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Lions vs. Jaguars may be the biggest game of the Dan Campbell era

There is much more to Lions vs. Jaguars than a battle between 4-7 teams.

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Detroit Lions Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

Come back in time with me for a second. Let’s go to Christmas Eve 2017, one day before you got first Instant Pot that you would wind up dropping down the basement stairs on accident before you got your second Instant Pot. I’m really hoping that also happened to you and it wasn’t just me. I digress.

The Detroit Lions played the Cincinnati Bengals on this day for a shot to get into the playoffs. Unfortunately it didn’t work out. What was even more unfortunate was the fact that the Lions wouldn’t play another meaningful game in December until this coming Sunday. Yeah, this game is kind of a big deal.

It’s a big deal for two reasons and we’ll get to the other, but let’s stick with this December thing for a minute. Look, we don’t really know just how important this game will look in the grand scheme of things when the season wraps up. The Lions have a chance to make the playoffs this season. It’s a slim chance, but it’s a chance nonetheless. That’s why the Lions have to go out and win this game if they want to keep those chances alive. It goes without saying that if you’re a 4-7 team and you want to make the playoffs, you have to win. It goes without saying, but I said it anyways.

If that weren’t a big enough reason to win on Sunday, there’s a larger one. For this one, I’m going to pick something out of the brain of our Editor in Chief, or as he recently has told us all to call him, the ruler of Pride of Detroit, Jeremy Reisman. I’m kidding. On the post-Thanksgiving PODcast, Reisman shared concerns that the current Lions feels similar to the 2019 Lions.

You remember that team ,right? The Lions started off 2-0-1 that season and looked to be on the right track when they welcomed the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs in to town. This was an incredible game and the Lions nearly pulled it off before suffering a 34-30 loss on the game’s final drive. Sound familiar? Sound a little bit like the 2022 Lions recent run? The Lions went 3-0 in November before taking the potential Super Bowl favorite Buffalo Bills to the wire and losing on the game’s last drive.

What happened to the Lions after that Chiefs game in 2019? They won one more game before finishing the year 3-12-1. At the end of the season, fans were subjected to a press conference in which they basically told the world that Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn had to make the playoffs in 2020 or it was over.

It turns out that maybe the Lions’ most important game of that 2019 season wasn’t that Chiefs game. It was the game right after it. They played the Packers in that game, but it doesn’t really matter who the opponent was. That game had the same implications that this weekend’s game against the Jaguars does. That game was the “prove to me that it’s real” game.

The 2019 Lions had a hot start and almost beat the eventual Super Bowl champions at home. All they had to do to prove that it was real, at least for another week, was beat the Packers. They almost did, by the way. Sadly almost doesn’t prove anything though. The good feelings about the Lions were lost fairly quickly and the team dug themselves farther into the hole. Now all anyone remembers about that season was that it was just another year in the horrible Patricia/Quinn run.

The two realistic things the Lions can do right now is either win this game and show that this team is really heading in the right direction faster than anyone thought possible in October or go out a lose and show that the turnaround was a fluke and that this team isn’t ready. This was the message Aaron Glenn delivered to his team this week.

“The next barrier that we have to get ready to pass is, can we can comeback off an ‘L’ and be the same team we were when we were on that win streak?” Glenn said this week. “That’s the next thing that we’ve got to prove that we can do.”

I feel like I’ve done this a lot to Dan Campbell this season. I’ve attached the “big game” thing to multiple games this season. They were all big. I suppose that’s something of a good thing for Campbell. It means he and the Lions are playing meaningful games. This might truly be the biggest one, though. It’s the biggest because this is the game that could determine whether or not there could be another big game down the line this season. If the Lions lose this one. That’s probably it for the season. If they win, though, maybe the biggest game of the Lions season is the next one.

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.