The Detroit Lions lack many things. They lack the ability to dominate teams. In all 11 games this season, the Lions have been down in the fourth quarter. In 7 of those, nearly two-thirds, they came back and won. They lack any semblance of a defense. Darius Slay is a pretender masquerading as an elite cornerback. Ziggy Ansah has not been at 100% all season. DeAndre Levy may never be 100% again. He’s the most important piece of the Lions defense, and right now I have serious doubts if he will ever see the field again.
The Lions win games solely because of their offense. And now, even that is struggling. Matthew Stafford and Jim Bob Cooter are too smart offensively to struggle in successive drives. Yet, at times they do. Marvin Jones, one of the Lions most prominent offensive weapons, disappears for long stretches. Golden Tate can be double teamed during those stretches. Eric Ebron has not been healthy, and the Lions have no run game to speak of.
Yet, there they stand. Third in the NFC, only behind the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys. They are even behind the Giants (8-3). I am a Lions fan. I am proud, despite how it may seem from my opening two paragraphs, to be a Lions fan. Yet I know this. We are not a good team. Yet, in today’s NFL, we are a playoff team.
That’s a problem. The NFL has always been known for quality. Not just on a specific few teams, but parity league-wide. All teams are supposed to be created equal. Yet, it seems like we have entered an era where there are only elites and horrible teams. The middle class isn’t disappearing. It’s gone. There are no middling teams. You’re either good, or you aren’t. And this season, at least three teams that aren’t will be sent to the playoffs: the Detroit Lions, whoever wins the AFC South, and Washington. There are teams like Denver who struggle to make the playoffs at 7-4, yet there are the Houston Texans, who will barely finish .500, making the playoffs.
The NFL needs to start rewarding good teams. The playoff system is broken. Giving division winners an open ticket to the playoffs no longer works. Instead, options must be considered to fix the system. Options like going with the best six teams regardless of division, and seeding them according to their record (Lions drop to 4th seed, Giants are given the second seed). This way also eliminates division winners barely scraping by in favor of the team like the Denver Broncos, still winning the vast majority of their games.
Quality needs to be awarded, but not only this. Quality must be ensured. The NFL has to figure out a way to bring back the quality of teams. There are no perfect teams in the league anymore. Every team is beatable. Perhaps this is the effect of parity. Maybe the NFL needs to stop allowing so many players to get injured. But something needs to be done. There are barely any good teams in the NFL. The Patriots are the best team in the AFC, and they lack defense. The Cowboys don’t have a defense either. The Broncos, on the other hand, are entirely defense. So are the Minnesota Vikings.
Whether it’s folding up shop on less successful, less historic teams, or making the draft somehow better, teams need to get more quality. The Lions offense with the Vikings defense needs to be something we see not only in one team, but in multiple. We’ve seen it before in this league. It is capable of producing great teams.
The Lions are a broken team. It is ridiculous that a team that has had every game decided by less than 7 points is 7-4. It is even more ridiculous that that team has been behind in every fourth quarter. It is insane that that is a playoff team. It is even more insane that I think, seriously think, the Lions could win the Super Bowl this year. Any other year and this team is 4-7. Far from making the playoffs and thinking about the Super Bowl, we’re looking into who the best option is in the draft. But now, we’re getting an unnecessarily high draft pick.
The fact that all these things are true is a sign that the NFL is a broken league. It needs to fix itself.