“This is just the kind of game the Detroit Lions lose.”
I can’t tell you how many of these kinds of comments I have seen this week in the lead-up to the Lions’ matchup against the 0-8 Cleveland Browns.
I get the sentiment. It’s something that just feels true. The Lions have certainly had their fair share of letdown games in their history. Paul Edinger of a 4-11 Bears team kicking the Lions out of playoff contention in Week 17 of the 2000 season is a particularly painful memory that immediately comes to mind.
And that’s just the tip of the Lions history iceberg. There’s a reason “Same Old Lions” exists. We’ve had a history of pain, and it’s not easy to shake that.
But this just hasn’t been the case since Jim Caldwell has taken over. The Lions may have squeaked by some of the lesser competition under Caldwell, but they almost always seem to get by.
With Jim Caldwell at the helm, the Lions may not have looked pretty in doing so, but they get the job done against bad teams. Against teams that end up finishing with a losing record, the Lions are 20-4 under Jim Caldwell. That’s a winning percentage of 83.3 percent.
Here’s the breakdown by record
7-win teams: 8-2
6-win teams: 4-0
5-win teams: 3-0
4-win teams: 2-1
3-win teams: 2-1
2-win teams: 1-0
So there are two teams that went 4-12 or worse that the Lions have lost to. Every other loss under Caldwell has come against a team with seven win or more
This about this for a second:— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) November 10, 2017
All but 2 of the #Lions' losses under Jim Caldwell have come against teams that finished with 7 wins or more.
But let’s take a closer look at those two potential let-down games.
2015 Week 1 at San Diego Chargers
In the season opener, the Detroit Lions dropped a game on the road in San Diego after jumping out to a quick 21-3 lead. Keenan Allen dunked all over the Lions in the second half, leading many to believe the Chargers would contend in 2015.
However injuries crippled this Chargers team (sixth-most adjusted games lost per Football Outsiders) and they would end up losing 10 of their last 12 games.
This obviously can’t really be defined as a trap game, considering it was the opening game of the year and the Chargers were favored by 2.5 points
2016 Week 4 at Chicago Bears
This was a game between the 1-2 Lions and the 0-3 Bears. Again, this doesn’t really have the looks of a trap game, especially considering this was a road game in which the Lions were favored just by three points.
That being said, this was clearly a case in which the Lions lost to a team they shouldn’t have. Chicago was trotting Brian Hoyer out there, and the Lions were in a desperate need of a win. And although the final score was just 17-14, the truth is the Lions were worked in that game, bolstered only by a late Andre Roberts punt return touchdown.
So if there’s an example of any “trap game” under Jim Caldwell, it’s that one, and that still doesn’t compare to a home game against an 0-8 team.
I’m not saying the Lions are a guaranteed winner this week, I highlight some reasons for pessimism in my On Paper preview, and I’m a firm believer in any given Sunday. That being said, the Lions dropping this sort of game with Jim Caldwell as their coach would be highly irregular.