Monday, November 10, 2014

Detroit Lions and football gods

This one's for you, Mach.

Sometimes things just fall the right -- or wrong way. There's being lucky and there's the ever-present Murphy's Law.

Of course, a lot of things have nothing to do with luck, be it good or bad. One doesn't get to be a surgeon unless they make it through medical school, and one certainly has no future in politics without having first mastered the art of lying with a straight face. This takes a lot of work.

But for a team to be successful in the NFL, several different things need to intersect.

They have to have talented players.
A coaching staff that can bring them together as a cohesive unit.
They have to work hard, study hard, practice hard, and properly game plan for any opponent.
When the actual games start, they have to execute.
And last but not least, they need to catch a lucky break here and there.

In years past, the Lions had a few talented players. Yet the "bonehead" gene remained in their collective DNA, from the front office, to the coaching staff, on down to the players. If there was a way to screw something up -- they'd eventually find it. The football gods likely frowned -- or perhaps chuckled.

Sure, given they failed to make the playoffs once again last season resulted in the NFL handing them a relatively easy schedule for 2014 -- but that's the way the parity thing in the NFL has always worked. Bad teams get high draft choices and easier schedules. Good teams get lower picks and tougher schedules. Smart teams (see the New England Patriots) find a way every year to be perennial contenders. Likewise, dumb teams (see the history of the Lions) will find a way every year to stay also-rans.

But this year, at least so far, the Lions seem to have everything going their way. After nine games, they're 7-2 and sitting atop the NFC north division.

Are they better than last year? Absolutely. In fact, the glass half-fullers would say they could be 8-1 if not for that heartbreaking loss to Buffalo earlier in the season.

But the glass half-emptiers could counter with an equally valid point. Over the last three games, the Lions have staged improbable late fourth quarter rallies to win them all. Good grief, in London, against the Atlanta Falcons, the Lions missed a last second field goal. The game was lost. But incredibly, on a penalty against THEMSELVES, the Lions got another shot from 5 yards further out. That one was good. Lions win. The Falcons wondered how in the hell such a thing could happen. The New Orleans Saints had them all but put away, but combine a couple last second miraculous plays with some highly questionable calls by the refs, and the Lions eked out another win. Against the Dolphins, Lions' receiver Calvin Johnson tipped a long pass thrown to him up in the air, with a defender on either side of him. Instead of being intercepted, somehow the ball wound up back in Johnson's hands. A Dolphin's receiver dropped an easy catch in the end zone for a touchdown that would have sealed the game. In the end, again, the Lions squeaked out another victory. The football gods are smiling on them indeed.

Had those games gone the other way (as they all likely should have), the Lions could well be 4-5 right now instead of 7-2. But that's the breaks. Sometimes a team gets them -- and sometimes they don't.

The next two games for the Lions will be tough. They go to Arizona next week, and the high flying Cardinals are 8-1. Typically, the Lions don't fare well out west. But even there, they may have caught another huge break. Starting Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer injured a knee earlier today in a game against the St. Louis Rams. Status unknown for the game against the Lions.

The following week, the Lions travel to New England. The Pats are on a major roll. Few would think Detroit would have much of a chance in that game, but if Tom Brady gets dinged up in the meantime, then the stars are definitely aligning for the Lions.

And consider the rest of their schedule. Two games against Chicago? Da Bears appear to be in freefall. Green Bay blitzed them 42-0 today -- by HALFTIME -- before they mercifully sent in their subs.

Tampa Bay is terrible.
The Vikings aren't much better, especially if Adrian Peterson remains suspended.

That's four easily winnable games with a maybe against Arizona, depending on Palmer's knee.

No, they likely won't win their finale in Green Bay, because they NEVER win in Green Bay. And don't look now, but the Packers are on a major roll too. Since they lost in Detroit, they've got everybody back healthy and have become a steamroller. Aaron Rodgers, a bevy of receivers to throw to, a brutal running game, and a defense that is physical, fast, and talented make for a formidable combination.

That last game of the season might well determine who wins the NFC north -- and even have playoff implications. If the Lions can win the games they should, and even -- GASP -- pull off a victory in Cheeserland, they could conceivably go 13-3.

But remember. It's the Lions, and there's seven games to go.

Despite teasing them, one never knows when the football gods might change their minds and snatch it all away from the Lions once again.

Gods can be funny, or maybe not, that way......

1 comment:

  1. A well-written article that raises many good points. The Lions still have 7 games left. They're not going 13-3, but they're not going 7-9 either. For now, I'll be cautiously optimistic and predict 10-6 or 11-5. It may not win the division, but it'll get them to the playoffs.