Detroit Lions playing for their playoff lives against Packers at Lambeau

Carson Wentz and Jared Goff are trolling Lions fans. Not intentionally, of course. But by way of what their teams — the Eagles and the Rams — are becoming.

How else can you explain the 51 points both second-year quarterbacks put up Sunday?

Oh, it’s not be personal. And it may be good for the NFL — it could use a diversion as the commissioner’s office tries to find a way to keep Red States and Blue States happy.

But … 51 points?

That’s almost a month’s production from the Lions.

How is it fair that a couple of franchises bad enough to get the top-two picks in the draft two years ago suddenly are the darlings of the NFC? And why does former Lions coach, Jim Schwartz, get to go along for the ride?

Schwartz, the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, is riding shotgun on an 8-1 team. You’re riding in the back of a shrinking bandwagon, praying that your quarterback, Matthew Stafford, can outduel the Packers’ back-up, Brett Hundley, tonight in Green Bay.

So this is what it’s come to: an early November game at Lambeau Field to keep the season alive. Lose to the Packers, and the Lions fall to 3-5 and must win six of their final eight games for a shot at the playoffs. And even then 9-7 might not be enough.

Matthew Stafford runs a play during the first half against the Carolina Panthers at Ford Field, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017. Blocking for the Lions are T.J. Lang (76) and Nick Bellore (43). (Photo: Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press)

Mathematically, it’s possible. Then again, most things are.

Still, if they lose to the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers, what’s left? Counseling? Chamomile tea? Prayer cards? Electric shock therapy?  

That you are even here, on this precipice, unsure of whether to tune in tonight, seems particularly cruel, even by Lions’ standards.

A month ago you thought this team might have something. Heck, most of us did.

They looked different. They sounded different. They made plays to win games. Except against the Falcons, but you told yourself the near-miss against the Super Bowl runner-up was a sign of changing times in Allen Park.

Until three straight losses. An inability to score touchdowns. A pass rush getting worse by the week. A bye week that gave Stafford extra time to heal that ankle, which gave him the chance to buy extra time in the pocket, which led to his best passing effort of the year last Sunday against Pittsburgh.

Which made it all the more torturous for you to watch him move up and down the field and then fail to get into the end zone. Maybe that was the sign of end times. Or maybe it wasn’t.

Maybe tonight will be. Because now it’s the Packers who’ve had a bye week, and it’s the Packers who have a quarterback who was in desperate need of more practice, and more film study, and more time to re-orient himself into a seat he surely thought he’d never have.

At least not now.

Wouldn’t it be just like the Lions to help turn Hundley into the next local hero? Can’t you see the headline now?

“Rodgers’ back-up Hundley sets record as Packers destroy Lions.”

Of course you can. You’re a Lions fan.

 (Photo: The Associated Press)

Besides, you’ve already seen it. After Matt Flynn threw six touchdown passes as Rodgers watched from the sideline in a game back in 2012.

You remember that game, right? The Packers benched Rodgers … on purpose. To save him for the playoffs. How thoughtful.

The good news: the Lions made the playoffs that season. So maybe playing the Packers without their megastar is a good sign. If you believe in such things. Though how you’d believe anything at this point I don’t know.

A month ago, this looked like a sure-fire playoff team. Maybe even a team ready to win a game once it got there.

[Lions safety Charles Washington plays with heavy heart for grandparents]

But, then … well, c’mon. You know the story. And you know what’s at stake against the Packers. Beat them, as the Lions should, and the schedule sets up for a late-season run.

Lose to them?

You know how that feels, too.

Last week, in the run-up to the Monday night game, Lions coach Jim Caldwell was asked about the losing culture and whether the negativity seeps into the locker room.

 “We’re not concerned about anything outside of our locker room,” he said. “We don’t need external motivation or anything of that nature.”

In other words, he knows how this all feels, as well. It’s pervasive, and part of how we all think about the NFL in southeastern Michigan.

And why the performances of a couple of second-year quarterbacks can feel so dispiriting around here. As in: when will that ever be us?

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© 2017 Detroit Free Press


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