The Lions enter the second half of the season in a familiar place – fighting for a top playoff seed after several impressive roads wins over quality opponents in the first half of the season. I jest, of course.
There is very little that is familiar to these Detroit Lions, other than the color of their uniforms and the old guy in the owner’s box. After a 6-2 start and loaded with talent, the Lions are finally in a position to play football into the playoffs – and not just on Madden 2012. The team is relatively healthy (with the exception of the running back position), confident and has eliminated many of the demons that have haunted them in the past.
The list of things accomplished in the first half – consecutive road wins, a win in Minnesota (where they hadn’t won since 1997), blowout wins, and even wins where they didn’t come out with their best effort – have all been checked off the list of things to do.
Next up, and the only item on the list that really matters, is to make the playoffs. And in order to do this the Lions must accomplish something that they haven’t had to do in a long time – ignore the hype, pressure and expectations to play steady, winning football. The last time the Lions faced a similar situation, they lost to a bad Chicago Bears team, a loss which kept them out of the playoffs and started The Decade of Despair, otherwise known as the Matt Millen era.
And I have to admit – I still hate the Bears because of this. Because of that game, I lost ten years of good football. I lost Sunday afternoons watching a team that couldn’t win. I lost Barry Sanders, who grew tired of the losing. Sure, I hate the Blackhawks, and the White Sox, but not with a white hot hatred like I have for the Bears. But I digress.
Now is the time for the leaders of the Lions to step up and lead this team into the playoffs. KVB and Backus and Suh and Stafford must step up and play consistent, winning football. It is their job to tune out the distractions and lead the new guys and rookies through this stretch. Let’s face it – that is why those guys are paid what they are paid. And it all starts with this game. If the Lions lose, they will be tied with the Bears in the North division. If they win, it is likely that they make the playoffs. And if they do, I hope the Chicago Bears are sitting at home watching them.