Were you impressed with the Atlanta Falcons this year?
You should be, they won a division featuring the defending Super Bowl champions and finished the regular season atop the NFC. The Falcons play an efficient brand of football and don’t kill themselves with penalties or turnovers.
Sound much like the Detroit Lions? Maybe not, but there may be more similarities than appear at first.
A recent Yahoo Sports article makes three surprise picks to make the playoffs next year for this reason:
Call it parity, competitive balance or the natural cycles of success, but history says that six of the 20 teams that didn’t qualify for the 2010 NFL playoffs will do so next year.
The article identifies three characteristics of playoff teams that did not qualify the year before:
The Anomaly – This is a team that inexplicably missed the playoffs and is a sure bet to make the playoffs when the ball starts bouncing their way.
The Builder – Pretty self explanatory. The builder is the team that gains momentum over the course of time and finally reaches the next step in their progression and finds themselves in the playoffs.
The Survivor – There always seems to be a team that only makes the playoffs because of they play in a weak division. Hey someone has to win it, err, not lose it!
Well, the Lions didn’t have the peripherals to suggest they were just a few bad breaks from being in the playoffs and the NFC North is no slouch of a division. Yep, the Lions were picked as the team that could make the playoffs as next year’s “builder”.
The Atlanta Falcons were used as the most recent example of that model, high praise considering just a few weeks ago many were wondering if this rebuilding plan was really heading in the right direction.
No one is naive enough to think the 2011-2012 Lions could match the 13-3 record the Falcons put up this year but it is certainly evidence that the Lions are starting to be viewed more positively on a national scene.
Is too much being made of the Lions’ four game winning streak to close out the year? I’m starting to wonder.