The Detroit Lions, a thoroughly mediocre football team, currently hold the No. 2 seed in the National Football Conference. Eight of their nine wins have come after trailing in the fourth quarter. The entire season has the feel of a demented sociology experiment aimed at manipulating the feelings of a long-abused fan base.
Pleas to “restore the roar” have fallen on deaf ears and into incapable hands for decades. The Lions’ historic ineptitude tends to get lost in discussion as the Cleveland Browns have become the gold standard for failure in recent years. But Detroit’s abject awfulness is no joke. The franchise has won one playoff game since 1957. It has not hosted a playoff game since 1993.
Both of these impressive streaks appear to be in jeopardy. And God help me, I believe they both will fall. This is a surreal sentence to type but the Lions will host, and win, a playoff game.
Now, let’s be honest here. It won’t be easy.
Matthew Stafford, who has built a legitimate case for league MVP by adapting to a Calvin Johnson-less offense and, perhaps more importantly, out of late-game necessity, will be playing with a mangled finger. He’ll take that malady on the road against two quality teams, the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys before a season finale at home against the suddenly hot Green Bay Packers.
The dreaded Same Old Lions could rear its ugly head. Two straight losses and two Packers wins would set up a winner-take-division scenario. There is nothing in the long and rich history of Detroit football folly to suggest they won’t blow it.
But if 2016 has taught us anything, it’s that this is the year the old playbook has been thrown in the trash. This is the year the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA title. This is the year Donald Trump won the presidential election. This is the year the freaking Chicago Cubs won the World Series. This is the year Army beat Navy.
We have witnessed the ushering in of a new reality. Droughts have been quenched. The absurd is rapidly becoming reality both in the sporting and political spheres. In any other year, the mere suggestion that the Lions would do something of note in January would be the ramblings of a madman.
The way this year is going, however, the Lions will outscore a lackluster Giants offense, then further the quarterback controversy in Dallas before clinching conference homefield advantage at Aaron Rodgers’ expense.
A dirty little secret about the NFC is that few teams engender trust, especially away from home. It’s not crazy to imagine the Lions beating the Seahawks and Cowboys again at home in the playoffs to make the Super Bowl if for no other reason than the very definition of the word crazy has been blurred.
Vegas is understandably skeptical, putting the Lions Super Bowl futures at 25-1 up from 50-1 preseason. But, hey, wilder things have happened — and are happening with shocking regularity of late.