PROJECTED RECORD: 4-2
So for the Lions Season Preview, I wasted your time with an extended discussion of Film. It thus seems only appropriate that I begin the Bye Week Bonanza on a literary note. In his novel A Dirty Job, Christopher Moore describes his protagonist as a “Beta Male” and offers the following meditation:
“While Alpha Males are often gifted with superior physical attributes-size, strength, speed, good looks-selected by evolution over the eons by the strongest surviving and, essentially, getting all the girls, the Beta Male gene has survived not by meeting and overcoming adversity, but by anticipating and avoiding it. This is, when the Alpha Males were out charging after mastodons, the Beta Males could imagine in advance that attacking what was essentially an angry, woolly bulldozer with a pointy stick might be a losing proposition, so they hung back at camp to console the grieving widows.”
In other words, there is often a metaphorical ecological niche where “hanging back” and/or “hanging in” is a more reasonable route to success than going full-throttle and potentially burning out.
When you do it intentionally in boxing, it’s referred to as letting the stronger opponent punch himself out, the highest expression of which is the rope-a-dope.
When you do it running, it’s pacing yourself.
When you do it because that’s the limit of your abilities, it’s called the Detroit Lions. And it just might work.
The Lions have been a shining beacon of mediocrity pretty much all year. I’ve never really bought into the whole “A Team Reflects The Personality of its Coach” thing, but you can see the metaphysical lampshade on Ford Field from space.
This is not to say the entire season has been lacking in interesting moments. The team managed to get semi-fucked by a strange (but curiously foreseeable) quirk of the rules against Atlanta. You’ll recall that the Lions mounted a comeback and Matthew Stafford threw a pass to Golden Tate which was initially called a touchdown, which would have given Detroit the lead with eight seconds left on the clock. As with all scoring plays, it was reviewed by the officials, who (correctly) determined that Tate was down short of the goal line. Because there had been a stoppage for review and the Lions had no time-outs, there was an automatic 10-second runoff of the clock. That left Detroit with -2 seconds and a loss, which just feels oddly fitting for the Lions. As many have pointed out, it’s kind of shitty to have a ten-second runoff when the offense did nothing to cause the stoppage. On the other hand, the ten-second runoff is not meant to be a penalty, but rather an attempt to simulate the time it would have taken to line back up and get set for the next play if the clock had not been stopped. Frankly, I’m just glad for a rule controversy that doesn’t require me to determine if something is a catch.
The other “interesting” point of the season so far was the game against the Saints. The Saints scored 52 points. Drew Brees threw for 186 yards and had two interceptions. By the laws of conventional physics, those two statements cannot coexist. It is only by some quirk of quantum physics not yet understood by science that the world did not implode when that stat line came into existence.
Otherwise, things are proceeding pretty much as expected. Detroit still does not have a running game, although at least they appear to have settled on a lead running back (Ameer Abdullah) to not get those yards. Matthew Stafford has continued to not single-handedly sink the team’s chances – 12 touchdowns through 6 games, 4 interceptions and middle-of-the-road yardage, though it should be noted that 3 of those INTs came in the Saints game. The defense is equally average.
The real story here is the rest of the division. While Detroit has been quietly hanging around, the other teams in the division have been living on the edge on both ends of the spectrum. The Bears are somehow 3-4 thanks solely to the efforts of their defense; when your starting quarterback plays the whole game and completes, even Trent Dilfer thinks you have balance problems. The fact that the Bears won that game is yet another challenge to the Standard Model of particle physics- they exist in a state of suck/non-suck superposition. They are like characters in a Douglas Adams novel, flying by throwing themselves at the ground and missing.
Minnesota is something of an oddity as well at 5-2. They’ve got an excellent run defense, but are otherwise average in pretty much every offensive and defensive category. The weird part is that they are doing so with Case Fucking Keenum, essentially their third-string quarterback, and having lost emerging star and veteran woman-beater Dalvin Cook. Averaging one passing touchdown per game with an unremarkable ground attack is a recipe for late-season struggles
On the other hand, the Packers are the football embodiment of classical (non-Cam) Newtonian physics. Have a Hall of Fame-bound quarterback? You’re probably good! Lose said quarterback? You’re probably fucked!
So there you have it. Detroit is not very good. But the only demonstrably good team in the division is now as broken as Olivia Munn’s heart. Minnesota is in an inherently unstable situation. The Bears are…well, the Bears. So maybe Detroit can win out. Maybe the NFC North is the new AFC South, and all you have to do to triumph is be the last team standing.
It’s time to ask whether Jim Caldwell’s Strength Through Mediocrity Plan has some merit after all.
It’s time to ask whether the Beta Male can win the Black and Blue Division.
It’s time to ask: Why not Zoidberg?
PROJECTED FINISH: 8-8, NFC North “Champions”.