Five weeks into the season, they were one of the trending topics per say around the league. But sometimes when the “F” in NFL stands for Fickled, it’s suddenly getting a little harder to get a gauge on those Detroit Lions. And after the dust clears per say Sunday night at the Superdome, it may or may not be even harder to figure if this franchise is ready to end their long postseason frustrations.
But back to early October, when a 24-13 Monday night win over the visiting Bears gave Jim Schwartz’s team a perfect 5-0 record--the team’s best start since 1956--matching the defending Super Bowl champion Packers as the lone unbeatens in the league. But it’s been a little rocky ever since as the Lions have dropped 4 of their last 6 games, including a 27-15 setback at home on Thanksgiving afternoon against these said Packers in which the Detroit squandered numerous opportunities via penalties and/or ejections (DT Ndamukong Suh) and turnovers, all of the latter courtesy of 3 interceptions by QB Matthew Stafford.
To say the Lions have been even more erratic as of late would be an understatement. In their last 3 games, Schwartz’s club has coughed up the ball a dozen times, a shocking numbers considering this club gave up the football just 5 times in their first 8 contests. The setback to Green Bay was preceded by 6 turnovers and a 37-13 loss at Chicago, then a 49-35 win over the defensively-challenged Panthers in which Detroit rallied from a 24-7 deficit. All told, the Lions have given up 99 points in their last 3 games (after giving up 147 in their first 8 contests) and Stafford has been less than sensational--serving up 9 of his 13 interceptions during the current 3-game stretch.
Now it’s a date with the Saints, who have not only won all 5 of their home games this season but all in convincing fashion courtesy of a combined 208-93 score, including a 49-24 blowout of the reeling Giants on Monday night. And Schwartz’s team will face QB Drew Brees and company sans Suh, who has been suspended for the next 2 games for his infamous actions on Thanksgiving Day. And considering harassing Brees is your best option for a victory over the Saints, Detroit’s pass rush certainly won’t benefit from Suh’s absence.
Regardless of what happen on Sunday evening at New Orleans, the Lions are still very much in the hunt for a playoff invite. But can they close the deal and reach the postseason for the first time since 1999 (tied with the Bills for the longest current drought in the league)? There are home dates with the Vikings and Chargers and trips to Oakland and to Lambeau Field remaining on the horizon. But as we all know that in this league it’s not necessarily who you’re playing but how.
So can the Lions regain their footing and make good on their promising start? We’re starting to learn that with this team, win or lose, it’s not going to be easy as some perhaps thought.