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Monday Overreaction: Can the Detroit Lions make the playoffs?

Do the Detroit Lions have a legitimate shot at making a playoff run, or is that an overreaction to two narrow victories.

Detroit Lions v Chicago Bears Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Two weeks ago, the Detroit Lions were a 1-6 team that was headed towards the first pick in the draft. They were firing coaches and trading good players, and it was all about 2023. Two weeks and two wins later and suddenly the playoff discussion has entered the chat. Here’s the thing, it’s not that crazy of an idea.

The NFC is pretty figured out at the top. The Eagles and Vikings are locks to make the playoffs at this point. Then there’s the rest of the conference that’s full of teams that nobody truly believes in like the Giants and the entire NFC South. Then you get to that seventh and final wild card spot. This is where the Lions have their shot.

As it stands, the Lions (3-6) are a game and half out of the playoffs. They’ll have to contend with the Packers (4-6), Rams (3-6), 49ers (5-4), Commanders (4-5), Falcons (4-6) and Cardinals (4-6). With the exception of the 49ers, all these teams have losing records. The Lions can definitely pull ahead of some of these teams if they keep performing the way they are.

The good news for the Lions is that they have a remaining schedule that’s much easier than their first nine games. They have very winnable games left, like the Jaguars (3-7), Panthers (3-7), Packers (4-6) and Bears (3-7). There’s really hard games against the Bills (6-3) and Vikings (8-1) and some medium-hard games against the Jets (6-3) and Giants (7-2), too.

I know there are plenty of people who would disagree with me, but I think momentum is a real thing. Two wins in a row over teams you were supposed to lose to can build confidence and belief inside your own head. As Aaron Glenn has said several times this year, “Belief is a powerful drug.”

I think the question here shouldn’t be can the Lions win out? The question should be can the Lions win just enough? All the Lions have to do is win enough games and hope the teams ahead of them lose just enough games. A 9-8 record could very well be enough to slip into a Wild Card spot. That means going 6-2 down the stretch. That’s a tall order, but It’s not at all crazy to think the Lions could do it.

Why it’s an overreaction

There’s no secret that I’m optimist and a believer. Who wouldn’t want the great story that is the 1-6 Lions turning it around and making the playoffs? It’s the kind of thing that Disney makes movies about.

Still, we have to look at the cold hard truth here. Per YardBarker, the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals are the only team to have started 1-6 and made the playoffs.

The Lions were a 1-6 team just two weeks ago. While they have won two games in a row and you should be happy about that, they won those games by the skin of their teeth. Winning that way is really hard to sustain.

The Lions haven’t shown us enough to think that they can win games comfortably, so stringing together a stretch where they win eight out of 10 games likely requires a ton of luck or drastic improvement we haven’t seen yet.

The Lions will probably win more games this season, but they probably won’t win enough and they’ll probably lose a game or two that they should have won.

I want to believe—and, stubbornly, I probably will—but the Lions have to show me why I should fully believe. Because right now it’s easy to say that the Lions last two wins are the exceptions. If this team can go out and beat the Giants on the road in Week 11, then I say everyone can safely plummet themselves head first into Believe Land. Until then, stay cautious and guard your heart.