The Detroit Lions have completed eight of 16 regular season games with a mediocre 4-4 record.
Currently residing in the basement of the NFC North with a 0-2 divisional record, the season’s first half would not be considered successful for the Lions.
Ultimately, that may be true but the situation they face heading into the back end of their season may not be all so grim.
Here’s a look at four reasons why the Lions will make the playoffs despite the current obstacles that they face.
1. A Crowded and Cannibalizing NFC
If the playoffs were to start today, the NFC Wildcard teams would be the Green Bay Packers (6-3) and the Seattle Seahawks (5-4).
The Minnesota Vikings (5-4) are the first team that fall outside of the NFC playoff picture, with the Lions and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-4) promptly behind.
The Lions currently have an edge over the Buccaneers due to a better conference record. And with their week 8 victory, the Lions also hold a tiebreaker over the Seahawks and have an opportunity to leapfrog both Seattle and Minnesota with a win this weekend coupled with a Seattle loss.
Entering the year it appeared as if 10-6 would be the prerequisite record for a playoff berth in the NFC but, as teams continue to beat each other, 9-7 should be enough.
The Lions are in the thick of the playoff race within this competitive conference, with full control over their own destiny.
2. Home Field Advantage
The Lions schedule down the stretch is not to be confused with an easy one.
The team will play seven of eight games against opponents that currently own winning records, starting this week at Minnesota.
With that said, there is one huge advantage within the schedule for the Lions. After this week’s contest, they play three consecutive home games with five of the last seven on home turf.
If the Lions can protect their home field, they should have no problem securing a playoff spot.
3. Pressure Performers
If the Lions have demonstrated anything this season it is the fact that they can perform when faced with pressure and adversity.
During the first eight games of 2012, the Lions averaged roughly 11 points during the game’s first three quarters, a number they exceed in the final quarter alone (12).
The Lions fourth-quarter scoring is tops in the league and is a testament to the team’s ability to perform when backed against a wall.
The final two games – wins against the Seahawks and Jacksonville Jaguars – are further evidence as both contests were crucial in keeping the team in playoff contention. The Lions prevailed.
As the playoff picture begins to take more form, the value of each game will increase and the Lions have shown an ability to respond to pressure.
The last reason why the team will make it to the post season is also the most fundamental property when assessing playoff chances: the quality of the club.
Despite the on-the-field shortcomings that have presented themselves early in the season, the Lions are a competitive team capable of competing with any opponent. Besides the talented duo of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, even the backfield duo of Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell has been encouraging.
Currently ranked No. 2 in offense and No. 7 in defense, the Lions are one of only two teams in the National Football League ranked in the top seven on both sides of the ball.
The opposition is altering its game plans on both sides of the ball to adjust to the talent in Detroit. From playing deep Cover-Two on defense to getting rid of the ball quickly on offense, teams are acknowledging the skills on the Lions roster and attempt to circumvent them.
The biggest detractor to the Lions success this season has been self-inflicted wounds through correctable errors.
There isn’t a team on the schedule –- despite contests against the undefeated Atlanta Falcons, one-loss Houston Texans, the Packers (twice) and Bears –- that a talented Detroit roster cannot compete with.