By: Jamie Samuelsen
Here’s what the Lions accomplished in Jacksonville yesterday. They survived to play another day. That’s it.
The Lions have essentially become an NCAA basketball bubble team with Selection Sunday approaching. They have a decent resume. They’re in the conversation. But they still have a lot of work to do to get into the dance (a.k.a. The NFL Playoffs). A loss against the Jaguars would have doomed their chances. But with a win, they upped their record to 4-4 and gave themselves a chance for some resume-building wins as the seasons rolls into the second half.
Of course it’s not that simple. And of course it will come down to the wins and losses instead of some preposterous selection committee. But that’s what Sunday felt like. It wasn’t a good win over a good team. It was a necessary win over a bad team. And it kept the Lions chances alive for another week until they travel to Minnesota to take on the suddenly struggling Vikings (three losses in their past four games). If the Lions win there, which they need to, they’ll be 5-4 heading into the most difficult part of their schedule, and perhaps the most difficult part of any schedule that any team will play this year.
Take a look at what lies ahead following the Vikings game. They play the Packers, Texans, Colts, Falcons and Bears at home. And they play the Cardinals and Packers on the road. Six of those seven games are against teams that are currently holding playoff spots. Want to know how many playoff teams the Lions have played to get to their 4-4 record thus far? Two. The Bears and the Seahawks.
Then consider the fact that the Lions defensive backs are very banged up. Against the Jags, the Lions started their eighth different secondary in eight games. You have to give them credit. They’ve held their own despite the injuries and had two interceptions yesterday against Blaine Gabbert. But then you stop and realize that it’s Blaine Gabbert throwing up those wobbly passes.
Here are the quarterbacks the Lions have faced to start 4-4. Sam Bradford, Alex Smith, Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, Jay Cutler, Russell Wilson and Gabbert. Anybody see any Pro Bowlers in there? Me neither. Here’s who’s coming after a rematch against Ponder. Aaron Rodgers twice, Matt Schaub, Andrew Luck, Kevin Kolb, Matt Ryan and Cutler. Anybody see more than a few Pro Bowlers in there? Me too. The Lions can survive without Louis Delmas against the Blaine Gabberts of the world. But they’ll have a hard time surviving against some of the very best in the game.
This is not to take anything away from Sunday. The Lions had a job to do, and they did it. This team could have very easily packed it in after a 1-3 start and a scary road trip to Philadelphia. They didn’t. That’s a credit to the leadership in the locker room and to head coach Jim Schwartz. But the slow start dug a pretty large hole. The Lions are climbing out of that hole with two wins in a row and three in their last four. They’ve given themselves a chance. And that says a lot. But major challenges await. And the question remains whether or not this team will be able to pass enough of those tests to move onto the postseason. It seems unlikely. But at least it’s possible. And that’s something we couldn’t have said three weeks ago.