When will the Detroit Lions finally beat teams like the Steelers?
“The Detroit Lions can’t beat winning teams.” Like it or not, people are going to keep saying that until it stops being true.
I’m not saying that the Detroit Lions can’t beat winning teams. Here’s the inconvenient truth though: the Lions don’t beat winning teams. Sunday’s 20-15 loss to Pittsburgh was a big missed opportunity to start changing that.
The Steelers are currently tied with New England for the best record in the AFC. This was yet another example of Detroit hanging tough, but unable to find the one or two plays to push them over the top against a quality opponent. This has been a common theme in all four losses so far.
In what I’ll call the “Healthy Stafford” era (2011-now), the Lions have been remarkably average in the Win-Loss column. Going into last night, they were an even 51-51 in regular season games during this time, with a playoff appearance every other year or so.
Even more striking is the vast difference in fortune when they face playoff-caliber competition vs teams that are .500 or below. The good news is that Detroit has been very solid when it comes to taking care of business against sub-.500 teams. The downside is that with very few exceptions, the team just can’t yet seem to get over the hump against the NFL’s upper half.
Lions record against teams with 9 or more wins (includes playoffs)
2015: 1-7 (finally beat the Packers at Lambeau Field)
2014: 1-5 (also against the Packers, an early season win at home)
2013: 0-3 (incredibly soft schedule in this season, “the NFC North banner that got away”
2012: 1-10 (game winning drive against Seattle, who suddenly got good immediately after)
So far in 2017, the Lions are 1-4 against teams that currently have a a winning record (the defensive clinic at Minnesota).
Lions record against teams with 8 or fewer wins
So far in 2017, the Lions are 2-0 against teams that currently have a losing record (Arizona and New York, in weeks 1 and 2).
Other story lines from Sunday Night Football
- Matthew Stafford passes for over 400 yards. Somehow, they can’t get it in the end zone a single time.
- Jim Bob Cooter just can’t find the right play for situations inside the 2.
- The Lions are now 0-8 on NBC since 2006. The only team with a worse NBC record during that time is Cincinnati (0-10)
- JuJu Smith-Schuster‘s 97 yard touchdown. Credit where it’s due, that guy can play.
Next: Ranking the 5 best Lions draft classes of the past 30 years
The Silver Lining
Of the next three games, all of them are against teams expected to finish with 8 or fewer wins. Detroit travels to Lambeau next Monday Night, but against a reeling Aaron Rodgers-less Packer team. The winless Cleveland Browns are after that, followed by Chicago (currently 3-5).
Is a three game winning streak on the way leading in to Thanksgiving?