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Detroit Lions Headed To NFL Playoffs in 2010, Fact or Fiction?

John Farrier@GriffWings UnitedCorrespondent IJune 30, 2010

DETROIT , MI - NOVEMBER 26:  Quarterback Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions looks to pass the ball during the game against the Green Bay Packers on November 26, 2009 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. Green Bay won the game 34-12. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

A recent string of prognosticative articles on Bleacher Report has created quite a stir amongst the readership with widely varying positions relative to how the Detroit Lions will finish their 2010 campaign.

 

We’ve seen the super-optimistic 12-4 prediction offered by Mr. Johnston, while HaMMeR offered the “low-ball” prediction of 3-13.  I have also penned an outlandishly-optimistic 10-6 potential path to the playoffs.  We have also seen discussion as to whether or not the 2010 squad can even be a .500 team in the win-loss column.

 

So what are they really?

 

How should we really take Louis Delmas’ proclamation of a winning season that culminates with advancement to the post-season?  As gospel?  Tongue-in-cheek?  As his personal expression that he believes the 2010 Detroit Lions can win seven more games this season than they did in 2009?

 

I suspect the team to be “somewhere in between”.  Is 3-13 an honest appraisal of where the 2010 Lions should finish?  Likely not.  Is it a guarded evaluation?  Most likely.  It sets the bar for low expectations and another very high draft pick.

 

At least the front office is taking advantage of being “bad”.

 

I’ve looked at the 2010 season from the paradigm of pessimistic realist, and I’ve looked at the 2010 season from the perspective of uber-super-hyper-slappy optimist.  Neither extreme seems befitting of the reality that is to become this season’s achievement for our beloved Leos.

 

Let’s take another look at the upcoming 2010 Detroit Lions season and apply what I will describe as the paradigm of “slightly-optimistic” or “hopeful” realist.  Pragmatic realism from a “glass-half-full” perspective.

 

Just so we don’t get too delusional or carried away, I think we should revisit the Lions finish within their own division of play going back to the 1996 campaign:

 

Year

W

L

Finish

2009

2

14

4th

2008

0

16

4th

2007

7

9

3rd

2006

3

13

4th

2005

5

11

3rd

2004

6

10

3rd

2003

5

11

4th

2002

3

13

4th

2001

2

14

5th

2000

9

7

3rd

1999

8

8

3rd

1998

5

11

4th

1997

9

7

3rd

1996

5

11

5th

 

Since 1996, the Detroit Lions have mostly finished last in the division (NFC Central, NFC North, NFC “Norris”), and when not finishing last, they have finished next to last.

 

Sober yet?

 

Winning seasons?  One.  Playoff appearances?  One.  Winless seasons?  One.  Years of national embarrassment?  Countless (more often than not).

 

And somebody is actually expecting a playoff run?

 

Don’t even get me started about the dirt-last average defense in the NFL for the past four seasons!  Yes, I’m talking about the defense that allowed the second-most points in NFL history.

 

The good news is that most of those players have exited the Allen Park, Michigan area.  Since his promotion to general manager, Martin Mayhew has worked tirelessly to upgrade the talent on the Detroit Lions roster in all phases of the game.

 

Former special teams coach Stan Kwan was let go after the season, replaced by Danny Crossman.  Defensive backs who were unable to cover and play in the Cunningham system were released.  Linemen who failed to meet opportunity with preparedness have also been shown the door.  It’s just like down at the plant:  time to retool.

 

Changeover.

 

I really like the talent upgrades that the front office has materialized for the 2010 Detroit Lions; nonetheless, Coach Schwartz recently spoke about the critical nature of continuity of play for both the offensive line and the defensive backfield.  It is the play of those two position groups that requires the most cohesion to develop effective play as a collective unit.

 

What will hinder the 2010 Detroit Lions most is a lack of having played in the Schwartz-Cunningham-Linehan system for a number of years.  Only about half of the team’s total starters will be returning for their second year in the system.

 

Loosely translated, here’s what that means.  The Lions will have a great number of starters who a very young, either in their first or second seasons.  After them, there is the next group of players who are in their third and fourth years who had little to no success prior to Schwartz’ arrival in Detroit, and while they may be building on personal talent and skill, they have no track record of winning.

