With the official end of the 2010-2011 NFL season, Detroit Lions fans everywhere are faced with the realization that Green Bay gets to call itself "Titletown" for the next 12 months.
This will mark the first time the Lions have had the Super Bowl winner in its division since... well, since the Green Bay Packers won it in 1997.
It would have been the 2002-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the old NFC Central, but they won the Super Bowl the same season they were realigned into the NFC South.
So aside from having the most vocal Packers fans you know crow about Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews for the next year, what does this mean to the Lions for the 2011 season?
A few things, actually. Believe it or not, most of them are good.
Ideally, this would already have happened. The Green Bay Packers finished the season at 14-6 as Super Bowl Champions. Including the postseason, they posted a total point differential of +193.
Against the Detroit Lions, they were 1-1 with a total point differential of -2.
Of course, that information won't get through to people who say the game doesn't count because Rodgers was injured (never mind the fact that Rodgers had played a half of football and went 7-for-11 for 46 yards and an interception, generating no points, and that the Lions' third-string quarterback played the whole game).
But that's okay, because this isn't about 2010, and it's not about the Lions serving a loss to the eventual Super Bowl champ for the first time since Kurt Warner and the St. Louis Rams in 1999.
This is about the Lions getting two cracks at the defending Super Bowl champs in 2011. The last time that happened was 1997, and yep, it was the Packers again. As it turns out, September 28, 1997 is the last time the Lions defeated a defending Super Bowl champ.
Currently, the Lions are a six-win team that is viewed by the average fan as a better-smelling version of the same trash they were when they went 0-16 two years ago.
Given that 2010 ended on a four-game winning streak, and the Lions now feature the Rookie of the Year, some eyes will be on the 2011 Lions. If they beat the defending Super Bowl champs, it will help the words "same old Lions" disappear for a while.
The worst thing that can happen to a rivalry is for one team to dominate it. The second-worst thing is for one or both teams to lose national relevance.
For proof, look at the current state of rivalries like Lakers-Clippers, Bulls-Blazers, Steelers-Browns, Michigan-Ohio State, Red Wings-Avalanche, Cubs-Cardinals, and Cavaliers-Anybody.
Lions-Packers is in the same boat as those, as the Packers have had a stranglehold on the rivalry for a long time. It has been 20 years since the Lions last won a game at Lambeau Field, and 2010's 7-3 victory was the Lions's first victory over the Packers in any venue since opening week of 2005.
When a team's fans don't mind losing to you out of pity, the rivalry is in big trouble.
That won't happen next year like it did (to some degree) in Week 14 this year. Packers fans know the Lions are a team that can beat them, and Lions fans know the Packers are a team they can beat.
With the Lombardi Trophy residing at Lambeau Field, national recognition of the game will be elevated, as well.
The Lions springboarding into national relevance at the Packers' expense could be just the kind of thing needed to get the cheeseheads across Lake Michigan to look at the Lions with disdain and spite, not pity and condescension.
Coaches With Rapport
Raise your hand if you think Mike McCarthy might stick around Green Bay for a little while.
How about defensive coordinator Dom Capers or offensive coordinator Joe Philbin?
One or both of the two may be looking at head coaching gigs in the next couple of years, but at this rate, nobody should be looking to run them out of town.
That means, between the Lions and Packers, we should be looking at two consistent coaching units for several years to come.
Anybody know what happens when you have two coaching staffs, and their chosen schemes and units, that see each other twice a year for several years in a row?
They start to recognize one another's tendencies, play mind games with each other. Game planning takes on amplified importance and happens at a higher level than usual. Even players obtain a good understanding of their opponents' individual strengths and weaknesses.
The result is some damn good football.
With Green Bay on top of the world and Detroit climbing up with some success, Jim Schwartz and Mike McCarthy should be seeing a lot of each other in coming years.
Lovie Smith could be included in this as well, but it's hard telling how much time he's borrowed with his playoff run. After Jay Cutler implodes a few more times (physically, mentally, or both) and the Bears finish 7-9 next year, we'll have a better idea.
The End of Brett Favre
For years, the words "Green Bay" and "Brett Favre" were synonymous.
This, of course, was before "Brett Favre" became synonymous with other words, like "retirement," "unretirement," "Wrangler," and "sexual harassment."
For a long while, he was just a good quarterback who played for Green Bay and beat the Lions a whole lot (as in every single one of his home games and a majority of his games in Detroit).
And for the last few years, his shadow hung around Green Bay, haunting the organization as he found greater success with other teams.
During the Schwartz era, the Lions have had to face both the Packers and Favre, on separate occasions, and the result has been mostly unsuccessful. Though the Lions beat both the Packers and Vikings in 2010, both were at home, and neither were against Favre.
Now, Brett Favre wasn't such a severe blight on the Lions franchise that one could call him a curse, but I for one will be happy to have old No. 4 off the Lions' radar.
And believe me, after the beating Favre took this year, the disappointment of going down with the ship in Minnesota, and the likely humiliation of seeing his old team win the Super Bowl with the quarterback they chose over him, he's done.
I respect Favre for a long (long, long) successful career, and it's too bad he fell off his horse before he rode off into the sunset.
But he was a reminder of exactly what the Lions are trying to get away from, and I'll be happy next season to see a Lions schedule with zero Favre sightings.
Surprised at the cop-out here?
Well, what did you expect me to say? That because the Packers won, the Lions are next?
No, as of training camp, this game won't mean much at all. Playing in a division with the Super Bowl champions will bring some publicity and exposure to the NFC North, but ultimately, the Lions are the Lions, the Packers are the Packers, and everybody's about to be winless and undefeated again.
In the NFL, a season famed for its unmatched parity, the defending champion has as good a chance to miss the playoffs entirely during its title defense as it does to repeat.
The Lions seem poised to bust out of their parity-busting mediocrity, as well, but the personnel moves made in the next six months are going to be crucial.
Regardless, when September rolls around, the fact that the Lions closed out the regular season with a four-game winning streak is going to mean as much as the fact that the Packers finished out the postseason with a four-game winning streak.
The Packers and their fans should enjoy their well-earned championship over the spring and summer, because next fall, all it will be worth is a shiny new banner and increased scrutiny when they stumble.
The Lions will look forward to providing the latter.
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