Sunday, September 6, 2015

SI, the Lions, and Michelle

First things first because a promise is a promise. Here's a shout-out to Michelle, my Oakland Press carrier, who went the extra mile by driving across town to deliver a section of my Sunday paper that was originally missing.  A class act, MW, and many thanks from a grateful subscriber. However, as they say, no good deed goes unpunished and yours truly has a long memory when it comes to such things. There might just be a gesture of appreciation in the blue box come Christmas time. Ya never know what a crazy old biker might decide to do with all those billions in loose change he has lying around the house. :-)

Sports Illustrated has come out with its yearly NFL predictions. Granted, they get them right about as often as the slobbering guy sitting on the bar stool next to you screaming at the Keno monitor for his last number to come in does, but for some reason there are those that place great faith in SI's prognostications.

Even veteran sports writers, who should know better, continue to bite on this nonsense. A local one has been fond of preaching the gospel of long-time pseudo-guru Peter King. Yours truly has said it before and I'll say it again here. When it comes to handicapping NFL games, PK couldn't pick his nose with a power auger. If he was in Vegas, he might have been swimming with the fishes a long time ago.

Nonetheless, the SI swamis have predicted the Detroit Lions to go 6-10 during the upcoming 2015 season. They see the Lions finishing a distant third in the NFC Central Division and nowhere near making the playoffs. The Honolulu blue and silver faithful in Detroit likely say pshaw. Their team is WAY better than that. But are they?

After making the playoffs as a wild-card team last season -- a season during which they had an incredibly weak schedule -- and every possible break seemed to go their way -- the worm has turned. Though they lost in the opening round, just getting to the playoffs changed things dramatically for the Lions. This year they've been slapped with a brutal schedule.

Their first four games will be telling indeed. Off to San Diego for the opener. The Lions haven't traditionally fared well on the west coast, and Philip Rivers is every bit the QB Matthew Stafford is.

On to Minnesota, where a very healthy and rested Adrian Peterson will put a mega-stress test on the Lions' defensive line. Losing the likes of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, goons that they may have been, is not easily remedied. AP could run wild against Detroit's revamped line. And don't look now, but their young QB Teddy Bridgewater isn't too shabby either.

Then Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos come to town. Does the Omaha man with the chicken neck who's never seen a commercial plug he doesn't like -- cha-ching -- still have some serious game left in him at age 39? Maybe. Even SI picked the Broncos to win the AFC West. The Lions will likely be underdogs in that contest, even at home.

Week four sees the Lions travelling to the slaughterhouse in Seattle. The Seahawks have been to the last two Super Bowls, winning one and coming within a whisker of another. They recently picked up superstar receiver Jimmy Graham to boot. Absolutely nobody would be surprised if the S-Hawks made it back to another Big Dance. And any team going into Seattle's backyard faces a nightmare scenario. Besides an All-Pro running back in Marshawn Lynch and a formidable defense, these guys get jacked-up playing in front of their raucous home crowd. Winning in Seattle is no easy task for a visiting team. Few have pulled it off in recent years, and the Lions likely won't either.

But in the NFL, strange things happen. Injuries, upsets, and improbable miracle plays. One need look no further than the deciding play in the most recent Super Bowl. The Seahawks were going to win. Then some Patriot cornerback nobody ever heard of guessed right and jumped a route at the goal line to make an interception. Game, set, match, and the Lombardi trophy. Just that quick.

So one never knows how the Lions might fare in the first month of this season. Their schedule is certainly tough and they might lose them all. Starting off 0-4 would definitely deflate a lot of balloons in Lions' land. And it would play right into SI's 6-10 prediction for their season.

Your truly thinks 1-3 is more likely, or maybe even 2-2 if they catch a break here and there.

But wouldn't it be something if the Lions ran that gauntlet and emerged 4-0? Stranger things have happened -- I think. Those college kids winning the Olympic gold medal in hockey back in 1980 after defeating the mighty Soviet Red Army team was the longest of shots. So were the Miracle Mets of 1969. As was Joe Willy Namath and his upstart Jets knocking off the powerhouse Baltimore Colts in the same era. And hey, Jesse "the body" Ventura, a former pro wrestler, even once got elected governor of Minnesota. For that matter, a certain sports editor once thought I might have a talent for writing -- hence this blog. He even bought me lunch. Who would have believed any of it? But it happened.

Regardless, here's wishing the Lions the best. With apologies to Mr. Spock, they've certainly lived long enough, so may they also prosper -- finally.

And if the Lions somehow improbably sniff the Super Bowl any year soon, the fans in Detroit would be absolutely delirious with joy.

Almost as happy as I was when Michelle showed up with the Sunday NY Times crossword puzzle. Sometimes the little things in life can be important too -- ya know?

And I think that's where I came in. Thanks again, M.

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