 

To these players have been added some okay free agent additions, decent free agent signings, and some very good free agent acquisitions.  Within this group of both young and veteran players you can see the formation of the nucleus upon which the team will stake its future.  I like a lot of what I see in that regard.  The Lions have a great young quarterback and some promising youth on the defensive line, at linebacker, at safety, and hopefully at running back.

 

The Lions team I just described will face a few teams who are in total rebuild mode, like the Lions, but will face many teams that are more established with talented players in their system who have already built cohesion and synergy with their teammates.  The 2010 Detroit Lions will be working toward becoming an established team with a visible identity.

 

Now, let’s revisit the upcoming 2010 season schedule with some pragmatic, glass-half-full realism.

 

To me, a 7-9 prediction for the 2010 Detroit Lions is an aggressive “glass-half-full” outlook.  I have many “benefit of the doubt” picks in the win column for the Lions.

 

To get to seven wins, I’m projecting Lions home wins over the Eagles, Rams, Redskins, and Bears, with road victories over Chicago, Buffalo, and Tampa Bay.

 

For those wishing to compare the 7-9 outlook against my articles at the opposite ends of the spectrum, visit the following links:

 

2010 Detroit Lions Better Than a 3-13 Team? HaMMeR Says "No." (June 18, 2010)

 

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/407993-2010-detroit-lions-better-than-a-3-13-team-hammer-says-no

 

Delmas Says 9-7 And Playoffs: I'm From Missouri – "Show Me!"

(June 27, 2010)

 

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/412343-delmas-says-9-7-and-playoffs-im-from-missouri-show-me

 

The 2010 Detroit Lions must get off to a fast start and in short order.  There can be no messing around.  The days of 2-30 must end effective immediately.  “No Slack Due!”

 

Now, I could go team by team and do a rundown, but why?  You’ve read ad nauseam which way, but what is the common theme?  What is the “tie that binds” these teams that are likely to beat the Detroit Lions during the 2010 season?

 

As I am new to Bleacher Report, I had to do some reading based on the input of one of my fellow contributors, and the deeper dive revealed this article, Detroit Lions Must Remember That Defense Wins Championships.

 

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/128818-hey-lionsdefense-wins-championships

 

When I read the words penned by Ed Worvie, I thought I was reading a collection of my thoughts from mlive.  I couldn’t believe it. 

 

Nail.  Head.  Smacked it.

 

The reason the Lions will lose close games this year won’t be due to the lack of spectacular plays.  It won’t be because you weren’t entertained.  It won’t be because the team wasn’t talented.

 

The 2010 Detroit Lions will lose games because the defense they face is superior, laden with top-tier talent and men (not a core of “frosh” and “sophomores”) who have been playing this game next to each other in the same system for multiple seasons.

 

The 2010 Detroit Lions “veterans” will be entering their second season with returning coordinators.  The head coach, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator will all return.  For the first time in a long time, the Lions can finally say they are building some continuity.

 

Lack of continuity and cohesion serve to undermine the best efforts of “will to win” and supposed “talent”.  You can believe all you want to in a group of individuals, but what we have found lately, is that it is a group of highly-talented players with singular focus who are led by outstanding leaders are the ones who win it all, the Lombardi Trophy.

 

We must first stand.  We have to crawl before we can walk.  We must walk before we run.  There is a continuum of growth, and the 2010 Detroit Lions believe they can improve by seven wins over the 2009 campaign.

 

Goals must be difficult to obtain, but not unrealistic.  At what point do we transition from realist to optimist to “slappyist”?  There must be logic.  There must be reason.  Unbridled passion gets men dead in the old exchange of rifle volleys.  It has to make sense.

 

Does it make sense for us to suggest that a team who on defense returns four starters, one on the defensive line, two at linebacker, and one in the defensive backfield, is likely a nine- or 10-win team by close of business on January 2, 2011?

 

In a recent poll I devised, respondents had differing opinions as to whether the 2010 Detroit Lions could qualify for the playoffs by having won 10 games on the season.

 

What do you think the chances are the 2010 Detroit Lions go 10-6 (or better) and qualify for their first playoff birth since 1999?

·         A. 10% or less - "Doubting Thomas" is my cousin - no way.

28.9%

·         B. up to 25% - Very unlikely but possible

38.4%

·         C. 50/50 - That's right, folks. Either they will or they won't!

