If Lions make the playoffs, they have a shot at Super Bowl
DETROIT — When Jon Kitna first said he would be disappointed if the Detroit Lions didn’t win at least 10 games this season, most people who have followed the lackluster franchise chuckled.
The quarterback went a step farther last week, boldly saying the Lions were capable of special things such as winning the Super Bowl.
Eyes rolled, heads shook from side to side and some joked the overly optimistic Kitna should be leading one of the city’s sagging auto companies.
But when the Lions pounded the Denver Broncos 44-7 on Sunday and improved to 6-2, even jaded cynics were converted into true believers.
The odds are in Detroit’s favor to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999, snapping the second-longest postseason drought in the NFL.
The schedule, however, isn’t.
Detroit’s second half includes road games at Arizona (Sunday), Minnesota, San Diego and Green Bay in what might be a huge game for both teams in the Dec. 30 regularseason finale.
At Ford Field, where Detroit is 4-0, the New York Giants, Packers, Dallas and Kansas City each will be tough to beat.
If the Lions can get through that and earn a postseason bid in January, however, don’t be shocked if they’re playing in February. Yes, at the Super Bowl. Detroit could conceivably crumble down the stretch. Evidence supporting that opinion includes two blowout losses on the road this season, a history of one playoff victory since winning the NFL title a halfcentury ago, and a league-high 72 losses from 2001-06.
The Lions lost to the bottom feeders in the NFC East, getting embarrassed 56-21 at Philadelphia in Week 3 and 34-3 at Washington two weeks later.
Since then, they have looked impressive in three straight wins over the NFC South-leading Tampa Bay Buccaneers, at Chicago and against the banged-up Broncos.
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we’re 6-2 at the halfway point,” said offensive tackle Jeff Backus, Detroit’s No. 1 pick in 2001. “We’re playing our best football right now, and we need to continue to improve to get to that elite status.
The Lions are getting contributions in each facet of the game and are buying into Rod Marinelli’s one-snap-at-a-time mantra that he repeats so often they probably hear it in their sleep.
In his second season under team president Matt Millen, Marinelli has figured out a way to motivate one of the NFL’s best defensive players. Shaun Rogers has simply been unstoppable, blowing up blocking schemes to make plays for himself and teammates.