A 6-2 start brought new hopes for Lions fans. Once the halfway point of the season came and went, we all started to think about the possibility that the Lions could make the playoffs. We knew it wouldn't be an easy road and there would be a few hiccups along the way, but that optimism really was just hiding an inevitable truth now realized. In the 4 games since the halfway point Detroit is winless, and now any hopes of making the playoffs are on life support.
If you look back at preseason expectations, I predicted the Lions to go 6-10. My hopes, although very low, were that they could somehow manage to get to .500 to finally get the franchise over a roadblock that has plagued them for years, but as the season went on expectations changed.
See, the main problem now is that when the Lions started 6-2, we all started to get excited for a change. Usually at the midpoint of the season Lions fans are already talking about the draft, but that wasn't the case this year. Instead, we were falsely thinking Detroit had a shot at making the playoffs. The Lions? Really?
Even with 4 straight losses, Detroit is still in a 3-way tie for the final wild cart spot, but let's start to wake up. Detroit has a tough schedule to finish the year, starting on Sunday with a game against the first-place Cowboys. Dallas is the NFC's best team and has the inside path to making the Super Bowl. Detroit did beat them to close out 2006 on the road, but that Cowboys team is not nearly as good as this one.
Following Dallas, Detroit has to head out west to play San Diego, then returns home against the Chiefs (probably the game the Lions can actually win) before heading to Green Bay for final game of the season. Looking at how things have gone in the so-called third quarter of the season, the fourth quarter doesn't look too promising.
My expectations and hopes have yet again changed, and are much, much lower than at 2007's halftime. I now hope that Detroit can first just win another game so they don't finish the season on a losing streak of 8 games. From there, getting to .500 would be nice, but it'll take a surprise or two. Detroit has already lost games they couldn't afford to lose, so now it's necessary to win games they normally would lose. The playoffs really are put on the back burner in my mind, and although the possibility is there, upsets would have to happen.
When 2007 is finished and we look back on the season, it is important to remember what you expected coming into 2007. Not making the playoffs would be disappointing since the Lions are right there when it comes to the wild card, but you have to remember that no one expected them to make the playoffs back in early September. At the same time, 6-10 would be a disaster. I know, I know, I predicted that record going into the season, but to start 6-2 and then finish 6-10 has nothing to do with expectations.
There are a lot of problems with this team right now that prevents them from taking the step from being a below average team to a good team, and it all starts with the current roster. Detroit's defense plays great in some games but then gets demolished in others. The offense is just as inconsistent as Kitna can either play great when he has a running game and a competent offensive line, but then can't do anything when the opposite happens. This all boils down to a few major but fixable problems, and hopefully at this time next season we are talking about the Lions seriously making the playoffs. Of course, the only way that can happen is if Matt Millen acts like the opposite of his usual self, but hey, stranger things have happened.
These last four weeks mean a lot for this franchise as a whole, and hopefully we don't have to talk about another 6-10 season. As I said, 6-10 was my expectation before the season began, but not if it happened in the way it did. Losing 8 straight games to finish a year is just inexcusable. Hopes of fans were increased greatly and if the team does disappoint us this much, then it will just be another rough offseason.
Basically, these last 4 games mean more than making the playoffs or finishing at .500. This is finally Rod Marinelli's chance to show the culture has changed in Detroit. It looked that way after the first 8 games, but now we've seen that was just a tease to all of us. As we head into the fourth quarter with the season on the line, will it be the usual Lions or the new Lions that take the field? My brain tells me we will see the usual old Lions, and even my heart is leaning that way as well. There's still a chance to prove me wrong, but time runs out when the Dallas game ends.