A must win? In Week 3? What is this Mike Payton guy on? That's a separate story for another day. What today's piece is about is how both the Lions and Packers, more so the Lions, have found themselves in a must-win situation this early in the season.
Before we get into that, I want to talk about how all of this was set up. Yes, the Lions lost a poorly played and undisciplined game this past Sunday to the Tennessee Titans. It was a game they should have won, no doubt. But that loss couldn't have come at a better time. You see, the Vikings and Eagles did the Lions a huge favor in Week 2 when they beat the Packers and Bears respectively. Thus averting the disaster the Lions could have found themselves in had the Packers and Bears won.
Now that the potential crisis of being last in the NFC North was averted, the Lions may have found themselves in another mess. This one, however, is a lot easier to clean in theory: all they have to do is win.
Why it's a must-win game
As I mentioned before, this isn't just a must win for the Lions, it's also a must win for the Packers. Why? Because this division appears to be garbage in 2016. At the moment, you have a Lions team that's starting Thurston Armbrister at linebacker until he gets hurt. The Vikings are a team without Teddy Bridgewater and possibly Adrian Peterson. You have a Bears team that may be without Jay Cutler for an extended period of time and a Packers team that has yet to be the Packers that everyone thinks they really are.
With that in mind, you have to strike while the iron is hot. A win on Sunday could help the Lions move back into first place or at least a tie for first place. On the other hand, a win for the Packers takes them out of third place and puts them back near the top of the division again. But we're here to focus on the Lions, so let's talk more about why Sunday is a must-win game for the team.
More about why winning on Sunday is a big deal
Take a look at the schedule: it tells a story that could end up being incredibly fortuitous for the Lions. After Sunday, the Lions go on a very favorable stretch that features three backup quarterbacks, a rookie quarterback, a first-year starter and Kirk Cousins. A win on Sunday could not only catapult this team to the top of the NFC North standings, but it could also give the Lions the confidence and momentum they need to go on a huge run and create separation before their bye week. It would behoove them to create as much separation between themselves and other teams in the division before they go through the final stretch of the year against teams that look like they could be solid down the line.
Everyone else's schedule
I could be wrong about Minnesota. We could all be wrong about Minnesota. But my thought is that they can't keep this hope for much longer, especially if Adrian Peterson misses any time at all. Their next stretch features the defending NFC Champion Carolina Panthers, the 2-0 Giants and a surging Eagles team that seems to be a lot better than any thought before the season started. Throw in the Texans and a meeting with the Lions and you have yourself a formidable schedule for a team that's missing its starting quarterback and all-world running back.
As for the Packers, it's a little easier for them. They take on the Giants in Week 5 and follow that up with games against the Cowboys, Bears, Falcons and Colts. You have to hope there's a loss or four in there if you're a Lions fan. But the easiness of their schedule is the very reason as to why the Lions need to win this game on Sunday.
The Bears will head to Dallas this week and then face the Lions, Colts, Jaguars and Packers right in a row. They will go through quarterback hell without their own quarterback under center. Not only did the Bears lose Cutler, they also lost Lamarr Houston, Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan. Let's all hope there isn't a miracle in the works for the Windy City.
So is it still too early to use the term "must-win"? I'll let you decide that. But if you're asking me, this could be one of the more important games of the season. The one you might look back at at the end of the year and say that was the one that got them there or didn't get them there. It's a shame that the Lions have to do it in a place where they've only won once since 1991. Hopefully last year's win was a seal breaker.