In just a couple more hours the Lions 2011 season is going to start down in Tampa. Expectations for the Lions are higher than they’ve been in almost twenty years I’d say. Matthew “If Healthy” Stafford, and the rest of the offense has the football media quivering in anticipation. Ndamukong Suh and the others guys on the defensive front have opposing quarterbacks shaking in “fear.” And the secondary has wide receivers across the league licking their chops in anticipation. Clearly there’s still some work to be done, but the NFL is funny, it doesn’t allow for a team to gradually rebuild. The arc of players’ careers is generally such that you need everyone to peak at the same time in order to truly succeed. Unlike baseball where you can accrue the assets over the course of time football is much more immediate. The crucial thing for the Lions to realize is that they have to strike now.
And of even greater importance they cannot buy into any of their hype. Yes, they ended the season on the longest active winning streak in the league. Yes, they went undefeated in the preseason. But none of that matters. Every year there’s one team that all the experts anoint as the up and coming hot stuff team, and more often than not that team flames out horribly. I can all to easily see the Lions falling into that trap.
But then again maybe not, maybe they make it through the season injury free (or as injury free as any team in the NFL can make it). Maybe Stafford does develop into the quarterback, everyone hopes he’ll be, but the contrarian experts say he’s not. And maybe, just maybe, the Lions will actually be relevant as the season winds down. It’s asking a lot, but there’s hope around the team now, and hopefully that hope won’t get immediately squashed. Either way, I’ll be watching.