The Detroit Lions have won the NFC North for the first time in 30 years and will host a playoff game at Ford Field for the first time in its history. The Lions won 12 games this season—comfortably leading the division by a three-game margin—matching a recording-setting victory mark set back in 1991.
Yet, in this week’s national power rankings, the majority of the conversation surrounds the obstacles the Lions are facing in the Wild Card round, including a surging opponent in the Los Angeles Rams, and an injury to star tight end Sam LaPorta.
For years, Lions fans have always waited for the other shoe to drop, and in the face of new obstacles, it appears that narrative is creeping into the media once again. And while it’s easy to fall into the routine of bracing for a letdown, it’s a fine time to revisit the iconic words of the Voice of the Lions, Dan Miller:
“Let’s get comfortable with being uncomfortable because you know what uncomfortable is? It means you’re good. It means you have expectations upon you–and now this team does.”
The Lions are indeed good, as good as we’ve seen in a long, long time, and expectations are high, but that’s the price you pay to dance in the postseason. And yes, there are some potential big obstacles directly in front of them, but this team has fought through adversity before, and as coach Dan Campbell put it last week:
“We built this roster for a reason. They’ll be just fine.”
MMQB: 3 (Last week: 3)
“This profile of Dan Campbell contains a quote that I cannot get out of my head, and one that only dads will truly understand. Former teammate Tiki Barber said: “It was always like he was mad, but he wasn’t.”
The Athletic: 4 (Last week: 4)
“What happened to the Lions on Sunday is the reason the Ravens and 49ers rested their frontline players. Rookie tight end Sam LaPorta, who was fifth among tight ends this season with 889 receiving yards, suffered a hyperextended knee and bone bruise. His timeline for return hasn’t been determined, but he could miss their playoff opener. That could be a problem for a team that leans heavily on the league’s fifth-most prolific offense (27.12 ppg).”
Touchdown Wire: 5 (Last week: 4)
“The Detroit Lions are hosting a playoff game. How cool is that? Offensively, they are as good schematically as anyone in the league, and they have the personnel to execute and run up points. If Sam LaPorta misses time, that will be a big blow, especially in what will be an emotional game against the Rams for obvious reasons pertaining to both Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford. Regardless, this is easily one of the best seasons in franchise history.”
NFL.com: 5 (Last week: 5)
“Dan Campbell wanted momentum heading into the playoffs, and darn it, that was what his team got. Sunday’s win over the Vikings wasn’t the prettiest thing the Lions have done in a season when they tied a franchise record for victories, but Detroit had solid showings and game-changing plays in all three phases. That said, there’s always the fear of a key player getting hurt in Week 18, like the Chargers’ Mike Williams did last season, and we’ll have to see if the mid-game injuries suffered by TE Sam LaPorta and WR-PR Kalif Raymond are serious or not. Both have played big roles for the Lions, especially LaPorta, who set rookie tight end marks for receiving, while Raymond has returned every punt this season for Detroit. Either way, the Lions should celebrate their first playoff game since the 2016 postseason and their first home postseason game in three decades. If Ford Field isn’t buzzing with absolutely nuclear-grade energy before kickoff, I’d be stunned.”
Yahoo Sports: 5 (Last week: 5)
“It’s not just the Sam LaPorta injury, which obviously isn’t great for the Lions’ offense if he can’t play this week. Detroit’s defense is an issue, too. The Lions have given up 300 yards passing in three straight games, twice to Nick Mullens and the Vikings. That’s not great with Matthew Stafford and the Rams coming in for a wild-card game.”
The Ringer: 5 (Last week: 6)
“What’s at stake: A long and methodical rebuild has brought the Lions to their first division title in over 30 years—but there’s little time to stop and smell the roses. The Lions are well-positioned to make this run count. Philadelphia has fallen off, Dallas is beatable (if the refs comply), and while the Rams are a tough wild-card draw, the Lions are favored to beat them in the first home playoff game Ford Field has ever seen. Detroit can get to an NFC championship matchup with San Francisco, and then they just need to run hot. 2024 is the last season with Jared Goff under contract; with Amon-Ra St. Brown and Penei Sewell on cheap deals. This is the window.
“Why they can win the Super Bowl: The Lions offense is one of the most balanced in the postseason field, and while they don’t feel like they have star talent, they actually do—it’s just young. Jahmyr Gibbs, Sam LaPorta, and Amon-Ra St. Brown present as big of a headache as any set of weapons in the playoff field, save for San Francisco. If their stars show up on offense and on defense, where they’re a lot shakier, they can make a run.
“Why they can’t: The Lions defense is actually better now than it’s been for most of the season. Alim McNeill and C.J. Gardner-Johnson are back from injury, which raises the floor of the unit—as does the recent emergence of Ifeatu Melifonwu. With that said, it’s still a liable unit, especially when handling star receivers—just ask all 192 of Justin Jefferson’s receiving yards on Sunday.”
CBS Sports: 6 (Last week: 7)
“Losing Sam LaPorta for any time will impact the offense. The return of Matt Stafford to Detroit this week will be great theater.”
Pro Football Network: 6 (Last week: 7)
“There will be a lot of discussion concerning Dan Campbell’s decision to play his starters against the Vikings. Although a win kept the possibility of the No. 2 seed alive, the difference between the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds are negligible.”
Sporting News: 7 (Last week: 5)
“The Lions aren’t just happy to be back in the playoffs as division champions after a 30-year drought. They want to roar loudly and be a factor in the NFC tournament. They can win offensively with Jared Goff’s passing or a lot of running from their talented RBs. They also shut down the run and can rush the passer. However, shaky pass coverage can be a major Achilles’ heel against the loaded offenses in the playoffs.”
Note: ESPN has concluded its coverage of Power rankings for the season and the Lions finished fourth on their staff list.