The Vikings will be watching the NFL like the rest of the world, but there are going to be two games that will be of keen interest to them – Miami at Detroit this afternoon and Chicago at Green Bay tonight.
The Vikings will be cheering for the Bears because, with a Chicago win at Green Bay, the Packers would drop to 5-4 and the Vikings and Bears would be just one game behind at 4-5.
Detroit is another story. At 6-2, the Lions could potentially put themselves in the catbird seat with a home win over Miami, and if the Bears beat the Packers, Detroit would be two games clear of Green Bay with a win in hand and three games ahead of the Vikings with a win over Minnesota (they have yet to play Chicago).
It would seem that, if that happens, it would be a long shot that the Vikings (or the Packers or the Bears) could catch them. But we’ve been down this road before with the Lions. Once the snow starts flying, the Lions go in the tank.
At this same point last year, the Lions had a 6-3 record and both Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler were sidelined. Wins for either the Bears or Packers were no longer guaranteed. They weren’t even probable most weeks. Detroit was on a gravy train with biscuit wheels. All they had to do was go 3-4 over the final seven games – with four of the last six at home – and they win the division.
They went 1-6, including 1-3 at home.
If this was something new for the Lions, it would have been disturbing. It wasn’t seen as disturbing because the Lions have a rich history of collapses in November and December.
In 2012, Detroit was 4-4 at midseason. In their ninth game, they lost 34-24 to the Vikings and didn’t win again, losing eight straight to finish 4-12.
In 2011, the Lions started 5-0 and were the talk of the NFL. They finished 5-6 in their final 11 games and capped it off with a 45-41 loss to the Packers B-team in which Matt Flynn got his name in the record book alongside Bart Starr, Brett Favre and Rodgers. They made the playoffs, but went into New Orleans and were a lamb at slaughter.
In 2010, the team won its final four games. But by the time they got there, they had lost 10 of their first 12 games and the coaching staff was working with different combinations because their season was over. It should serve as an asterisk, not an end of the trend.
If it wasn’t so consistent, it would be sad. In 2009, Detroit went 1-7 in the second half. In 2008, they became the first modern era all-defeated team (as opposed to an undefeated team), becoming the first team to lose all 16 games it played in one season.
In 2007, they started 6-2 and went 1-7 down the stretch. In 2006, they lost seven of their last eight. In 2005, they were 4-5 in mid- November and lost six of their last seven. In 2004, Detroit started off 4-2 and lost eight of their last 10 games.
This isn’t just a trend. It’s what Detroit does. The coaches change. The players change. The results stay the same. Lions fans have once again been given hope that they have a chance to grab lightning in a bottle. But history tells us the bottle is actually a Molotov cocktail and they wait too long to throw it every year.
If the Bears win at Green Bay tonight, the Vikings will be one game behind the Packers and all three of the teams chasing down the Lions will be in a hole. It may seem overly optimistic to think the Vikings can get back in the NFC North race at 4-5, but the Bears can’t seem to win at home and when the Packers lose they lose big.
As for Detroit? You don’t need a Farmer’s Almanac to predict it’s going to snow in Minnesota in November and December. History tells us November and December puts the “L” in Lions.
Stay tuned, Vikings fans. Enjoy the bye week and realize that there is hope. The Vikings have to do their part, but Detroit has a storied history of helping out teams chasing them down. Perhaps Miami will be the first test of that historical trend with every member of the Lions roster who has been there more than one year. For those who have been there for any significant length of time, it’s in the back of their minds if the November snowball starts gaining speed and growing as it rolls downhill.
Vikings need a little losing Lions for help
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