If the past is any indication, this might be the only thing here I get right, so pay close attention.
There has been a whole lot of talk about the Lions making the playoffs this year, and it is actually a realistic goal this year for the first time in a long time. Even when Jon Kitna made his "10-win" prediction in 2007, the reaction was a mix of patronizing encouragement, stifled laughter and eye rolls.
This year, nobody is laughing.
So will the Lions make the playoffs? Will they break that long streak of irrelevance?
In order, no and yes. I do believe the Lions are poised for a breakout season, but having a breakout season isn't the same as making the playoffs.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a breakout season in 2010. They won 10 games, and, partly because of the Lions, they missed the playoffs. The New York Giants also missed the playoffs at 10-6. Had the "Process of the Catch" game turned out differently last year, the Chicago Bears would also have missed the playoffs at 10-6.
Winning 10 games is a very optimistic result for a team that hasn't even been .500 in over a decade, but with the strength of competition in the NFC right now, there is no guarantee that will be enough to secure a playoff spot.
With the strength and depth of the Green Bay Packers, it almost certainly won't be enough to win the division.
The Lions are also looking at one of the toughest schedules in the NFL this year. Winning eight games against the competition they face will be tough enough, much less 10. But then, if this team is going to turn that corner, it has to start beating stiff competition face-to-face.
This is the year to start doing that consistently. Good teams expect to win every week, regardless of who the opponent is. The difference to them between a tough schedule and a soft one is just a matter of who the wins come against—not whether or not they'll happen.
The most important thing for the Lions this year is not making the playoffs, but rather developing that identity of a team that expects to win football games, week in and week out, regardless of the opposition.
With that in mind, I expect that the Lions will take a positive step forward, meet and break the .500 mark, play meaningful games in December...and fall just short of the playoffs.
It's just as well, they'll be better equipped to make a deep run next year, anyway.
Final Record: 9-7 (4-2 NFC North)
I won't make predictions about specific games the Lions will win or lose, except for one. That Metrodome losing streak is toast. Write it down.