Week 9 Provided A Glimmer of Optimism For the Lions Moving Forward

Photo credit: Junfu Han (Detroit Free Press via USA TODAY Sports)

The NFL is a week-by-week league. Unlike college football, where Georgia is stampeding through everyone by absurd scores every single game, unpredictability is the reason people clamor towards the NFL. The Detroit Lions have been predictable this year in terms of wins and losses. Coming out of the bye, they sit at 0-8. As they get set to roll out their plan of attack against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 10, they can draw some hope from what happened in Week 9.

The Jacksonville Jaguars have been a laughing stock this year. Their roster has talent, but not enough to compete for anything close to a playoff spot. Urban Meyer, who is in his first year, has had more than his fair share of debacles on and off the field.

Jacksonville welcomed in Josh Allen and the AFC-leading Buffalo Bills on Sunday. The Jaguars were 14.5 point underdogs. In a game that seemed like an afterthought heading into it, Meyer’s team somehow emerged with a 9-6 victory. A defense that had just given up 31 points to Geno Smith held Allen to six. It made no sense, but neither does the NFL at times.

If the Jaguars can beat the Bills, surely the Lions can knock off one of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears, or Minnesota Vikings in the next four weeks. Nobody is demanding a winning streak. Nobody expects a post-bye run into competence. Detroit fans just want a win. That alone would help ease the anxiety and the recurring nightmares of the 0-16 season in 2008.

This week, the Dallas Cowboys were coming off a road win in Minnesota in a game where they started Cooper freaking Rush at quarterback. With Dak Prescott back under center, surely they wouldn’t have any issues with the Denver Broncos. Dallas entered as 10.5 point favorites. This was a cakewalk. Wrong.

Not only did the Broncos beat the Cowboys in Dallas. They demolished them.

Teddy Bridgewater looked like a starting quarterback, rookie running back Javonte Williams was finally cut loose, and Denver dominated. A quarterback that has been below average this year played above average, and a young running back who has been up-and-down in terms of touches got plenty and flourished in that role. Sound familiar to any Lions fans?

Jared Goff isn’t the long-term solution at quarterback. But he’s an average QB who has been below-average this year, similar to Bridgewater. D’Andre Swift has all the makings of a star running back. Yet head coach Dan Campbell and offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn have had some head-scratchers when they have abandoned Swift in game plans throughout the year. The Broncos put it together in one game against what was a 6-1 Cowboys team. Detroit doesn’t have any excuses. They should be able to do the same.

If you’re under the impression that these two were outliers for one week during an 18-week marathon of a season, you’d be wrong.

The Cleveland Browns were underdogs on the road in Cincinnati on Sunday and won outright. The same can be said for the Tennessee Titans and their win over the Los Angeles Rams in SoFi. How about the Atlanta Falcons as a touchdown dog going into the Big Easy and beating the New Orleans Saints?

A key difference is that the Lions are closer to the Jaguars than the other underdogs that won. That alone still shows Detroit can get something done over the next few weeks.

They will be underdogs in all of their next four games, but they can throw that thought out the window. Pending something super strange occurring the rest of the way, the Lions will be underdogs in every remaining contest on their schedule. That doesn’t matter.

Detroit has had two extremely close calls this year, and both were lost on game-winning field goals as time expired. They’ve had inspiring performances, but that means absolutely nothing in the NFL. Before the bye week, the Philadelphia Eagles blew them out at Ford Field. It was by far the worst performance put forward by Campbell’s squad all year. As a result, the bye week came at a perfect time.

Now that the Lions have had a chance to catch their breath, they can turn the page and consider this somewhat of a fresh start. First up will be the Steelers, who will be coming off a short week after playing the Chicago Bears on Monday night. The Lions will have had ample time to prepare for this one, while Pittsburgh will be pushed up against the clock. It may not mean much, but Detroit can take the positives where they find them.

Week 9 featured seven games in which the underdogs won. If Colt McCoy can knock off the San Francisco 49ers and the Jaguars can shut down the Bills’ offense, Goff and the Lions can find a solution soon. They at least better hope that’s the case.

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Photo credit: Junfu Han (Detroit Free Press via USA TODAY Sports)

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