There has been a lot of talk the last few days in newspapers and on sports radio here in Detroit about whether or not the Lions are contenders. Most would categorize a contender as a team that is a threat to make the playoffs. Others consider a team a contender only if they have a shot at making or winning the Super Bowl, but for this case, I'll consider making the playoffs good enough to be called a contender.
For the Lions, I have been unsure all season of what they are. Some, especially after last week, will call them frauds for beating teams with records below .500. Others will likely just call them an average team, which sadly is a step up compared to year's past. Finally, there are few who think this way, but some actually do think the Lions could make noise towards the end of the season. By that, they think that the Lions can contend for a playoff spot and are a good enough team to do so.
Personally, I have tried to stay away from thinking anything about this subject because getting expectations for the Lions usually only turns out bad. When I have thought about the question at hand, though, I've usually leaned more towards the Lions not being a contender. Again, more negative, but that's just the mindset I've had when it's come to the Lions. It's hard to change a mindset of this team being something other than losers after the last however many seasons that have been bad over and over again. Don't get me wrong, Rod Marinelli is moving things in the right direction, but I just don't believe the Lions are at that level yet to be called contenders.
Just because they aren't there yet doesn't mean they can't be in the very near future. The next two games will define this season and set the tone for what to expect down the road in 2007. If the Lions can just get a split between the Giants and Packers games, meaning they win 1 of 2, then I will be satisfied. A win here in the next two weeks is vital to keep Detroit's playoff hopes alive and to change the perception of this team in general.
The way I see it is that two very good teams are coming to Detroit to play the Lions over the course of 5 days. The first game is this Sunday, where we'll see the Giants and Lions square off at Ford Field. A win here would be big as it would have an effect on the current playoff picture. Right now, the Lions and Giants have control of the two wild card spots if the season were to end today, so thinking down the road, giving NY another loss would be nice.
The second game that is actually a week from today is at home against Green Bay. Never in recent memory has a Thanksgiving game meant so much to the Lions, but it will be a huge game for a change. Detroit will be in reach of an NFC North title no matter what happens before this game, but Sunday will change it to make the lead larger, smaller, or the same. Regardless, with two games against Green Bay still on the schedule, a win at home would be huge simply to get the lead down. Right now, the Lions are two games back of the Packers, and if Detroit wins this Sunday and Green Bay loses, a win over the Packers on Thanksgiving means there is a tie for the division lead. That would definitely be something that I would be thankful for.
So, for the question of are the Lions contenders, my answer right now is to be determined. I just don't have enough information to back up an answer, so I will come back after Thanksgiving to tell you whether they are in contention for the playoffs or not. Basically, these next two games will tell us that pretty clearly. Win and you're there; lose and you're going to have a tough hole to crawl out of.
When it comes down to it, I'm postponing an answer to this question on the basis of not having enough information. You all can come to any conclusion you want, but I am so unsure of my answer that I will just have to wait and see.