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The Lions have no excuse to not win the NFC North

Analyzing why the Lions have to win the NFC North for the first time in 2017.

Detroit Lions v New Orleans Saints Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

This just isn't me. I’m not the guy that comes out and says stuff like this. I’ve never been the guy to set the expectations at a high level and demand that they be met. But I find myself being that guy here and now today. And you know what? it feels right.

What is this feeling? Have I been broken by years of the Lions being the same old—no I can’t. I couldn’t possibly say that.

This feels like when Spider-Man wears the symbiote suit. My personality and thought process towards this team have changed drastically in the past three weeks. I hate to say it, but I’m not sure I believe in them anymore.

It’s wild. I’ve spent most of my life believing this team could pull off the wins against good teams or do something as simple as find an offense that works for its extremely good quarterback. They haven’t. I’m not sure they will on Sunday night either.

The Detroit Lions find themselves at a crossroads this weekend. They’re sitting at .500 with a primetime game at home against a 5-2 Steelers team. They can go one of two ways, they can lose this game and begin a possible decline into regular season obscurity. Or they can win this game and begin their ascent to a history-making season with their first NFC North division title.

It’s the latter that the Lions should accomplish. To go a step further, the Lions have no viable excuse not to win the NFC North in 2017. And here are a few reasons why.

They have the best quarterback in the division

Aaron Rodgers is out for the foreseeable future, possibly even the rest of the season. The Bears are rolling with a rookie that went 4-for-7 in an entire game on Sunday, but still has a nickname. And the Vikings are down to Case Keenum (for now).

All the Lions have to do is keep Matthew Stafford from getting killed for 10 games, a feat they haven't been able to accomplish yet. Stafford has been sacked 23 times already.

Even so, Stafford is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He’s also the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL. He’s the highest paid player in NFL history, which, by the wa, is something all Lions fans will have to hear about if the Lions do anything other than win a playoff game in 2017.

There’s no reason the Lions offense should be this bad. There’s no reason that the playcalling has reverted to Joe Lombardi-like play calling. Even with all of this, with Matthew Stafford at the helm, the Lions always have some sort of chance. Therefore, they have no excuse on that front.

The NFL is a mess

The theme of the 2017 season really should be that everyone sucks and you don’t know anything. I mean if anyone saw this coming, I’ll buy you a Mr. Goodbar.

Injuries are running rampant. The teams that were supposed to be good are not and don’t appear to be getting better at any point. The teams that are bad are suddenly good, and there’s something out there called “Sacksonville.”

With a season as stupidly crazy as this one has been, the Lions should be able to capitalize and at least make the playoffs.

The remaining schedule is wildly favorable

Going back to the NFL sucking, the Lions’ upcoming schedule represents another reason why this team has no excuse to miss the playoffs or not win their division. Let’s look at the schedule.

They have the Steelers on Sunday night. This game feels like a loss at this point. I hate to say it, but there are a million reasons why the Lions will probably lose this game. But then you have:

  • Green Bay Packers with no Aaron Rodgers
  • The winless Browns
  • A Bears team the Lions have only lost to once since 2012
  • The Vikings on a holiday the Lions haven’t lost on since 2012
  • A Ravens team that is probably the ugliest Ravens team in franchise history
  • A Buccaneers team that’s just not good
  • A Bengals team that’s already fired members of its coaching staff.

If the Lions lose more than three games in this stretch, they don’t deserve to make the playoffs or win the division.

Speaking of the Vikings

The Vikings are the team that poses the greatest threat to the Lions division title dreams, despite the fact that the Lions beat them at their own house just three weeks ago.

They’re currently 5-2 and I would bet a buffalo nickel that they’ll be 6-2 after a matchup with the winless Cleveland Browns this Sunday. On the same day, the Lions will take on the best defense in the league.

Supposing the Lions lose to the Steelers, they’ll find themselves with plenty of ground to make up, even with the third easiest schedule.

Luckily the Vikings’ road is going to be a lot bumpier. They’ll have to deal with the red-hot Rams, the Lions at home on Thanksgiving, the Falcons, Panthers and the Redskins.

There’s still nothing set in stone here that says the Vikings will have any trouble with these teams. Five wins and the Lions’ dreams are likely over. One of those wins can’t be in Thanksgiving day.

Because, dang it, they’re not a bad team

Yeah I know what I said. I said I didn’t believe. But the thing is this: the Lions really aren’t a bad team. Maybe we’re all overreacting. The Lions do have the best quarterback in the division at this point. They do have dangerous offensive weapons to support him once they get going. They have been bit by the injury bug, but the Lions are on the cusp of getting their offensive line back in full health for the first time in 2017.

While their defense has been a bit beaten up in the last two weeks, they’re still somehow forcing two or more turnovers in all but one game. They’re still making plays when needed.

So here I am not knowing what to think at this point. I don’t think the Lions have any excuse to not win the division. The good news is that I actually think they can. The bad news is I don’t know if they will.

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