The Detroit Lions are in a must-win situation. I feel like this is something I’ve said before this early in the season. Actually it is. In 2016, I wrote about why the Lions needed to beat the Packers early in the year. Now in 2018, the feeling is exactly the same.
Last weekend was a crucial weekend for the Lions. They entered the week at 1-2 with the need to get to .500. They also needed all of their NFC North counterpoints to take losses as well. For a moment it looked as thought the Lions might get that second win of the year until Jarrad Davis found himself covering Ezekiel Elliott down the field for some reason. The Lions dropped to 1-3 before the excitement from Golden Tate’s second touchdown could wore off.
So after a tumultuous weekend, the Lions find themselves with the worst record in the division. Worse yet, if the season ended today, the Lions would have the second pick in the draft. Believe it or not, things could get much worse from here.
The deck is stacked against the Lions for the rest of the season. Starting at 1-3 is not good. But how bad is it? Since 1990, only 24 teams have started 1-3 and went on to make the playoffs. The last team to do it was actually the 2016 Lions. So the Lions have experience in doing this sort of thing already.
If that weren’t bad enough, the Lions have still yet to play against any of their division rivals and still have two tough NFC opponents in the Panthers and the Rams left to play. Did I mention how stacked this deck was?
Here’s what the Lions have going for them. They have beaten the Bears a ton over the years. That may not mean anything now because their defense is tougher than ever, but hey, who knows right?
The Lions have also played quite well against the Packers and Vikings in recent years. Both teams haven’t done anything spectacular this year. The Vikings look to be taking a step back despite everyone thinking they would be the team to beat in the division.
Of course, the other thing in the Lions favor is that this division constantly changes. Every single time we think we have a grasp on what things are going to look like at the end of the season, the entire layout changes three times before we get there. I can completely see that happening again.
As far as outside the division, the Lions are going to get some help on their schedule soon. If there was a time to expect a run of wins, regardless of if it helps or not, it’s right after the bye.
The Lions will take on the Dolphins, who are the kings of looking better than they are right now, a bad Seahawks team, and then the Vikings. The Lions could potentially get themselves to 5-3 or at least 4-4 by the time they go on the crazy run of Bears, Panthers, Bears and Rams. If the Lions make that initial run, those next four games will be the buzzsaw that will determine Detroit’s fate.
So with all of this in mind, we return to our first point. The Lions are in a must-win situation this weekend against the Green Bay Packers, and for multiple reasons.
The first is obvious: The Lions can’t afford another loss. Digging yourself out of a 1-3 hole has to be easier than a 1-4 hole, right? At least in the 1-3 hole you might have half of a broken shovel. At 1-4 you’re crawling out with your hands. At 1-5 you’re buried in the hole forever.
The other reason is also obvious: The Packers are a division foe. The season may be over to most people, but there’s still a chance for the Lions to make some noise. We mentioned that the division is ever changing as the season goes on. Well if you’re the Lions, you have to go out there and get these division wins just in case you do go on some sort of unprecedented run. They’ll come in handy later. Plus, the chance to knock one of these teams down to your level is an opportunity you have to capture.
The last reason is because the schedule for the other division teams really helps the Lions in this upcoming chunk. For example, on the way to the Lions, the Bears have to play in Miami, then welcome the Patriots—a team they haven’t beaten in 18 years—then round it out with the Bills and Jets. That’s probably two gimmes for them, but, hey, those other two games are good.
In route to the Lions game with the Vikings, the team from Minnesota will have to play in Philadelphia and take on the high scoring Saints offense. They do get the gimmes against the Jets and the Cardinals, though.
Lastly, after the Lions play the Packers on Sunday, Green Bay plays the 49ers, then heads to Los Angeles to play the Rams and then Plays the Patriots on the road the next week. The Packers have it harder than anyone in the coming weeks.
So. If things work out the way you hope they will, here’s what the NFC North standings could realistically look like going into the Lions Week 10 meeting with the Bears.
- Bears: 5-3
- Lions 5-3
- Vikings 3-4-1
- Packers 3-4-1
A lot would have to go right there, but if all that stuff does go right, the Lions are somehow playing the Bears for ownership of the division in Week 10. Just as the prophets have foretold they would.
None of this means anything if the Lions don’t win this weekend. We are standing on the precipice of the Lions either turning the season around or searching for the best mock drafts this time of year.
I don’t know if the Lions can do it or not. I have all the faith in the world in their 11th ranked offense right now. I have zero faith in their defense though. This is all going to take a lot of wishful thinking. Fortunately I’m the king of wishful thinking.