If the body of "The Blue Blazer" looks a little familiar, it's probably because it's actually Owen Hart with a mask on. As "The Blue Blazer", Owen Hart was a weak gimmick that didn't really go anywhere. As himself, Owen Hart became one of the more respected wrestlers in the business and won multiple championship belts. The Lions really could go either way. This could be the year the Lions take off the mask and reveal their true identity or they could keep on being The Blue Blazer. As I'm sure most of you know, Owen Hart died prematurely after falling from the rafters at the Kemper Arena in Kansas City. If the Lions do manage to make the "leap" to Owen Hart status, we can only hope that their success doesn't end as abruptly and as badly as Hart's.
I think this season will represent the "taking off of the mask". What I mean is that the Lions will show some life this season. They'll beat some teams they aren't supposed to beat and prove that they're a legitimate franchise. It's almost impossible for a team that's never played together to jump out of the gates as one unit. Charles Rogers has played one game in two years. Rogers and Roy Williams have not played a full game together. Neither has M. Williams and R. Williams or M. Williams and Charles Rogers. This is a completely different team from last season. C. Rogers is still a rookie in terms of playing experience. Harrington hasn't had anything close to a good season yet. The linebackers haven't had a chance to play as a unit. I just have a hard time believing that this team can pick up from day one as a playoff team. There will be highs and lows but in the end, I think this will be a successful season. Next year is finally the year.
However, there a many things to be excited about. The secondary is as strong as its been in my lifetime. Kennoy Kennedy is feared around the league for his punishing hits. Dre Bly is one of the better cover corners in the league after making two straight Pro Bowls. Fernando Bryant sucked last year but he was dealing with an injury that kept him from being 100% Harrington said in the Detroit News that normally he stays away from throwing Dre Bly's way in practive but Bryant has been playing so well that he doesn't think that way anymore.
The linebackers are potentially the fastest group in the NFL. Boss Bailey and Tedy Lehman are speedsters. If they can prove to be reliable tacklers, they'll be a strength all season. Shuan Rogers is the best defensive tackle in the NFL. He's huge and agile. Rogers and Big Daddy Wilkinson should shut down the running game. The problem with the defense is that it's green. Much like the offense, these guys haven't played together. I just have a hard time believing this unit can gel immediately. It'll take some time.
The 2005 Lions or just Owen Hart?
I know that Detroit is ready to erupt with any hint of respectability from the Lions. My advice is to be patient. Remember, before this season, the Tigers looked to be ready to make the "leap". They had a good group of starters, a deep bullpen, and a fearsome lineup. Here we are 80% through the season and all of those things are still true. The starting pitching was decent early on. The bullpen has been phenomenal. The lineup features no less than six .300+ hitters. Yet, the Tigers are inexplicably eight games below .500 and headed south. The Tigers are proof that it takes time. You can't just starting winning from nothing. Think of all the Detroit teams that have won championships. Every team has paid their dues. The "Bad Boys" had to work their way up before finally unseating the Celtics and Lakers. The Red Wings took a long, hard road to the Stanley Cup before finally winning in 1997. Even the current version of the Pistons had to pay their dues. They improved a little each year before finally becoming a threat and eventually the NBA champs. Don't expect anything different from the Lions or Tigers. It takes time. I'm not a fan of the "next year is the year" slogan that has seemed to epitomize the Lions, but in this case, I truly believe that's the case.
The schedule features a lot of games against teams that have about the same talent-level as the Lions. These games include; Green Bay (2), Tampa Bay, Carolina, Minnesota (2), Dallas, Atlanta, and New Orleans. That's nine games. The Lions would do well to go 5-4 against those teams. They also play Baltimore and Pittsburgh which could easily be losses. That's six losses. Plus, the Lions will probably lose at least once to one of the five weaker teams on the schedule. The Lions will be bunched in with five or six teams with 8-8 or 9-7 records. I think an 8-8 team will make the playoffs in the NFC this year. It could be the Lions but it'll probably be someone like Dallas, Green Bay or Atlanta.
Predicted record: 8-8