Nov 28, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions running back Joique Bell (35) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter of a NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Five years in the making: It's graduation day for the Detroit Lions

The Turkey sandwiches are gone, the Christmas lights are hanging, so it must mean the Detroit Lions are already scouting future draft prospects for their annual top ten draft pick. Not this year, pal. This is going to be the most interesting – hopefully rewarding – December in memory. The Lions are in first place and have four crucial games left, which by the end of the month could either leave them with their first division crown in 20 years, or out of the playoffs entirely in what would be the ultimate “Same Old Lions” decline, possibly resulting in a thorough house cleaning.

So what’s it going to be? I’ve been saying for years now that this is the best Lions team that I’ve ever seen, and I’m talking the early 70’s and the 90’s teams that were pretty decent but didn’t have the firepower that this team possesses. There are future Hall of Famers on this team. Now that the clock is striking midnight, and it’s time to find out who we’re dealing with here. Will the Staffords, Suhs and Megatrons come through in these clutch games and finally give us something positive to store in our memory banks? Or will they pull the ultimate choke job and have to start all over, with a new coaching staff, again?

This feels different than it did two years ago when the Lions made it as a wild-card team. It was almost a “smoke and mirrors” kind of feeling of the Lions getting in on some last second victories, and then giving up a couple thousand yards in the last game of the year to the Packers. After the Thankgiving beatdown of the Packers the Lions are playing like they deserve to be the division champs. It really helps that the Packers and Bears have been playing without their starting QB’s. I mean, if it’s not this year, then when?

This is the chance this team has been building toward for five years now. It started with Martin Mayhew being named general manager, who hired Jim Schwartz to coach the team, to drafting Matthew Stafford number one in the draft. After climbing the respectability charts in the NFL for the last five years, the Detroit Lions are face to face with their destiny. Are they a team that will be a force for years in this league, or are they the “Same Old Lions?”

First stop on the Lions “re-branding” tour is in Philadelphia where the Lions face the Eagles. The suddenly-hot Eagles are riding a four game winning streak. Still, very do-able. Then, they come home for a Monday Nighter with the Ravens. Very do-able. They stay home for a visit from the (who knows if they’re still in contention) Giants. Very do-able. They hit the road to Minny for the finale against a Vikings team playing for nothing but pride. Very do-able. My point is: they all could go either way.

The Lions have always been relegated to the junior varsity when it came to meaningful games in December. This year, they’re playing the varsity, and everybody wants to know what they have. It’s gonna be Rockem Sockem Robots out there, and the winner gets a home playoff game.

After five years it almost feels like graduation day. Time to find out what they’ve been working on all this time.

Tags: Detroit Lions

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