the schedule, but the big boy on the block when it mattered most.
More importantly, that perhaps the Lions are real contenders in the fight to get to a Super Bowl.
Hence, it’s a statement game. Perhaps, the biggest the Lions have had in more than a decade.
The Lions had gotten a lot of love nationally since they starting winning games midseason after a rocky start. But still, few NFL experts have picked the Lions when they play elite teams. They believe the Lions are good, but not all the way there yet.
That’s why many are picking The Pack (9-6) to grab this winner-take-all game.
Questioning how good the Lions (9-6) are is legit. This season, they have beaten just one team with a record over .500 – Washington. As it stands, they are 0-2 against teams that clinched a playoff spot – their last two losses against the Giants and Cowboys.
We’ve seen this movie before. Despite winning 11 games two seasons ago, the Lions didn’t beat a single team that finished with a winning record. Plus, against NFC playoff teams in 2011, the Lions had an 0-5 record.
For sure, the Lions will need some luck, too.
Stafford has struggled with no touchdowns in the last two games. Since the Lions’ bye, he has just four TDs and four picks.
Meanwhile, Rodgers, in his last six games, has 14 TDs and no picks.
Indeed, the Lions’ offense has stalled. Receiver Marvin Jones has been a ghost. In the Monday night loss to the Cowboys in Dallas, Jones caught one of the seven balls thrown to him and had just 16 yards.
The Lions’ secondary is banged up, including Pro-Bowl alternate CB Darius Slay. He has a bad hamstring. He practiced on Wednesday, but would have to be cleared medically in order to play in the biggest game of the season.
The Lions also can’t run the ball. They rank 31st in the NFL on the ground. RD Theo Riddick, out with a wrist injury, hasn’t returned to practice yet.
Come game time, however, it will be about the players on the field and the high stakes involved.
The last thing the Lions want to do is a lay an egg, like they did against the Cowboys on Monday on national TV. Here, though, much can be gained with a winning performance. The Lions’ franchise could really take a step forward – finally.
Still, in the back of some fans’ minds, is the notion that the Lions won’t win and instead complete the collapse, losing their last three games of the season and not making the playoffs at all. Their coach said the team is up for the challenge.
“But I’ve made certain that we told our guys, ‘You’ve got to embrace it,'” Jim Caldwell said. “I mean, it’s a great opportunity.”