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The Detroit Lions Just Eliminated Aaron Rodgers And The Green Bay Packers From Playoff Contention

Thanks for nothing, Los Angeles. 

The Detroit Lions finished their season with an upset win against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night, officially knocking Aaron Rogers and company out of the playoffs. Following an abysmal 1-6 start, the Lions finished the year 8-2, saving the best for last. It's remarkably disappointing that the Lions aren't going to be a part of the playoffs. This feels like a team that many opponents would not have wanted to play. It's such a shame that this defense was so bad in the early part of the season, or else we may be talking about a team ready to make a run. Nevertheless, having the satisfaction of knowing they ruined Aaron Rodgers' season in year 2 of a rebuild is a fantastic consolation prize. 

This game just felt bizarre. All the things that the Lions usually do, the Packers were doing. They had dropped passes and turnovers. They had trouble finishing drives and committed some of the most ridiculous penalties I've seen in a minute. Seriously, who pushes a trainer? 

Relative success will come with lofty expectations for Detroit next year. They are expectations that they should embrace. Next year will be year 3 of the Dan Campbell/Brad Holmes era. Win the division, win a playoff game or both. Anything other than that will be a disappointment. There is a core in Detroit, a legitimate nucleus that's only going to continue to grow after this upcoming draft. It's not just a few good pieces. It's a real unit. 

I have doubted Dan Campbell from the get-go. I think if there's any franchise in sports that deserves to have an "I'll believe it when I see it" stamp, it's the Detroit Lions, and considering Dan Campbell wasn't on anyone's radar, I think I was right to be skeptical. And I don't know how this ends. Maybe the Lions will live up to expectations next year. Maybe they don't. I can't predict the future, but right now? This is working. The players have bought in. You finally have a GM that appears to be the smartest guy in almost any room he steps in. So many of the issues that plagued this organization for decades aren't as prominent right now. And best of all, the Ford family has stayed out of the way.

Detroit sports fans have been starving for something to believe in for almost a decade now. Every so often, we'll come across something that might resemble a spark of hope, only for our collective hearts to be broken. We've been burned too many times, and the Lions have been responsible for a whole lot of those burnings. But even I, the most pessimistic sports fan, can acknowledge that this feels different. 

There is a plan here, and they're executing that plan. And the journey is far from over. There are still a lot of steps that need to be taken. Detroit needs to continue to draft well, find the right players in free agency, and make sure that they can retain offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, who was a maestro this season. If those pieces fall into place, we might be talking about a team that can win a playoff game and maybe, JUST MAYBE, do so much more than that.