Analyst All-in on ‘Playoff Caliber’ Lions After Narrow Defeat to Bills

Jamaal Williams

Getty Jamaal Williams celebrates a first down for the Lions in 2022.

The Detroit Lions came within an eyelash of beating a fantastic Buffalo Bills team on Thanksgiving, and while the loss might have stung, fans still woke up with plenty of reasons to feel thankful.

One of the biggest reasons is having a team that could be in the playoff hunt the rest of the way. While the Lions loss to the Bills is temporarily crippling to put them at 4-7, the team could battle back hard to remain in the hunt.

After the game, Bleacher Report took a look at some takeaways about the teams, and writer Brad Gagnon was more than a bit bullish on the Lions. As he said, the moral victories may be getting old, but the Lions still looked playoff-caliber against Buffalo.

“Meanwhile, the Lions might lead the NFL in moral victories. And while that may not satisfy an even more starved fanbase than the one in Buffalo, it’s worth noting that Detroit looked like a playoff-caliber team Thursday against a high-quality opponent,” Gagnon wrote.

It’s true that the Lions’ moral victory train is getting old, and also true that the team doesn’t have quite enough to win games against elite foes. It’s also true, however, that Detroit’s effort on Thursday may have beaten a lot of other teams, especially in the NFC.

It will be interesting to test that theory the next few weeks, and the hope is the Lions don’t lose heart. They’ve been playing much better and way more exciting football as of late.

Lions Could Still Be Within Grasp of Playoffs

As the piece explained, though the Lions lost and while they might be facing an uphill climb to actually make the playoffs, the team could remain in contention for the rest of the season.

Detroit has some winnable games coming up soon, but as pointed out in the piece, they might have to get help from elsewhere while also winning plenty of their own contests in December because they dug themselves a hole early in the season.

“The gap to wild-card sitters Dallas, the Giants and Seattle might be too large with a not-too-easy schedule on the post-Thanksgiving horizon. But head coach Dan Campbell is getting plenty out of a squad that actually ranked above the league median in DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) at Football Outsiders entering Week 12,” he wrote.

If the Lions are to turn things around, it will have to be on the defensive side of the ball. Detroit gave up the game-winning drive with some soft defense. A big reason for this? Injuries to top cornerbacks like Jerry Jacobs and Jeff Okudah. If Detroit can get a bit healthier, they can be sneaky in coming weeks.

Detroit’s Alive Within NFC Playoff Race

In spite of the loss, the Lions still have a chance to be a factor in the NFC playoff race. Detroit doesn’t have as big a margin of error with seven losses as some teams, but their schedule will make them a factor down the stretch.

Aside from what Bleacher Report says, the team’s schedule feels favorable with some home games on the horizon. In Week 13, the Lions have Jacksonville at Ford Field. Then they play the Vikings at home, the Jets on the road, the Panthers at home and the Bears at home. That’s a very ripe stretch for the team considering the number of home games.

Should Detroit bring this level of effort moving forward, they are going to remain in the hunt and still be fighters down the stretch of the season. For that reason, many think the fans should remain pretty thankful for the team right now.

Read More