The last time the Detroit Lions were preparing for a Week 17 game at Lambeau Field, they were attempting to avoid the record books.
The Lions were entering the contest with a 0-15 record and were on the cusp of the NFL’s first 0-16 season. The Lions had lost 17 consecutive road games against the Green Bay Packers, so to call the outlook bleak would have been an understatement.
To the surprise of no one, the Lions lost the game – despite a 102-yard, two-touchdown effort from Calvin Johnson – setting a league record for single-season losses.
Four years later, the Lions once again are preparing to end their season in Lambeau Field. This time, they are owners of a 10-5 record and a NFC Wild Card berth.
The players who were part of the winless 2008 season are happy to leave the past where it is.
“I think it’s more winning to get to 11-5, than thinking about being 0-16 a few years ago,” said defensive end Cliff Avril. “A lot of guys weren’t even on the team, so it doesn’t mean much to them (but) it means a lot to go 11-5.”
Moving to 11-5 would snap a 21-game road losing streak against the Packers, it would also secure the No. 5 seed in the NFC. More importantly, it could prove the Lions were able to win in a stadium they may have to potentially visit one more time this season.
“I’ve heard we’ve got some kind of crazy thing going as far as not winning there in a while,” said Avril. “I know I haven’t won there since I’ve been here. It’d definitely be good to get a win there in the regular season to get a little confidence (if we need to) get back in there and do it again.”
Outside of the obvious benefits, including a higher seed in the playoffs and the exorcism of one of the team’s last remaining demons, an 11-win season would be a sparkling accomplishment amidst years of futility.
The last time the Lions were able to reach 11 wins in a season was in 1991, a 12-win campaign that culminated in an appearance in the NFC Championship game and eventual loss to the Super Bowl Champion Washington Redskins.
In addition to all the benefits associated with an 11-win season, one cannot overlook the “cool” factor.
“I’d rather see 11-5 than 10-6 on Madden (video game) anyway,” said wide receiver Nate Burleson. “That looks way better when you’re selecting the Detroit Lions on a video game.”
Recent history has proven that Wild Card teams can challenge for a Super Bowl, with the most recent example coming last year (see the Green Bay Packers). The Lions would do themselves a favor by heading into the playoffs with momentum and confidence.
Regardless of the outcome of this weekend’s contest, the Lions will exit Lambeau Field in a much better position than they did December 28, 2008.
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