The Detroit Lions will battle the San Francisco 49ers with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, and while it's the first playoff meeting between the two since 1983, it might not be the last.
Built on toughness, San Francisco has become a gold standard in the NFC West, winning three division titles and appearing in one Super Bowl since 2019. The Lions are new to the party, but are constructed similarly by Dan Campbell.
Fox Sports analyst Colin Cowherd sees parallels, and believes the Lions look like a younger version of the 49ers. On "The Herd," Cowherd lauded the Lions for how they have been constructed and the players they have developed.
"This roster, that pass rusher, that running back, that tight end, that safety. These weapons? Detroit can match San Francisco player for player. Not quite as old, but arguably just as good (and) just as deep. The star of the Lions is not the quarterback, though he's been excellent, or the coach and he's been surprisingly good. It's the front office. The Lions rookies are Pro Bowl level. Their second (and) third-year players are some of the best players in the league. Sam LaPorta could be the second-best tight end. Aidan Hutchinson. Jahmyr Gibbs, he's as dynamic and twitchy as any running back in the league. The last three drafts they've hit a minimum six home runs. Not just good rookies (and) good second-year guys. Like top of the league good."
The 49ers have constructed their roster similarly, which could bode well for the Lions given the success they have had. Should Detroit continue their momentum, they could certainly encounter San Francisco again down the line in the postseason. This year, the 49ers' experience might give them an advantage.
Colin Cowherd: Detroit Lions built to last and not a Cinderella story
As a result of what they have done on the field and off, Cowherd doesn't think the Lions are merely a flash-in-the-pan, and are a squad to take seriously for the future.
This season, there could be a temptation for some to only think of the Lions as a fun story. Cowherd sees believing that as a fool's errand thanks to how the front office has gone about building the roster:
"Don't confuse Detroit with a Cinderella story. You know, that small college basketball team at a private school in the south that gets to the Sweet 16. No, that's not what this is. Detroit has dudes. At safety, linebacker, tight end, offensive tackle, running back (and) wide receiver. They got dudes everywhere and they're doing championship things. They draft. They're patient. They develop. They found a quarterback. They protected him. They added weapons. This is what championship teams do. Draft, develop, get guys. They haven't overspent in free agency. No dumb moves. It's smart. It's tough. It's relentless. Championship level football."
Whether the Lions beat the 49ers this weekend or not, this might be just the beginning of a new-look franchise taking the next step to championship contention. It could also be the first high-stakes battle of many between two similarly built NFC foes.