With quarterback Shaun Hill at the helm, the Lions could still finish with five or six wins. (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)
Allen Park -- In a game of expectations, this one's a mismatch.
The Lions are 2-7, yet haven't failed as miserably as the Cowboys have in arriving at that same mark.
Sadly, that has become the Lions' unofficial slogan: "Well, what'd you expect?"
Soon, Lions fans will have a better argument, if not a better record.
But right now, with the franchise quarterback sidelined and the front office still piecing together a legitimate defense — they've got some personnel work to do in other areas, too — it's still a valid excuse.
A maddening one, I realize. And there's no excusing all the penalties and mental mistakes — and, yes, some coaching blunders — that have cost the Lions a couple victories, including last week's stinker against the Bills.
But really now, who's more upset about this season: the Lions' long-suffering supporters or the spoiled devotees of America's Team?
Most of us pegged the Lions as a five- or six-win team in 2010, and as crazy as it might sound, provided Shaun Hill stays healthy, I still think they will be at season's end.
But the Cowboys probably will be, too, and if so, the defending NFC East champs will have proven just about everyone wrong, owner Jerry Jones included.
Which brings us back to the expectations. And if you think that sounds like backtracking after the loss to the Bills or an awkward way of trying to find the silver lining in another losing season in Detroit, well, you're probably right.
But so is Lions coach Jim Schwartz when he starts talking honestly about the task at hand, trying to transform a franchise that was "dead in the grave" two years ago — those were Schwartz's words this week — and turn it into a winner.
"I understand that fans don't have patience," said Schwartz, who has four wins his first 25 games as a coach. "When I'm a fan of a team, I don't have patience, either. But part of my responsibility here is to make sure that we're sticking with the plan and make sure that we're not going to overreact every step along the way."
Lions better, but …
That's the fan's job. The media's, too. Especially when it comes to the Lions and their owner, who no longer get the benefit of the doubt in this town.
But we knew this wasn't going to be easy, even if it doesn't look all that difficult in some other NFL cities.
And it wasn't going to happen overnight, though I know Lions fans have lost enough sleep waiting for a tomorrow that never comes.
Still, objectively, yes, they're better this year. They're competitive, week in and week out.
Considering where this all began 22 months ago, that's a start. And subjectively, that's enough reason — for me, at least — to acknowledge things aren't as bad as they might seem.
In the meantime, honestly, would you rather hear Nate Burleson talking about trying to exorcise the demons of the past — including that 25-game road losing streak — or hear our old friend Roy Williams (at nearly twice Burleson's salary) talking about not getting enough balls thrown his way?
I mean, it's interesting to hear some of the same-old-Lions talk coming from the Cowboys these days, isn't it? Especially from some of the same-old Lions.
"It's the exact same thing," Williams said on a conference call with the Detroit media. "I sit here and say, 'This is how we used to lose in Detroit,' you know?
"You'd be in the games and then all of a sudden, something happens and you end up losing the ballgame. But guys are playing hard and we're just trying to turn this thing around."
Some things don't change
"This thing" is a season that began with the Cowboys touted as a Super Bowl contender and reached a breaking point last week with their coach, Wade Phillips, getting fired.
A victory for interim coach Jason Garrett over the Giants last week helped quiet some of the outrage.
But as Williams is quick to point out, "I mean, we won the game. We won … a … game. It's not like we're headed to the Super Bowl this week. We won a game."
And on Sunday, they'll play another one.
Will it be another road loss for the Lions, who haven't won away from home since 2007?
Or will it be another home loss for the Cowboys, who haven't won on their own turf since last December?
Odds are it'll be the former, but the question afterward will be the same, regardless: What'd you expect?
Lions at Cowboys
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Records: Detroit 2-7, Dallas 2-7
Series: Dallas leads 11-9 (Dallas 28-27 in 2007)
Line: Dallas by 61/2