What a difference a win makes.
Following their 26-12 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, the Detroit Lions find themselves one win away from being right in the thick of the NFC playoff hunt.
One victory. Unfortunately, it must be attained at Lambeau Field against division rival Green Bay. Lately, just about every analogy has employed to describe Detroit's luck -- or lack thereof -- in the Frozen Tundra. The franchise hasn't won in Green Bay since 1991, when Wayne Fontes was head coach. That team also advanced to the NFC Championship.
"It is a tough to play, but it is a great place to play," head coach Steve Mariucci said. "We haven't beaten them there since 1991.
"Again, like it was mentioned earlier, if we want to take a step, this is an important game. If we can get this one, we are right in it."
And he's exactly right.
A win on Sunday would propel the Lions directly into the wild card chase with Dallas, Carolina, Tampa Bay, and either Minnesota or Green Bay -- whomever doesn't clinch the division. This is also assuming either Seattle or St. Louis has secured the other wild card berth.
If. And it isn't exactly a simple or easily obtained stipulation.
While theoretics are a bit premature, and quite honestly not very substantial, a divisional win on the road this late in the season would give the Lions a quantum leap in the 2004 campaign. And if they can win in Green Bay, they can win anywhere. At least that's the belief that would accompany Joey Harrington and Co. through the remainder of the season.
Besides the playoff implications, two consecutive wins would hand a young Detroit team a shot of confidence and momentum, intangibles that can reverberate through the last three games. The Carolina Panthers rode on that principle all the way to the Super Bowl a year ago.
With two consecutive home games on the horizon, and both very winnable -- especially with resurrection of the running game -- the Lions find themselves in a prime position to make headlines. Just a week ago, the thought would have been laughable.
The return of Detroit's running game is the key to determining the team's success. As many defenses tire across the league, rookie running back Kevin Jones is just now getting started, and the Lions' offensive line is finally beginning to gel (it only took them 13 weeks and one training camp). With the possible return of receiver Az-Zahir Hakim, the emergence of veteran Tai Streets, and the returning health of rookie Roy Williams, one must wonder if the Lions are awakening from their long slumber that included a five game losing streak.
It's a long shot, and the Lions are traditionally known for what has become an inevitable letdown. But if we've learned anything in the past few years in the NFL, anything is possible.
Even a December win in Green Bay.
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Scout NFL Network08/24/2016