Detroit Lions: 5 Games They Must Win to See Playoff Action
The Detroit Lions capped off the 2010-2011 season with a four-game winning streak, sparking new found feelings of optimism in Motown. Next season, they face a difficult schedule, playing the last two teams to win the Super Bowl, as well as several up and coming teams that are looking to make the playoffs.
Obviously every one of the 16 games throughout the NFL season are of equal importance. As fans, we want to see a win every game and every loss brings us one step closer to watching someone else play in the post-season. But there are some games throughout the season that have more than just a win on the line.
It's very possible that the Lions lose every single one of these games and still make the playoffs, but here's a list of the five most important games the Lions will play next season and why they need to win all of them.
Week 1 in Tampa Bay: Kick the Buccaneers Booty
The Lions begin their season in Tampa Bay, giving them a chance to extend their winning streak to five games in a row and repeat their performance of Week 15 last season, where they beat the Bucs in overtime.
Tampa Bay is a team that should've made the playoffs last year and you can bet that Josh Freeman is going to come out in full gunslinger mode from the very beginning of the season. It'll be a clash between two teams that have struggled in recent years, but now seem to be competing in their respected divisions.
Getting beat in their own stadium by the Lions and taking a loss that eventually knocked them out of playoff contention has surely left a sour taste in the mouths of the Buccaneers. They'll be looking to rinse it out with a win against Detroit.
If Detroit can repeat a victory at Raymond James Stadium, they'll not only carry the momentum from last season into 2011, but they'll prove that last year's win wasn't a fluke.
Also, not since 2007 has Detroit won the first game of the season. They went 7-9 that year, their best record in a decade.
Week 4 in Dallas: Everything's Bigger in Texas (Especially the Wins)
Last year, the Lions travelled to Texas in Week 11 and played the Dallas Cowboys in Jerry Jones' cathedral.
Detroit played a very good game, taking the lead into the third quarter and looking as if they were about to beat Dallas at home and get their third win of the season.
Then a 97-yard punt return from Brian McCann shifted the scales completely and the Lions absolutely fell apart, eventually losing by 16 points.
As if that wasn't bad enough, Tony Romo wasn't even active for that game. So who was chucking the ball for the Cowboys that Sunday afternoon? None other than former 0-16 Lions quarterback Jon Kitna...Jon Kitna!
The Lions need to prove they can hold onto a lead and beat the Cowboys to redeem themselves of last year's mess. The fact that it came to Kitna only worsened the blow. Plus, a win in Dallas would be perfect momentum for the following week's matchup, which is possibly the Lions biggest game of the year.
Week 5 in Detroit: Monday Night's Alright for Fighting
Not since 2001 have the Detroit Lions played on Monday Night Football, where they were railroaded 35-0 by the St. Louis Rams.
A lot has changed since then. Charlie Batch is no longer their starting QB, they no longer call the Pontiac Silverdome home and they've since switched head coaches four times.
This game might be the biggest of the year for the Lions, not only because of the platform of playing on MNF, but because it's against the Chicago Bears.
Do we need to remind everyone of the "Calvin Johnson Injustice" in week one of last year? Didn't think so. The Lions failed to redeem themselves last year in Week 13 at home against the Bears, but they've been given the opportunity to try again this year and to do it on national television.
Not only would beating Chicago mean a win against a division rival, but it would put the botched TD catch nightmare in the past. It would put a smile on the faces of all Lions fans and it would also generate a serious amount of momentum for a team that's been dwelling on "the win that never was" of last year.
Week 13 in New Orleans: The Big Easy Won't Be Easy to Beat
The last time the Detroit Lions played the New Orleans Saints was in 2009, when the Lions travelled to the Superdome in week one.
They were trounced, losing 45-27. Their defensive scheme that day was apparently to play dead, as they let Drew Brees throw for six touchdowns and let the Saints gain over 500 yards total.
I don't expect the same result come Week 13, when Detroit flies to New Orleans for a rematch. Their defense has gotten a complete makeover and they should have enough healthy weapons on offense to put up a fight.
A win in this game would prove that the Lions have grown immensely in just two years and that they have the team to compete against a recent Super Bowl Champion.
Week 17 in Green Bay: Beating the Cheese out of the Packers
Yes, Green Bay won the Super Bowl last year.
Yes, they're the favorites to win the NFC North next season.
Yes, they completely embarrassed the Detroit Lions in 2010...wait, no they didn't.
In fact, one could say that if it weren't for the Lions beating Tampa Bay in Week 15, the Packers would've never brought the Lombardi Trophy back to Title Town.
Both matchups between the Lions and Packers last season were incredibly close. In Week 4 at Lambeau, the Lions only lost by two points with their backup quarterback. Then in Week 14, the Lions beat the Packers 7-3 in Detroit. (Say what you will about Rodgers being out and Flynn being inexperienced, we played the entire season with 2nd and 3rd string QB's.)
Packers fans won't want to admit it, but the NFC North is up for grabs. Not saying the Lions will take it, but any one of the four teams has a great chance at taking the title.
I expect the Lions season to come down to the wire and to be pressed to win games towards the end of the season to contend for the playoffs. What better way to cap off a season then playing the reigning Super Bowl champs on their home field and winning to snag a Wild Card berth?