Editor's note: Michael Silver will not have a Live Trippin' session on Tuesday, Nov. 25. Live Trippin' will return Dec. 2.
Last Dec. 9, as I drove from Gillette Stadium to my hotel in Boston's Copley Place on a cool Sunday night, I called my editor to talk about the following week's assignment. Unlike that day's compelling showdown between the undefeated Patriots and playoff-bound Steelers, there was no obvious must-see game on the upcoming Sunday's schedule, and we tossed around a couple of options.
Finally, I suggested, "What about Ravens at Dolphins?" To my editor's credit, he didn't burst out laughing. Baltimore had lost seven games in a row to drop out of contention, while Miami was 0-13. "I know it's a little different, but it'll be a cool story," I told him. "Because the Dolphins are going to win."
Sure enough, Miami prevailed on a dramatic overtime touchdown, and we got the column we'd anticipated. The moral of the story? When it comes to figuring out when a winless team will finally achieve victory, no one is more psychic than yours truly.
All of which brings us to the Lions, now five defeats away from becoming the first NFL team to go 0-16.
Could imperfection become a reality? Normally, I'd say no, but the Lions are a special breed of awful. They fired their team president, Matt Millen, after their third defeat in September. They signed their starting quarterback, Daunte Culpepper, off the street in early November.
On Sunday at Ford Field, Detroit managed to take a 17-0 first-quarter lead over the Buccaneers – and trail at halftime en route to a 38-20 defeat. That is hard to do, but these guys made it happen.
Making matters more complicated, each of the Lions' remaining opponents is currently in the playoff hunt. Next up are the Titans on Thursday at Ford Field, a matchup for which exactly zero football fans outside of Tennessee are giving thanks. Any notion that a perfect-storm, Turkey Day upset over the Titans was possible disappeared on Sunday when the Jets handed Jeff Fisher's team its first defeat.
Tennessee's proud players will be quite angry Thanksgiving, and they'll take it out on the Lions.
On Dec. 7, Detroit completes its three-game homestand against the Vikings, currently tied for the NFC North lead and playing well. Can you say "0-13"? Then they travel to Indy, for a game the Colts will likely need to win to remain in the wild-card chase. As long as Peyton Manning doesn't get done in by some spoiled stuffing between now and then, it's a blowout waiting to happen.
That's right, gang, the Lions will officially match the 1976 Buccaneers as architects of an 0-14 monstrosity.
In the end, however, those bumbling Bucs will stand alone. No, by in the end I don't mean the Lions' Dec. 28 season finale against the Packers at Lambeau Field, a game in which the Detroit players' focus will be on two things: a hot postgame shower and a New Year's Eve celebration on some pristine Caribbean beach. As ugly as Green Bay looked in New Orleans on Monday night, this game will be even uglier, with the home team possibly battling for a division title.
No, the Lions' victory will have come the week before that, in a Dec. 21 home game against the Saints.
Yes, I realize I'm predicting the Lions to beat a team with a prolific offense; the Saints just put up 51 points against the Packers, moving two games behind the Bucs and Panthers (and a game behind Atlanta) in the competitive NFC South.
But New Orleans, which until Monday hadn't won consecutive games all season, is maddeningly inconsistent. The Saints' next three games are against Tampa Bay, Atlanta and Chicago, and they could easily lose twice and be eliminated from playoff contention. Surely, they'd be able to put up points on Detroit, but New Orleans' defense is lousy enough – dare we say Lionsesque – to keep an 0-14 team desperate to avoid everlasting ignominy in the game.
So mark it down: Detroit will somehow pull out a victory over Drew Brees and company. The only remaining question is whether I'll be there to witness it.
That's for my editor to decide. In the meantime, ponder these equally scintillating mysteries, beginning with the league's best team (a new one) and descending all the way down to the You Know Whos:
2. Tennessee Titans: Was that an aberration or did the Jets unveil a blueprint for attacking this physical team on both sides of the ball?
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Will they hit a wall like last year or might this team actually peak for the playoffs?
7. Carolina Panthers: Are the '08 Panthers turning into the '07 Bucs?
21. Philadelphia Eagles: When Andy Reid says his decision to start Donovan McNabb against Arizona on Thursday "has nothing to do with [Kevin] Kolb's performance," are we actually supposed to believe him?
24. Houston Texans: Do we really have to wait six whole days to watch this team host the Jags on "Monday Night Football"?
26. Oakland Raiders: Aren't they, like, totally awesome?
27. Seattle Seahawks: With all due respect to Mike Holmgren's illustrious career, how poorly coached is this team?
30. Kansas City Chiefs: On Sunday, was former Cal defensive back Herm Edwards trying to make ex-Stanford quarterback Trent Edwards feel better about the pimp-slapping his school absorbed in the previous day's Big Game, or did it just seem that way?
32. Detroit Lions: If you insist upon watching all four quarters of their game against the Titans on Thursday, how much do you hate talking to your in-laws?