It’s been a pretty great season so far for the Detroit Lions. Sure, they’ve lost their last two games and their best (no pun intended) running back’s career looks like it could be regrettably short. But that’s nothing compared to the kind of pain the Lions usually endure, and after starting out 5-0 they had the nation’s attention for a little while — until Jim Harbaugh came in and swatted Jim Schwartz away like a hot-tempered mosquito.
The Lions may fade away, or perhaps they’ll figure out how to win consistently in 2011 without a running game or the ability to consistently stop the run. Regardless, at the very least it’s looking increasingly likely that when the regular season concludes, the franchise will share the infamy that comes with an 0-16 season with at least one other team.
It’s pretty early in the season to feel confident in this prediction … unless you’ve seen the St. Louis Rams, Indianapolis Colts or Miami Dolphins play. Considering the prize they’re “playing” for, motivation to avoid the same embarrassment felt by the 2008 Detroit Lions is lacking, at least for the owners and personnel men looking for a quick fix.
Looking forward, here are each team’s best chances at breaking through and getting their first (only?) victory:
Rams: they have the advantage of playing in the NFC West, with home games vs. the Seahawks (10/20) and Cardinals (10/27); their last game of the season is in St. Louis against the Niners, if you were wondering.
Colts: consecutive home games against the Jaguars (11/13) and the Panthers (11/27) with a bye week in between.
Dolphins: at home vs. the Redskins (11/13); it kind of looks like the only way the Dolphins break through with a win is if they fire Tony Sparano and everyone gets the inevitable jolt of motivation that comes with trying to impress the new guy.
Onto the Week 8 picks, with odds courtesy of 5dimes.com from around noon today (10/28/11):
Jaguars @ Texans (-11)
Looks like Houston figured things out without Andre Johnson last week, with a 41-7 win over the Titans I didn’t see coming.
Cardinals @ Ravens (-14)
Joe Flacco and Baltimore’s offense were (rightly) crushed all week; now they get to prove themselves against a defense that makes proving things rather easy.
Saints (-15) @ Rams
It’s pretty clear this guy drew up the midseason portion of New Orleans’ schedule.
Dolphins @ Giants (-11)
The best part about the 2011 Dolphins is their ineptitude means we might finally be free from Reggie Bush commercials in 2012.
Colts @ Titans (-10)
Another fantastic matchup. Yikes. If Chris Johnson can’t get anything going against a team that’s already thrown in the towel like this, fantasy owners are going to petition for him to lose that “can’t drop” star on Yahoo.
Vikings @ Panthers (-3)
If there’s any Sunday to west coast fans to sleep in and completely disregard the morning games, it’s October 30, 2011. When Vikes/Panteras is the best game of the morning, it’s a signal to pull your alarm clock’s plug out of the wall when you crash on Saturday night.
Redskins @ Bills (-7)
The Bills come in on a post-bye high that led them to decide giving a huge contract extension to Ryan Fitzpatrick ($24 million guaranteed) was a good idea. The Redskins come in after two straight losses and season-ending injuries to Chris Cooley, Tim Hightower and Santana Moss. Party at Fitz’s house after the game!
Lions (-3) @ Broncos
Whether it’s Matthew Stafford or Shaun Hill, the Lions are going to put a halt to all this Tim Tebow craziness … for a week, anyway. Pretty sad that this game is one of the better matchups this week. The NFL truly is bulletproof.
Patriots (-2.5) @ Steelers
Wait, this game doesn’t belong. By far the highest over/under of the week (52.5 points — Giants/Eagles is second at 49), but it seems like the under’s a smarter play here. Two great passing offenses, sure, but the Steelers have the best pass defense in the league (5.8 avg per attempt) and the Pats looked much improved defensively against Dallas in their last game. The Steelers haven’t faced a passing offense like New England’s, though.
Bengals (-1.5) @ Seahawks
Sunday’s kick-a-ginger day in Seattle, but the Seahawks won’t connect. Seattle’s got the loudest stadium in the league, but if the 4-2 Bengals don’t win this one they KNOW they look fraudulent. Maybe they are, but the Seahawks’ offense is pretty limited without a healthy Marshawn Lynch.
Cowboys @ Eagles (-3)
The two most talented teams in the NFC East in an almost-but-not-quite must-win situation for both teams. (Lots of hyphens in the previous sentence. Probably too many, in retrospect). The Eagles need this one a little more, especially since they haven’t won a home game yet … but DeMarco Murray looks like a beast and we all know about the Eagles’ run defense (cough … Frank Gore … cough … Kendall Hunter).
Chargers (-3.5) @ Chiefs
Tough to go against Kansas City after how they looked against the Raiders. Sometimes I get the feeling the only reason why the Chargers are considered so talented is because Antonio Gates is on the team. Take him away and what’s so special?
Browns @ 49ers (-9.5)
The Niners are almost double-digit favorites for the first time since Ira Miller covered the team and SFGate’s 49ers section didn’t crash my computer (I’m not joking, go there at your own risk). Can the Niners move on from winning close games they shouldn’t to flattening teams they should? Since their last home game was a 48-3 win against a team presumably a bit better than Cleveland, the odds seem pretty good.
However, this game is as much a coaching challenge as anything else. Coming off a bye week, with tons of positive press (the likes of which most of the team has never experienced since entering the league), it’s easy to have a letdown against a team as phenomenally boring as the shorthanded Cleveland Browns. So in effect betting against the 49ers is like betting against Harbaugh. No thanks.
Last week: 7-6