1:00 PM ET, October 12, 2008
Mall of America Field, Minneapolis, MN
Before considering that lofty goal, they probably should focus on ending one of the NFL's longest active road losing streaks against an opponent.
On Sunday, the woeful Lions will try to snap a 10-game slide at the Metrodome as they meet the Minnesota Vikings, who will try to build off their biggest win of 2008.
Poor play and front-office turmoil this season have established the Lions as perhaps one of the worst teams in recent memory.
Since 2001, Detroit was an NFL-worst 31-84 under general manager Matt Millen before finally firing him on Sept. 24. That change, though, failed to pay immediate dividends on the field. After a 34-7 loss to Chicago last week, the Lions (0-4) remain the only team without a point in the first quarter or a defensive interception at any point of a game.
One day after the latest defeat, head coach Rod Marinelli brushed aside a reporter's suggestions of quitting.
"Just you saying that to me, I would take that as a personal insult," said Marinelli, now 10-26.
Williams' proclamation also seems unrealistic considering the Lions have fallen behind by a combined score of 94-3 to start their games this year, and they've lost by a combined 81 points, breaking their record for worst point differential through four games
Despite those numbers, he's surprisingly optimistic.
"We still have a realistic chance to make the playoffs, believe it or not," Williams said. "We can still be 12-4, 10-6 or 11-5. It happened before. It happened with the '92 Chargers. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen."
Sixteen years ago, San Diego lost its first four games before winning 11 of its final 12 to reach the postseason. The Chargers eventually were ousted by Miami in an AFC divisional playoff game.
Meanwhile, the Lions this year have the fifth-worst offense in the NFL, averaging 16.5 points and 263.0 yards per game. They also have the second-worst rushing offense as rookie Kevin Smith and former Bengal Rudi Johnson have combined for 72.3 yards.
The Lions also could be without starting quarterback Jon Kitna, who had an MRI exam on his injured back and could miss this game. Marinelli said he doesn't know yet whether Kitna will be available, putting his streak of 36 consecutive starts in jeopardy.
Detroit's 10-game road skid against the Vikings is the fifth-longest active streak of its kind. In fact, the Lions own the two longest road losing streaks against one opponent, having dropped 18 in a row in Washington dating back to 1939, and 16 straight in Green Bay since 1992.
The Vikings (2-3) return to Minnesota after overcoming two second-half punt returns for touchdowns by New Orleans' Reggie Bush in a 30-27 victory over the Saints on Monday night.
"It's good to beat a good team on the road to get the win and bounce back like that. There's plenty of adversity. They made some fantastic plays, obviously, but to be able to have that resolve and win it in the end? That's huge. Hopefully we'll continue to do that," center Matt Birk said.
The win allowed the Vikings to move into a second-place tie with Green Bay in the NFC North. Following this contest, Minnesota will face the division-leading Bears on Oct. 19 before heading into its bye week.
Gus Frerotte, starting his third game last week after taking over at quarterback for Tarvaris Jackson, was 19-of-36 for 222 yards with one touchdown, and Antoine Winfield returned a blocked field goal attempt 59 yards for a score.
Reigning offensive rookie of the year Adrian Peterson, though, had his worst game as a starter, rushing for only 32 yards on 21 carries. Still, he's third in the league with 452 rushing yards this season, and had 116 yards with two touchdowns Dec. 2 in the Vikings' 42-10 home victory over the Lions.
Minnesota's defense has been one of the highlights of its decade-long domination of Detroit at the Metrodome. The Vikings have allowed 19 points or fewer while averaging four sacks the last five times the teams have met there.
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As the Lions inch closer and closer to being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, they become increasingly dangerous. A team that has nothing to lose tends to play with more abandon. By the same token the Vikings are starting to feel an increasing amount of urgency because they can't afford to fall behind another game to the division-leading Bears. The good news is that no one seems to be running away with the NFC North and either team could get back in the race with a hot streak. There is a lot of history in this rivalry and the records will mean little to the players in this matchup.
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|Avg Points Allowed||31.8||19.8|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||DET|
|Rush Yds Allowed||DET|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Minnesota leads 14-2|
|Dec 2, 2007||DET 10, @MIN 42|
|Sep 16, 2007||DET 20, MIN 17|
|Dec 10, 2006||DET 20, MIN 30|
|Oct 8, 2006||DET 17, @MIN 26|
|Dec 4, 2005||DET 16, MIN 21|
|Nov 6, 2005||DET 14, @MIN 27|
|Dec 19, 2004||DET 27, MIN 28|
|Nov 21, 2004||DET 19, @MIN 22|
|Nov 23, 2003||DET 14, @MIN 24|
|Sep 21, 2003||DET 13, MIN 23|
|Dec 29, 2002||DET 36, MIN 38|
|Oct 13, 2002||DET 24, @MIN 31|
|Dec 16, 2001||DET 27, MIN 24|
|Oct 14, 2001||DET 26, @MIN 31|