4 Losing Streaks The Lions Could Scratch This Season
By Scott McMahon
Ask just about any Detroit Lions fan and they can point to at least one years-long slide that their team has not been able to shake. Most bring up the obvious -- the Super Bowl -- but others look at records against a certain team, in a certain city, in a certain state, in a certain month and so on. It’s hard to imagine one team having that many losing streaks, but the Lions franchise has been cursed enough to warrant talks of ending a streak at least a few times each season.
Last year, the Lions ended one of those slides when they won visiting Washington D.C. for the first time ever in Week 3 with a 27-20 victory. The Lions came close to knocking off the Steelers on the road for the first time since 1955, but blew a sizable lead in the fourth quarter and wound up losing. On a larger scale, the team was in prime position last year to end one of its most agonizing streaks of all -- its 20 years without a division title. The stars were aligned, Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler were hurt and QB Matthew Stafford was as healthy as ever.
Well...we all know how that one turned out.
The good news is that the 2014 team should be able to pick up right where the 2013 squad left off when it comes to having the capability to break these streaks. Taking scheduling, a new coaching staff and reality into account, Detroit looks poised to take multiple monkeys off its back -- if the team can finally live up to its potential.
1a. Win A Regular Season Game After The Calendar Turns To December
This should be the easiest to accomplish for the Lions this year. First of all, the team has not won a regular season game in December or January since December 24, 2011 against the San Diego Chargers -- a slide of 10 games (11 if you count their playoff loss at New Orleans two weeks later). It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why the Lions have had such tremendous difficulty winning in December, but the consequences reared their ugly head last season when four consecutive losses knocked them from division leaders to the tenth overall pick in the NFL Draft.
Secondly, I just can’t imagine another winless December -- the change in a month can't have that much of an effect on a team. Their December lineup this season features home games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Minnesota Vikings, along with back-to-back road games in Chicago and Green Bay to close out the season. Nothing against Tampa Bay or Minnesota, but a team with as much talent as this Lions team can't lose at home to both of these probable cellar dwellers.
1b. Win A Regular Season Game ON THE ROAD After The Calendar Turns To December
This one may be a little harder this season, but it is certainly doable. Those of you who read my last paragraph know that the Lions travel to Chicago and Green Bay in the month of December, where conditions will likely be less than ideal. However, Detroit has shown that it is capable of winning in Chicago -- doing so last year for the first time in the Matthew Stafford era -- which can only help entering Week 16 this upcoming December.
When the sun rises on December 1, the Lions will enter having lost five consecutive road games in the final month of the year. Once again, this takes us back to the 2011 season, when Stafford threw for 391 yards -- 214 to Calvin Johnson -- in a 28-27 victory at Oakland. If the Lions can play up to their potential -- remember my final condition from above -- there’s no reason that a high-octane offense like what the Lions should have can’t win in either Chicago or Green Bay and end that five-game losing streak on the road.
2. Win In The State Of Wisconsin
Speaking of Week 17 in Green Bay, a win here could kill three streaks with one bullet pass from Stafford. Much ado is made of this every year, but in case Lions fans have conveniently forgotten, the team has not won in Wisconsin since December 15, 1991. Since that day (which pre-dates Brett Favre by the way), the Lions have dropped 16 straight in America’s Dairyland, and 13 straight at the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.
Checking this one off the list may be a little difficult considering the circumstances. A division title may be on the line (more on that in a minute), Rodgers will likely be under center with his 9-1 career record against Detroit and the Lions will be faced with a road game in potentially terrible weather. These are all circumstances that can be hurdled, but it would take an extraordinary game from the Lions to walk off that field with a victory and the possible absolving of three Lions losing streaks.
3. Win A Division Title
By far the most difficult -- yet still realistic -- streak that the Lions can end this season is their longstanding division title drought. Loyal fans can remember back to 1993, when Erik Kramer and Rodney Peete lined up under center, Barry Sanders roamed the backfield and Herman Moore led the receiving corps for head coach Wayne Fontes. Those Lions lost in the first round of the playoffs to Favre and the Packers, but still delivered an NFC Central trophy to the Motor City.
It will take an incredible season from the Lions, but a division championship is not an unreachable goal. Considering the way that last season developed, with significant injuries and ineffectiveness from the Bears and Packers, anything is certainly possible in a toss-up division. Plus, the Lions offense is beefed up more so than last season, and if new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin’s system can take hold quickly, the defense could end up being the most dominant aspect of the team.
That’s why they play the games, though.
Notable Omission: Super Bowl Appearance/Championship
Obviously, a Super Bowl title is the ultimate goal of any NFL team, especially in Detroit, which houses one of four teams to have never appeared in the big game. And while a Super Bowl appearance is a barrier that the 2014 Lions could break down, I chose to be more realistic in my selection. A few reasons why a Lions Super Bowl run is not in the imminent future:
- Better teams in the NFL with more playoff experience, namely the Patriots, Broncos, Seahawks and Saints.
- A new coaching staff with new systems that will take more than a season to fully adapt to.
- The defense is still not yet strong enough to take down the likes of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in a Super Bowl atmosphere.
Although a Super Bowl championship may be a bit of a stretch, there is no reason why Detroit can't right the wrongs of the past and usher in an era of winning with the 2014 squad.