The Lions are on the brink of an 0-3 start with the Patriots coming to town for a primetime showdown. Justin Rogers and John Niyo of The Detroit News preview the game. Justin Rogers, The Detroit News
Allen Park — It’s what few expected and no one in the organization wanted, but three weeks into the 2018 season and the Detroit Lions are already on the brink of a wasted campaign.
With perennial Super Bowl contender New England on deck, the Lions face the realistic, or maybe it's more appropriate to say likely, possibility of an 0-3 start. The Patriots are favored by seven and have a history of demolishing their next opponent against a loss.
And while teams that lose their first two games face a steep uphill climb to carve a path into the postseason -- right around 11 percent of those teams accomplish the feat -- it’s nearly impossible to do it when you start the year three games in the hole.
Since 1978, when the league expanded to a 16-game schedule, only five teams have clawed their way into the postseason after starting 0-3.
Five teams. Out of 183. A measly 2.7 percent.
There's no other way to look at this week for the Lions other than must-win.
“(I’m) ready to do everything I can to get a win,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “I think that’s everybody’s mindset on this team. Our head coach, every coach that’s coming up with game plans, all the players, we’re fighting out there. We’re fighting tooth and nail to try to get one, and it starts during the week in practice. (We) have to have good days of practice, go out there and execute and then carry it over to Sunday. That’s where my head’s at, and I think everybody on our team is right there with me.”
Of course, it’s hard to have increased urgency when you play so few games. This isn’t baseball, where you have 161 more opportunities to make up for a bad night.
“The good thing about the NFL is that there’s only 16, that’s all you got,” coach Matt Patricia said. “Every one is important, every single game is important and each week you have to start over and attack that game in particular. So, that’s kind of just the way we approach it.”
Stunning the Patriots, and moving to 1-2 on the year, wouldn’t guarantee anything. But, at the very least, it would offer a temporary reprieve from the negative story lines that have plagued the franchise to start the year.
And while it might seem obvious, it also improves the long-term outlook of the season. Of the 420 teams that have started the year 1-2 in the 16-game-schedule era, 22.6 percent made it to the playoffs. Four from that group, most recently the 2007 New York Giants, managed to win the Super Bowl.
At 0-3, it wouldn’t be all she wrote, but not far from it. But if it does reach that point, the Lions will be able to draw inspiration from within the organization’s own history books.
The 1995 Lions were one of the five teams to make the playoffs after losing the first three games. After a pair of three-point defeats in those early weeks, that team split its next six contests before catching fire and closing on a seven-game winning streak.
Patriots at Lions
Kickoff: 8:20 Sunday, Ford Field, Detroit
Records: Patriots 1-1, Lions 0-2
Line: Patriots by 7