The Detroit Lions suffered an agonizing stretch of football for the first 13 weeks of the regular season, going 2-10 (and getting one week to rest).
It was an ugly, bumpy road for the Lions, who by the 13th week of the season had played all three quarterbacks on the roster in varying situations.
Going back to Week 1, the Bears played that game just like they are finishing their season, much to the surprise of football analysts, who projected the Mike Martz offense with Jay Cutler at the helm would produce a plethora of sacks and interceptions.
Even Jimmy Johnson of Fox Sports was saying, “Expect all the numbers to go up in a Mike Martz offense, including sacks and interceptions.”
The Bears had something strong going for them in that Week 1 game though. The Monsters of the Midway had returned with the return of Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs roaming the field at linebacker.
Still, the Lions managed to win against the Bears in Week 1, but then the referees took it back and gift-wrapped it to the delight of Bears fans everywhere. Okay, so the Lions didn’t win that game (technically), but they played a hard-fought battle and with the exception of the “process of the catch” rule would have left Chicago with a “W” and a 1-0 record.
That was just the start of what would be a trend for the Lions, playing nearly every single game within a score of the victory in 2010.
The first victory for the Lions came in Week 5, as they annihilated the St. Louis Rams 44-6. To put that into perspective, the Rams were in the playoff hunt for the NFC West division lead until the last game of the season, when they lost to the Seattle Seahawks. The Rams' loss to the Lions was their worst loss of the season by a large margin.
Had the Lions played in the NFC West, I have no doubts they would have played very well against that group of teams, and the Lions' record would reflect the much-improved team that they are. The Seahawks even set a record this season for being the first team with a losing record in a non-strike year to make the NFL playoffs.
The title of this article is actually a confirmed statement just based on strength of schedule. The Lions actually are the best 6-10 team in the NFL based on that alone. They will be the last 6-10 team to pick in the NFL draft this spring as a result of their 6-10 record despite the stout competition they played against.
I think they’re actually quite a bit better than the 6-10 record they managed. However, in the NFL, you are only as good as your record says you are.
There are a few games, though, that I think we all feel the Lions should have won but didn’t, obviously starting with the Bears in game one. However, I am very confident that if the Lions that finished the season were able to start it over again, there are five games they probably would have won.
My reasoning for stating this is simply by looking at how they played some of the best teams in the NFL this year. They won against two playoff teams at the end of the season, including one that could very well win the Super Bowl. They also played several other very good teams right down to the wire.
1. Bears in Week 1 (stolen by the process of the catch)
2. Eagles in Week 2 (loss by three)
3. Packers in Week 4 (loss by two)
4. Jets in Week 9 (loss by three in OT)
5. Bills in Week 10 (loss by two)
Had the Lions found a way to win these games, they'd be an 11-5 team. In this scenario, the Packers (and probably the Bears) would be sitting at home watching while the Lions would be in the playoffs.
Obviously this is a bunch of “what ifs” and “maybes.” I’m also not trying to take anything away from those teams; they’ve all had great years (except the Bills). My point is simply that as the season progressed, the Lions finally started to realize what they are capable of.
Finally, I want to point out one other thing that shows the Lions are the best 6-10 team in the NFL.
In Las Vegas, and in booking rooms everywhere, the Lions were the NFL champions this year, posting the absolute best NFL record against the spread of 12-4. Even though they lost 10 games this year, they played those 10 games a lot better than even the most astute experts in Las Vegas ever expected. This is a very strong sign of good things to come from the Detroit Lions in the Motor City.
Should the Super Bowl champions end up being the Green Bay Packers, that will be just one more accolade to add to the Lions' strength of season performance, having been the last team to win against the Packers, as well as having played them to within two points in the loss earlier in the season. Not to mention nearly winning in Chicago in Week 1 and nearly beating the Jets as well.
That puts the Lions right up there with the best teams in NFL when you consider how well they played three out of four teams that remain who are playing for the Lombardi Trophy.
All things considered, though, I'm going to be rooting for the Packers next weekend because that gives the Detroit Lions the best confidence boost based on common opponents. They should be very pleased already recognizing how well they played (or defeated) three out of four teams playing for the title of NFL champions.