14.5%

·         D. up to 75% - I feel optimistic, better than 50/50 and probable

11.1%

·         E. 90% or more - Ain't No Doubt About It, The Lions Are Playoff Bound!

7.1%

  • Total votes: 380

Two-thirds of voters believe there is less than a 25% chance the 2010 Detroit Lions will win 10 games and qualify for the playoffs.

 

Incriminating?

 

Mayhaps.

 

What is the percentage of those who voted who gave the 2010 Detroit Lions more than a 50 percent chance to win 10 games and reach the playoffs?  Only 18 percent felt the Lions had better than “half-a-chance” to make a playoff run in 2010.

 

Not what I would describe as “consumer confidence”.

 

A 7-9 finish by the 2010 squad would be a five-game improvement over the 2009 season, and I have to believe that a good many Detroit Lions fan would be happy to see the club on an upswing.

 

A 7-9 finish might earn the Leos a 3rd-place finish in the NFC North.

 

Whooooopppie!!!

 

That’s all we’ve ever done lately.  Mostly last or next to last.  Mostly.  Since 1996.  These are the facts, and they are unpleasant at best.

 

Again, where is this ballclub against their competition?  We won’t know for several weeks, but the defenses of the Packers, Vikings, Giants, Jets, Cowboys, Patriots, and Dolphins are all likely better than the defense the Lions will field in 2010.  It’s not a slam on the Detroit Lions, it’s a paradigm based on the information at hand.

 

If Detroit seeks the playoffs for the 2010-11 season, they will most likely have to win four games in the NFC North.  That, my friends, is a daunting task, and certainly not one that I envy (well, maybe not).

 

This team is going to move forward and surprise many of us at times when we do not expect – that’s the nature of the beast.  “On any given Sunday” will happen more often than we think with the Detroit Lions during the 2010 season.  I believe that.  I’m looking forward to that.

 

The hardest-working general manager in all of the National Football League has made some outstanding acquisitions since his hire, but the fruits of that labor have yet to be seen.  Unless the talent Mayhew added to the roster is turned into victories, it will all be meaningless.

 

If you’ve been a Lions fan all of your life, regardless your place of birth, you are most definitely going to be of the train of mind, “I’m from Missouri – Show Me.”  Show me.  Again, record since 1996.  Playoffs since 1996?  Once.  Sobering.

 

But we want to cheer hard for our team and we want to believe in a brighter tomorrow for the Detroit Lions!  When can it be so?

 

Just think about how Bill Polian built the Indianapolis Colts, and also consider how the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints were assembled.  Notice any similarities?

 

When the lads in the front office are done tweaking the roster in terms of offensive weaponry, they’re going to be a very dangerous team.  If the offensive line can congeal the way they should if Rob Sims is able to become the missing link at left guard, Stafford might actually have time to throw.  If the offensive line develops that Dierdorf-Dobler-esque chemistry, they will be dangerous as all get out.

 

That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

 

When this newly-assembled defense gets the chance to play together for a year, they’re going to be tough to beat.  I like my chances going forward with this defense.

 

Is the defensive backfield still a liability?  Yes.  Has it been a liability for quite some time?  Absolutely.  Is the front office trying to deliver a solution based on the best values they can generate in free agency to get top-tier players to actually come to Detroit after a 2-30 two-year debacle?  They sure are.

 

But it doesn’t happen over night.  You can cite the Miami Dolphins NFL history-breaking turnaround, but that was in south Florida, not southeastern Michigan.  It’s not the same, and I think we know that.

 

Ultimately, what I will continue to do is support my team and try to be as positive as possible, giving them the benefit of the doubt whenever I can.

 

Is the 2010 Detroit Lions team at 10-6 team, a 9-7 team, a 7-9 team, or a 3-13 team?  They are a team that needs to show continuous improvement, and in the doing will deliver to their fans what they are.  If you’re a four-win team, that’s what you are.  You draft up front.  If you win nine games, you might make the playoffs.  I just don’t think nine wins is enough to qualify for the post-season in 2010 considering the depth of talented teams.

 

I believe this team is getting better; that’s what I believe.  I expect to see improvement every week, and I have no idea how many wins that will translate into, but as long as they win more games than they did last year, the fans will see progress being made, albeit slowly.

 

Still, a 7-9 season seems a little bit out of reach for the 2010 squad, just because there are still so many “unprovens” on defense.  I’m not worried about our offense comi

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