After the Lions’ second consecutive loss, the season all comes down to Detroit’s Week 17 match up with the Green Bay Packers. The game was flexed into prime time on NBC’s Sunday Night Football and will determine the winner of the NFC North.
At this point, we’re all well aware that a Lions win means hosting a playoff game for the first time in 20 some years. We’re all likely also aware that a loss means the Lions’ only hopes of a playoff spot will come down to whether or not Washington can beat New York earlier that same day. So before we get all crazy, I wanted to go over a few do’s and don’ts for Sunday night.
Do: Brace yourself for an epic letdown.
The Lions haven’t won the division since I was in like third grade (1993) and I’m straight up old now (32, that’s 23 years ago). The Packers have won the NFC North (only a thing since 2002) eight times including four of the past five times. While the Lions have their best chance in a long time to flip it on its head, history still says prepare for failure.
Don’t: Blame the officiating. Seriously. Don’t do it.
Every time a game doesn’t go the Lions’ way, fans start screaming at the officials. Apparently the Lions are the only team in the NFL that gets hosed by bad calls every single time while simultaneously never benefiting from them ever.
Sometimes the refs make mistakes. I’ve even seen them do it more than once in a game. But nobody’s out there running some grand conspiracy to keep the Lions from winning games. There are 53 guys that control that and they all wear Honolulu blue.
If you have a problem with a call or two, keep it to yourself. It’s a bad look. It looks whiny and it looks like something you hear from a fan base that has no experience watching big, important games. While this is 100% accurate for Lions fans, we can still live by the old adage: “Act like you’ve been there before.”
Do: Enjoy the Lions playing competitive Week 17 football.
The Lions have only rarely played meaningful football down the stretch. That tends to happen when you only make the playoffs once a decade. A playoff berth this year would be the Lions’ third in five seasons though, so perhaps the tide is beginning to turn on that front.
Don’t: Call for Caldwell’s head.
Head Coach Jim Caldwell has already done enough this year to earn an extension. He is the best coach the Lions have had since the 1970’s based on win percentage. He may not be perfect but cut the guy a little slack. Even if we wanted to entertain the thought, there aren’t going to be many, if any, better head coach options than Jim Caldwell anyway. Since we’ve already brought up one old adage, here’s another that pertains to Caldwell: “The grass is always greener in someone else’s yard.”
Do: Root your heart out for the home team.
While historically I think we all know what should be expected next Sunday, Matthew Stafford will nonetheless have a shot to pull the Lions out from under the Packers’ shoe. 2016 may have been a terrible year for celebrities and musicians, but it has proven to be fairly forgiving to some long-mired franchises. The Cubs won the World Series. The Cavs won the NBA Finals. Cleveland avoided the second ever 0-16 season. Brazil won gold at home in the Olympics. Maybe that 2016 sports magic will carry over one extra day just for Lions fans.
Whatever happens Sunday night (*extremely Al Michaels voice* “ooohhhhhhh….Sunday Niiiiiiiight”), enjoy the game and please, PLEASE, leave the officiating and finger pointing out of it. There are so many more things to discuss about this match up. The Lions are playing for the division! It’s Aaron Rodgers vs. Matthew Stafford! We might actually be healthy by then! The Packers’ defense is bad!