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The history of Detroit Lions season finales

Taking a look back at the best and worst season finales in Detroit Lions history.

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions - NFL Football Game Photo by Amy Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Normally I would do the history of the Detroit Lions vs. their opponents, but this week is different. It’s special week because for the first time ever, the Lions are playing in an 18th week of regular season football. My curiosity about the final week of the season has been piqued now. So I went deep down the rabbit hole to find out all the facts I could about the last week of the season. Here’s what I found:

The first time

Interestingly enough, the Green Bay Packers were the first team the Lions ever ended the season against. It was all the way back on December 14, 1930. The Lions were still the Portsmouth Spartans at the time. The game wasn’t much of a barn burner. The Spartans and Packers battled to 6-6 tie.

Random stats

This is the section I was really hyped to work on. It’s not good, but here’s what we what found: The Lions are 35-55-1 all time in the last game of the season. That’s not very good at all.

We always make the joke about the Lions playing the Packers at the end of the season again and there’s a good reason for that, the Lions have played the Packers 19 times in the last game of the season. The Lions are 8-9-1 all time in these games. That’s not bad. Sunday’s game will be the sixth time the Lions have played the Packers in the final game of the season in the last 10 years.

While 20 times is a lot, there’s one other team the Lions have played more in the last game of the year. That team is the Chicago Bears. The two teams have met up 21 times, with the first meeting going down in 1931. The Lions are 5-16 in these games. The Lions did beat the Bears in Week 17 of the 2015 season. Previous to that, the Lions’ last win over the Bears in the final game of the season came in the 1969 season. Better hope the Lions won't have to beat the Bears to qualify for the playoffs anytime soon. We don’t need Paul Edinger, Part 2.

Weird thing I found

The Lions have played 23 different teams in the final game of the year. There’s some notable teams to talk about. There’s the Boston Yanks, a team that was around from 1944 to 1948. There was the Dallas Texans. Interestingly enough, the Texans used to be the Boston Yanks. Then there was the Brooklyn Dodgers, a team that was around during the time where football franchises would name their team after the local baseball team in an effort to bring in fans.

The team that I found the most interesting though, was the Lions’ 1943 opponent. On November 21, 1943, the Detroit Lions played against the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh Steagles. You’re reading that right. This is not a typo. In 1943, the United States was deep into World War II. 600 NFL players left the league joined the military and fight for their country. Due to this, the Eagles and the Steelers did not have enough players to field teams. So they combined for one year and one year only. The team finished 5-4-1 and it was their win over the Lions that allowed them to have a winning season. Nothing like this has ever happened again. Here’s a documentary about the team. I’m surprised there hasn’t been a movie made about this yet.

Has the new extra week/weeks ever affected the Lions?

As we know, this isn’t the first time the NFL has lengthened the season. When the Lions played the Packers back in 1930, the season was 14 games long. For the next 17 years, the league did all kinds of different things before settling on a 12-game season format in 1947. In 1960 the NFL added two extra games to make the season 14 games long. The Lions would win both of those games that season.

In 1978, the NFL added two more games to make the season 16 games long. The Lions would win both of the seasons new extra games yet again.

Lastly in 1990, the NFL would keep the season at 16 games, but would add a 17th week to the season for bye week reasons. The Lions did not win their first Week 17 game. They lost 30-10 to the Seattle Seahawks.

Two out of three isn’t bad. We’ll see how the Lions fare on Sunday in their first ever Week 18 game. With their success in extra games and their not-so-bad record against the Packers in the final game of the season, history says the Lions have a pretty decent chance to win.