The Lions sure got off to a great start -- last year. Coming out of the gate, they were 5-0, before San Fran came to town and took them to the woodshed, prompting the post-game "handshake incident" between head coaches Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz. At that, the Lions righted their ship to finish 10-6, and qualify for the playoffs. They were promptly thrashed by the New Orleans Saints, but still, just getting to the playoffs was a major step forward. In their not-so-glorious history over the past half-century or so, you can count on one hand how many times this has happened -- and still have a finger or two left over. Expectations for 2012 ran high, to say the least.
Stepping back to look at the bigger picture, however, reveals something else. Since their glorious 5-0 start last year, in the equivalent of an entire NFL regular season, the Lions have gone 6-10. So while the Lions' faithful likely think their team is trending upwards, the stats would indicate the opposite.
Look at this year. In their opening game at home, the Lions barely squeaked past the St. Louis Rams. The Rams have a new head coach, new system, and over half their squad consists of players in their first year there, including a couple van loads of rookies. If the Lions were indeed ready to finally make a serious run at the Super Bowl, like many thought -- that game should have been a cakewalk -- but it wasn't.
Then they were off to San Fran for a rematch where, not so surprisingly, they were soundly beaten again by the 49ers, but hey, those Candlestick guys have come on like gangbusters under Harbaugh. They're really good, so the Lions had nothing to hang their heads about.
But then trouble started brewing. The following week, the Lions were beaten at home by the Tennessee Titans, another team that, at least "on paper", were supposed to be inferior to the Honolulu blue and silver. Sure, the game went into overtime, but only because of a few miracle plays that fell the Lions' way in the closing seconds. Other than that, they had their lunch handed to them over the course of the game.
And now, the artists formerly known as the "lowly" Minnesota Vikings, just waltzed into Ford Field and gave them yet another thumping.
The 2012 Lions currently stand at 1-3, with their bye week coming up. This was not supposed to happen.
Unfortunately for the Lions, things aren't going to get any easier. Following their week off, they're looking at road trips to Philadelphia to face Michael Vick and Co., and then on to Soldier Field in Chicago, always a tough venue. Da Bears aren't exactly patsies, especially at home.
Granted, it's the NFL, upsets happen, any given Sunday, that's why they play the games, and all that, right? On the one hand, while the Lions are currently taking on water, they could very well right their ship again to get back to 3-3. Yet on the other, if they get hit with a couple more torpedoes in Philly and Chitown to go 1-5, that cruise liner that merrily set sail around Labor day will be in serious distress before Halloween.
Maybe this is all just a weird phenomenon that will pass, and the Lions will return to climbing the NFL ladder like so many expected.
Then again, 6-10 over the past calendar year doesn't lie.
Are they the "real deal", or will the dreaded "overrated" word rear it's ugly head in the next few weeks?
Perhaps the Lions will get on a roll, storm through the rest of their schedule, and charge into the playoffs.
But they better turn on the bilge pumps pretty quick, or that "bye" they're looking at next week could turn into a "bye bye" for the entire season a few weeks later.
And that most DEFINITELY was not supposed to happen.
Time will tell.