Almost four years ago exactly, I listened to a discussion on 97.1 The Ticket about if Detroit Lions fans could finally start throwing the word "playoffs" around. The conversation came after the Lions dismantled the Denver Broncos in a 44-7 victory that included both a fumble return for a touchdown and a pick-six. The win gave the Lions a 6-2 record, and talking about the Lions and the playoffs no longer resulted in being viewed as a crazy person. Sounds familiar, right?
The Lions went on to win just one game during the second half of the 2007 season. Despite picking up six wins in their first eight games, the Lions weren't able to break their streak of seasons with a record below .500. They finished 7-9, and discussion about the playoffs quickly became a distant memory in the second half of the season.
This year, the Lions go into their bye week with a 6-2 record following a 45-10 blowout win against the Broncos. The game, just like the blowout win in 2007, included a fumble return for a touchdown and a pick-six. The similarities are really pretty amazing, but they should serve as interesting factoids and nothing more. It is not fair to compare the current Lions team to the one that collapsed in 2007. The front office, coaching staff and most of the roster are different, and the on-field play is at a much higher level this season than it was in 2007. Don't believe me? Just look at what happened during the first eight games of each season (for 2007, the opponent winning percentage is for the full season, not just the first eight games):
While the winning percentage for teams the Lions have defeated this year is almost exactly the same as the teams they defeated in 2007, the big difference is in the winning percentage of the teams that beat the Lions. In 2007, the Lions lost to the Eagles and Redskins, which had a combined winning percentage of .531, by a total of 66 points. This year, on the other hand, the Lions have lost to the 49ers and Falcons, which have a combined winning percentage of .714, by a total of only 13 points. The Lions had a chance to win or tie both games, so they were competitive to the very end.
Aside from the differences on the field and with the roster and coaching staff, the other main difference is the attitude about the team this year compared to in 2007. For example, despite the 6-2 start in '07 and there being talk about the playoffs, I was just hoping the Lions would get to 8-8, and I wasn't even very confident in that happening.
Aside from Arizona and Kansas City, Detroit is looking at a very tough road to finish out the year. With games against playoff teams like the Giants, Packers (twice), Cowboys, and Chargers, getting to 8-8 could end up being a struggle. That may sound strange considering it only takes two more wins for Detroit to ensure a .500 record at season's end, but a collapse easily could happen by this team, especially since the schedule isn't in their favor.
This year the Lions also face a very tough schedule in the second half of the season, but my concerns right now revolve around if the Lions will make the playoffs instead of if they will merely get to .500. While that may be putting the cart before the horse a bit, this team has enough talent to make a playoff run and win 10 or more games. That was the expectation going into the season, and that is still my expectation after eight games. While history repeated itself during the first half of the season record-wise, I don't envision that happening in the second half.