Are The Lions Relevant?

Not even a year ago, people were discussing whether the Lions and Cowboys deserve to have a home game every Thanksgiving. It was so depressing. The Lions fans deserve one exciting game every year, but should it really be a humiliation on national television? For so long, this team has been so bad, and other clubs were clamoring for a Turkey Day home game.

But the more important question this Thanksgiving is not whether the Lions deserve to keep their special Thursday Night game, but whether, in fact, they are back to relevancy.

It took ten years of drafting at the top of the draft, but the Lions have finally amassed enough talent to launch themselves towards the top of the NFC. Led by former number one pick Matthew Stafford and number two picks Ndamukong Suh and Calvin Johnson, the Lions have one of the highest powered offenses–fourth best to be exact–and one of the most ferocious defenses around. Other former number one picks, Jahvid Best and Brandon Pettigrew, are in the midst of career years as well.

Cool new unis, a Cinderalla-like feeling, what’s not to like about this team? They even got off to the best start since 1956, going 5-0 and winning by an average of 14 points before falling to the 49ers and Falcons by 13 combined points. Sure, they took a momentary Bills-ian dive, but not since the days of Barry Sanders have teams actually thought twice about visiting Ford Field.

Most importantly, in my opinion, this team finally has an identity. They’re a rough-and-tumble, Midwestern team not afraid to rip your head off. Well, at least Ndamukong Suh isn’t afraid to tear your head off.

Whether or not they beat out the Giants, Bears, Falcons, and others for the two Wild Card spots, this season is the best any Lions fan could ever ask for. As long as Stafford and Best are leading the charge offensively, they’ll always have to deal with recurring injuries, but Detroit is well past the days of Joey Harrington, Charles Rogers, and Mike Williams. They’ve turned the page to the newest, most successful chapter in recent memory. Hey, take off those brown paper bags, it’s okay to laugh at your Midwestern brethren stuck in reverse, the Indianapolis “Suck for Luck” Colts.

Here are my Week 12 NFL picks; home teams are in CAPS.

LIONS (+6.5) over Packers
I can’t buy the Packers going 19-0 for one reason: the defense. When the Patriots nearly ran the table, they had the the fourth best defense–both by yardage and scoring–but the porous Packers’ D is the third worst in the league. Only the Bucs and Pats are worse. Sooner or later, it’ll catch up to then, and I think the high-powered Lions offense can do the trick. That, or at least keep it close.

COWBOYS (-6.5) over Dolphins
All the Dolphins winning does is ruin their quarterback future and help my lines against them in future weeks.

RAVENS (-3.5) over Niners
What do the Niners need to do to be favored against  a winning team? Oh, get a real quarterback, right.

FALCONS (-9.5) over Vikings
As low as I am on the Falcons right now, I’m not going with a team quarterbacked by Christian Ponder and led in rushing by Toby Gerhart. That’s just not about to happen. I’m setting the over/under at 11.5 for the number of times announcers call this team “old-school” because of Gerhart and Ponder, AKA the grumpy old man’s fantasy.

JETS (-8.5) over Bills
Being a Bills fan must really be torture. After starting with a promising 5-2 record including wins over the Patriots and Eagles, the Bills pull a Bills and lose three straight games. Not only that, but star back Fred Jackson landed on IR, and Harvard Grad Ryan Fitzpatrick is due another $59 million. In other news, they lost to the Jets by 16 just 3 weeks ago.

Buccaneers (+3.5) over TITANS
This is my upset pick of the week. In fact, I’ll even take the Buccos -3.5. I’ll take Freeman over Hasselbeck, Blount over Johnson (at the moment), Mike Williams over Nate Washington, and the Bucs D over the Titans D. Simple pick to me.

Panthers (-3.5) over COLTS
No matter how this season ends for Cam Newton, it’s a brilliant success. He’s successfully turned around the future of this organization, and at the very least, he’s made every game fun. And if he loses this game, he’ll bring the Panthers one game closer to auctioning off Andrew Luck for about two whole drafts and another number one pick.

Cardinals (+3.5) over RAMS
Again, if two non-Niners NFC West teams play, just take the points. They’re just all really, really bad.

BENGALS (-7.5) over Browns
At first I thought, “Wow, this is just too many points to give up for the Bengals.” Then, my next thought was, “Wow, can I really expect the Browns offense to keep up? This is Chris Ogbannaya we’re talking about, after all.” Yeah, I’m taking the Bengals.

Texans (-3.5) over JAGUARS
Man, I’m excited to watch Matt Leinart. Maybe it’s just because I like to see teams implode time to time. Or maybe it’s just because I never really got to see Leinart in Arizona. Well, either way, Blaine Gabbert just is not good. I’m glad we can settle on that.

Redskins (+4.5) over SEAHAWKS
As much as I’ve ripped on the Redskins this year, the Seahawks are an absolute joke. The fact that anyone would pursue Tarvaris Jackson to be a legitimate starting option blows me away. At least Mike Shanahan has three quality linebackers and is somehow getting points.

Bears (+4.5) over RAIDERS
People keep referring to Caleb Hanie as an “unproven” quarterback. Well silly me, but I thought he looked pretty good in the NFC Championship Game. Going to the Black Hole in Oakland isn’t the nicest place to make your first NFL start, but Carson Palmer is on the nicer end of the scale for opposing quarterbacks.

What does Norv Turner need to do get fired? Get in a Jerry Sandu--oh wait that's probably crossing the line.

Broncos (+6.5) over CHARGERS
The Chargers have always been a secret favorite team of mine. They’ve got cool uniforms, cool players, and a great city. But this year, they’re just bad. At first I denied it. There’s no way a team with Phillip Rivers, Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates could be bad! Then I was angry. How can this be happening to me, Ben Weinrib, extraordinaire? Then I bargained with myself. Man, I’d pay serious cash to have Norv Turner fired and fix this whole problem. Then I went through a slight depression. What’s the point of picking games if the Chargers keep blowing games? Then finally I’ve accepted it. Tim Tebow is the best quarterback in the AFC West. Wait, what?

Patriots (-4.5) over EAGLES
I like Vince Young, but you’d have to give me ten points to take him over the Patriots. Their D may be shaky, but they find a way to tighten up in the red zone. And that happens to be a major issue for the Eagles, who rank 26th in red zone offense. Oh, and did I mention that Vince Young is quarterbacking? The Patriots it is!

Steelers (-10.5) over CHIEFS
Now that we’ve familiarized ourselves with Tyler Palko, can we agree that this line shouldn’t be less that 2 touchdowns? Because the Lance in my Pants Lock o’ the Week is against the Chiefs for the second week in a row.

SAINTS (-6.5) over Giants
Eli Manning is so funny down the stretch. He puts up solid numbers the whole game, and then in the last few minutes just craps the bed. But this game shouldn’t even get to a point for the bed to get crapped upon.

Last Week: 7-7

Season: 77-83

Lance in my Pants Lock o’ the Week: 8-3

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