Last season was the easy one for the Lions. Coming off eight wins over the previous three seasons combined meant anything approaching .500 would have been a success. After a 5-0 start last year, the Lions rallied late to finish the season at 10-6 and claim a Wild Card berth—and forever a spot in bounty-gate 2011—against the juggernaut New Orleans Saints. Not surprisingly, the Lions lost the playoff game despite some early life, but they had accomplished the single feat that had evaded us since the Bobby Ross era—a return to the postseason.
With muted expectations the Lions finally delivered a morsel of success to their long starved fans—but delivering on expectations this season won’t be nearly as easy. Until a late collapse on the defense due to injuries, everything seemed to go well for the Lions last year. Amazingly, the mediocre offensive line stayed nearly completely healthy, Matt Stafford developed at lightning fast speed and Calvin Johnson—finally with a premier QB—firmly staked his claim as one of the top players in football. Sure, there was virtually no running game—which needs to be improved—but it didn’t hurt the Lions until late. However, for the Lions to satisfy their fanbase in 2012 they absolutely, positively have to win a playoff game.
Making it to the NFL playoffs in Detroit is uncommon, winning a playoff game has been about as rare as a Nick Fairley late night call for a cab. In fact some of you reading this have never seen a playoff win as two long decades have passed since Ray Crockett’s interception return for a TD sealed a win against the fledgling crime ring-era of Dallas Cowboy football. The easiest way to get a win is a home playoff game but with the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears as division mates that’s not an easy task. If the Lions have to win one on the road as a Wild Card, that will appease fans just as well.
It may not seem like it, but an 8-8 season with a playoff win will trump a 12-4 season with a division title and first round exit this upcoming season. From this point on for the Lions, we’re expecting playoffs. It no longer matters if they get there, it matters what they do when they get there.
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