Normally at this time of year, Detroit Lions' football fans have pretty well packed it in. One way or the other, their team will have bumbled their way through most of another season, and playoffs -- PLAYOFFS? -- forget that. It ain't happening. The Lions sordid history has clearly shown if there's a way to screw something up -- they'll find it. Or it will find them.
But this year has been a complete turn around. It's almost like every possible break they could ever ask for -- has come to pass.
The ridiculously easy schedule.
Improbable fourth quarter comebacks on even more improbable plays.
A Minnesota place kicker missing a point after touchdown that turned a sure loss into a gift from heaven win.
The list goes on.
Still, many were likely afraid to get their hopes up, for fear the dreaded "other shoe" was bound to drop eventually. This string of seemingly being blessed couldn't last forever -- could it? C'mon, it's the Lions. You just KNOW something stupid is going to happen to dash their hopes.
The last two games against the NY Giants and Dallas Cowboys have been somewhat telling. The Giants, the only team to beat the Cowboys (twice), convincingly took down the Lions. And the Cowboys just got done putting a beatdown on them. Hey, 42-21, as in three touchdowns worth, is a serious spanking of the woodshed variety.
But their incredible luck appears to be holding. Even with those two defeats, they remain in the thick of the playoff hunt.
A win at home over Green Bay next week would still give them the NFC north division title. After a slow start, and being absolutely hammered by key injuries, the Pack appears to have gotten their act somewhat together. This should be a helluva game in Motown.
Yet even if the Lions lose, to end their regular season on a three loss streak, the football gods have smiled on them by aiding them elsewhere.
The above mentioned Giants, after the quality wins over Dallas and Detroit, confoundedly lost to the lowly Philadelphia Eagles. That helped the Lions playoff picture.
Out west, the Seattle Seahawks, playing in a pitiful division, were locks to win it -- and they will. Yet in the fight for possible home field playoff advantage, they mysteriously, at home no less, went down to the woeful Arizona Cardinals. That also helped the Lions.
The Tampa Bay Bucs, yes, those Bucs, were quietly hanging around the wildcard picture. But they got beat by New Orleans. Okay, not that big of an upset, but still a game TB likely should have won. Another small advantage for the Lions in possible playoff scenarios.
In fact, the only thing still not left on the table for the Lions is a possible first round playoff bye. The loss to Dallas officially nixed that. A win over the Packers would not only give them the division crown, but likely a home playoff date.
Even if they lose that game, they're still not completely out of it. The only way that happens is if the Redskins manage to defeat the NY Giants. The Jersey boys will be heavily favored to win that game.
Yet if Murphy's Law comes swooping down, and every possible bad scenario for the Lions actually occurs, well, let's just say it ain't over yet.
But chances are the Lions will find themselves in the playoffs, one way or the other. Maybe at home, maybe on the road, but at least playing.
Which makes it better than most Lions years. How they will fare if and when they get there remains to be seen. Could they actually -- GASP -- win a playoff game for the first time since Slick Willy was settling into the Oval Office -- for their second of all time? Could happen. A march to the Super Bowl? Um, theoretically possible, but so is the Donald ditching Melania to shack up with Hillary. Let's just say it's probably not a very good bet.
However, one thing remains etched in stone for the lovable Lions. It was a close call, and the Cleveland Browns almost pulled it off. But finally, mercifully, in week 16, the Brownies managed to win a game. They are now the proud owners of a 1-14 record after slipping by the San Diego Chargers. Cleveland has the dubious honor of travelling to Pittsburgh for a date with the Steelers next week. Make that 1-15.
So the Lions are still the undisputed champions of futility via their 0-16 season in 2008. Their place in NFL history remains secure. Kings of the basement. Even the Browns, and what a gawd-awful mess they are, couldn't sink to that level. A record that could be equaled, not likely, but never surpassed.
It's at least something.
There are those that claim any publicity is good publicity, so an all-time record of any sort must be fantastic, right?