Detroit Lions face a tough road to the NFL playoffs

Many would never have predicted a 6-2 start to the season

By Rob Parker - Sports Columnist
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The Lions had a better than expected first half of the NFL season.

Few, other than over-the-top fans that honestly believe they will win every game, could have predicted that the Lions would go 6-2 in the first eight games.

But first-half success is never a guarantee to the NFL postseason, a place the Lions haven't been since 1999. And while the team is much improved, it won't be easy to get there, especially with the tough schedule the Lions face.

It starts this Sunday on the road against the Bears in Chicago.

It's only fitting since it will probably be the Bears they are ultimately fighting for an NFC spot in the playoffs. Coming into the season, most had the Green Bay Packers and Bears making it to the playoffs again. After all, the two teams, NFC North rivals, played in the NFC championship game last season.

If the Bears were able to beat the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night, just one game would separate the Lions and Bears for second place in the division behind the Packers (8-0).

Hence, it could be a huge game, especially since the Lions already beat the Bears at Ford Field. If the Bears have any shot at making the playoffs, they almost have to beat the Lions in the Windy City.

The Lions also have tough road games in New Orleans, Oakland and Green Bay. So far, the Lions are 4-0 away from Detroit. What are the odds of them going 8-0 away from Ford Field? Not good, especially against these teams. In truth, the Lions were helped with two historic collapses by Minnesota and Dallas on the road.

In the division, there's also the Aaron Rodgers factor. Rodgers is on pace to shatter almost every single-season quarterback record. In eight games, he has 24 TDs and just three interceptions. The Lions played the Packers twice  - Thanksgiving and the last game of the season in Green Bay. The Packers look as if they have history-making in their sights as well.

Going back to last season, Green Bay has won 14 straight games. Some are predicting them to undefeated. The Lions could need a win in the finale game to make the postseason and have to beat a team going for dream season in a place the Lions haven't won in since 1991.

There are a couple of other tough QBs the Lions will face in the second half other than Rodgers. They have the impressive Cam Newton and Philip Rivers to contend with as well in home games.

Many national experts look at the schedule and isn't sure where four more wins are coming from.

The last time the Lions were in position was 2007. After browning in losses for years, they surprised NFL America with a 6-2 record. They also closed out the first half exactly how the 2011 Lions did with a blowout win of the Broncos.

Most thought it was a lock for the Lions to make it to the postseason. The thinking was that 10 wins normally gets you in. To get to that number all the Lions had to do was go 4-4 and they would be in.

They opened the second half with a road game. They lost to hapless Arizona Cardinals and they season became unglued.

They went 1-7 in the second half to finish 7-9 and on the outside looking in. Their only win came against a depleted Kansas City Chiefs at Ford Field.

Granted, that team was winning with smoke and mirrors. Still, there are things you have seen that should make up a bit cautious about making them a shoo-in for anything.

Those two losses at home against the 49ers and Falcons were telling. Both teams were able to run the ball against the Lions. Plus, the better teams were able to put the wraps on Matthew Stafford by attacking the Lions' weak offensive line.

For sure, great drama is setup up for the Lions. Most expected them to be close to a playoff team and make the playoffs next season. If they can win in the face of this upcoming schedule, they will be ahead of schedule and be one of the surprise teams in the league.


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