How Do You Win A Football Game?
There’s a very famous philosophy in sports that says that “hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard.” The 2021 Detroit Lions were the embodiment of this. Turn on any Lions game from last year. Win or lose, Detroit would out-hustle you. They were the first team to the loose ball on any fumble you could imagine, they would hit you hard and gang-tackle to bring you down, and perhaps most importantly, they never stopped trying. Dan Campbell’s iron foot had the pedal pressed firmly to the floor for all sixty minutes of all seventeen games.
This resulted in exactly three wins, along with one tie.
The Lions’ first win came on December 5 of last year, in a divisional game against the rival Minnesota Vikings. Capping off a final drive by Jared Goff (who, oh baby, we will talk about him later) was a walk-off touchdown to Amon-Ra St. Brown, who might be Detroit’s top receiver coming into this season. He showed some serious flashes, and I’m a big fan.
But back to the topic at hand, the other teams that the Lions beat were an Arizona squad who were hobbling into the playoffs. After starting 7-0, the Cardinals had stumbled to 10-4. Still a good mark, but definitely a beatable team who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Lions would then, in week eighteen of last year, cap off their season by beating up on a Green Bay Packers team who took Aaron Rodgers out of the game early, because they had already locked up a playoff spot.
I’m not here to discredit every single Lions win. They showed some genuine promise, and I’ve spoken enough about how much I like Dan Campbell’s “never say die” approach. But my worry is that people believe in Detroit’s team too much right now, and that they’re going to be disappointed. A lot of bettors are going to lose a lot of money, because they believe that development of a team is a line that goes straight up with time.