Over 65,000 fans will be in attendance for Sunday’s divisional matchup between the first place Minnesota Vikings and the surging Detroit Lions. It will be the most important game Detroit has played since Jim Caldwell’s final season with the Lions, a season where the Lions just missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record.
We’re all well aware of how things played out in the aftermath of the Caldwell era. Matt Patricia’s arrival in 2018 coincided with some of the most meaningless, unwatchable football Lions fans had seen—and that’s really saying something.
A learning season where growth was evident defined Dan Campbell’s first season in Detroit, and his encore is proving to be a reward for those patient enough to stomach the lumps a rebuild presents. Over the last month and change, the Lions have firmly situated themselves in the discussion of the top teams in the NFL, and when’s the last time we had that discussion?
But today’s question of the day is...
When was the last time you anticipated a Detroit Lions game like this?
On Christmas Eve, 2017, the Lions headed to Cincinnati to face off against the 5-9 Bengals. Detroit’s playoff hopes hung in the balance as the Atlanta Falcons lost to the New Orleans Saints that afternoon, opening the door for the Lions to keep their playoff hopes alive heading into Week 17.
The Lions were coming off back-to-back victories against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears to resurrect their season—and keep Jim Caldwell off the hot seat for the time being. The game against Cincinnati, however, would be the final nail in the coffin for Caldwell’s time as head coach. Questionable play-calling and indecision ended up costing the Lions their playoff hopes, and it’s been five, long seasons since Detroit was playing meaningful football into December.
Sunday against Minnesota, the Lions have an opportunity to make a statement, not only in the here-and-now to advance their slim glimmer of hope for a playoff berth, but to win their third straight divisional game and put everyone on notice moving forward: these aren’t the Same Old Lions.