The Parity in the National Football League is unmatched by any other professional sport. NFL teams experience rapid turnarounds from winning to losing and vice versa in small amounts of time. However, two teams have defied the odds, the Detroit Lions and the New England Patriots – who will matchup this Sunday.
On one end of the spectrum you have one of the leagues best teams for the
last several years, the Patriots. Since 2001 the Patriots are 66-25. They have
reached the playoffs ten times in the last 11 seasons with a post-season record
of 13-4, appearing in four Super Bowls and winning three of them. In fact, with
their win last week, the Patriots ensured 2006 would be their tenth non-losing
season in the last 11.
On the other end of the spectrum sits the Lions, who have compiled a 30-68 record since 2001. They only have two playoff appearances since 1996, losing both of them. With a loss last week the Lions secured their sixth consecutive losing season. In team history, dating back to the 1930s, the Lions have only played in 17 playoff games. The Patriots have played in the same amount since 1996. In fact, the Patriots have more playoff wins in the new millennium (10) than the Lions do over the last 70+ years (7).
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick believes his players are the root of the organization's success.
"I think the majority of the credit on the success, any success we have as a team, goes to the players," said Belichick. "They're the ones that go out there and make the plays and prepare to play. I think we have a group of players that work hard, they're unselfish and they try to do what we ask them to do…"
In Lions head coach Rod Marinelli's eyes one Patriots' player stands out – quarterback Tom Brady.
"He (Brady) wins," said Marinelli. "It's the key third down - bam! (He) puts it right in there. The key drive in a game to win the game, he's just a winner at that position and that's what you're looking for, that leadership and that winner and he's really good. There's a reason why they're winning - there's a lot of reasons why they win a lot - but he's one of the reasons."
The Lions have yet to find their franchise quarterback and that may be one of the factors for their struggles. They haven't had the quarterback to lead the "key drives" to win a game. That has been especially evident this season, where the Lions have lost six games by a touchdown or less. Leading to a 2-9 record, a record that Belichick believes could be better.
"Look at the Lions and there are so many games that they're a play or two away from being on the other side of," said Belichick. "So, I think they're a very good football team. They're very competitive, they can run it, they can throw it, they have a very good group of weapons offensively and a very experienced offensive line. Their defensive front's good and their linebackers are fast; they're experienced and (they) have some playmakers in the secondary."
Being a "play or two away" from the victory still equates to defeat. If the Lions fall a play short this weekend it will not ease the pain of another double-digit loss season. The Patriots have the reputation for making big plays in important situations, something that many expect again this weekend. If the Lions don't match the big plays, they will fall "a play or two short" for the 69 time since 2001.
The following players have been listed on the Detroit Lions' injury report: WR Devale Ellis (shoulder), DT Shaun Rogers (knee) and T Rex Tucker (knee) are questionable. WR Corey Bradford (illness) and DT Tyoka Jackson (foot) are probable. Bradford, Jackson, Rogers and Tucker all missed the team portion of practice Wednesday.
G Barry Stokes is expected to replace Tucker at right tackle if he is unable to play.
Marinelli on Shaun Rogers: "He's going to have a chance to meet with the doctors today (Wednesday) and I'm hopefully going to have a better feel for where he's at."
Running back Kevin Jones is expected to return this Sunday after missing last week's game with an ankle injury.