When analyzing a football team’s schedule in the middle of the season, it’s not often someone can view two games against teams with combined records of 7-17 and point to that stretch as a turning point.
Then again, not everyone has watched the Detroit Lions operate for the past 50 years.
Just as it was a season ago, the Lions have one simple goal throughout December: beat the teams they should beat in order to take a step closer to the playoffs. Last year, Detroit got off to a head start in failing this category losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in November. When December came along, Detroit dropped four straight games, all of which came against teams the Lions arguably should have beaten.
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This time around, the Buccaneers will come calling again on Sunday, and the Lions will be looking to jump-start a much better final month of the year that could lead to the playoffs. A week later, the Minnesota Vikings come to town. Both teams have played well despite their sub-.500 records, and either are more than capable of upsetting the Lions if focus becomes an issue.
“I do think these guys have a real keen focus on just getting the next one done and not looking at what happened previously or looking ahead too far,” Jim Caldwell said Monday regarding his team’s mindset. “I think with this particular group it’s been good and solid and I hope it continues.”
Arguably, this next two game stretch could tell more about where Detroit’s going than the pair of games against the Cardinals and Patriots, two of the NFL’s elite. The Lions weren’t completely ready to measure up on the road against the cream of the crop, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be ready to take care of business at home against two teams they should be able to dust on paper.
Arguably, this next two game stretch could tell more about where Detroit’s going than the pair of games against the Cardinals and Patriots, two of the NFL’s elite.
Still, how has Caldwell tried to eliminate any semblance of a complacent or overconfident attitude developing?
“We talk about the here and now, ‘what’s important today’ has been our mantra here,” Caldwell said. “The minute your gaze starts to look beyond the horizon, there are some things that surprise you, and that’s in human nature.”
Detroit will be looking to avoid that elongated gaze pitfall this season, which would certainly be a flip in usual fortunes. It’s come to the point that Lions’ fans expect the team to lose games they should win at home in December. Changing that history won’t be easy, especially considering Tampa Bay is a better foe than their record indicates.
“The fact of the matter is, it’s a (small) difference between being 4-8 and 8-4,” Caldwell said about the makeup of the NFL. “All it takes is a few bounces of the ball, a couple different scenarios that pop up and you got the reverse, so every team is very, very close.”
“Regardless of what the record indicates, (Tampa Bay’s) a heck of a team.”
That helps make this two game stretch huge. With a pair of wins, Detroit could be on their way. Tough losses, though, would invite back memories of the past while perhaps sinking another playoff push.
The pressure’s certainly beginning to mount.