December 1, 2023 11:00am

Do you believe in the Detroit Lions?

Coach Dan Campbell is converting doubters into believers in Detroit

Photo of Rick Gosselin
NFL Correspondent

The Detroit Lions are one of only four NFL franchises that has never played in a Super Bowl. The Lions haven’t won a division title since 1993 and haven’t won a playoff game since 1991. But coach Dan Campbell is making Detroit – and a lot of other folks – believers in 2023.

The Lions share the second-best record in the NFL at 8-3 – the same record as Super Bowl contenders Kansas City, Miami and San Francisco – and have a substantial cushion in the NFC North over the second-place Minnesota Vikings (6-6) with six games remaining. But the Lions still must play the Vikings twice plus the Cowboys in Dallas.

So in this week’s NFL Power Poll, we asked our panel of former players, coaches, officials, talent evaluators, writers and broadcasters to determine the fate of the 2023 Lions and offered up four options – 1) lose the division title to the Vikings; 2) win the division and secure a first-round bye; 3) win the division and lose a playoff game; and 4) win the division and also win a playoff game.

The fourth option – win the franchise’s first division title in 20 years and also win the franchise’s first playoff game in 22 years – was the overwhelming choice, receiving 106 of the 183 votes cast. Win the division and lose a playoff game was next with 61 votes, followed by secure a first-round bye with 15 votes. Only one vote was cast for the Lions losing the division.

“The Lions will go as far as Jared Goff can take them,” said Soren Petro of radio station WHB in Kansas City.

Goff did take the Los Angeles Rams to a Super Bowl and now directs a Detroit offense that ranks second in the NFL. Only the Miami Dolphins have generated more yards. The defense also ranks in the Top 10 – making the Lions one of only six teams that ranks in the Top 10 in both offense and defense this week.

“The NFC playoff situation is made up of three lines and then everyone else,” said Wayne Larrivee, the radio voice of the Green Bay Packers. “On the first line is the 49ers and Eagles, on the second line the Cowboys and the third line the Lions. Detroit is not playing at its optimal level at this stage of the season as the last two games will attest. But the Lions are good and that offensive line is built for December and January.”

Added Hall-of-Fame Ira Kaufman of in Tampa: “The Lions are a year away from being a true championship contender. They haven't gone through the gauntlet of postseason football and that will show in January. Dan Campbell's group is coming on strong, but a playoff win is hardly signed, sealed and delivered in the Motor City.”

In our second question, we asked our panel to weigh in on the top game on this weekend’s slate – the 49ers at the Eagles in a rematch of the 2022 NFC title game. Like the title game, this game will be played in Philadelphia. The Eagles have a league-best 10-1 record and a five-game winning streak, including victories over fellow Super Bowl contenders Dallas, Kansas City and Buffalo in the last three weeks. The 49ers arrive in Philadelphia with a three-game winning streak – and as a 2 ½-point favorite.

Our panel picked the 49ers to prevail over the Eagles by 98-85 margin.

“The Eagles are as clutch as any team we have seen in recent years,” said Hall-of-Fame voter Barry Wilner. “But their close wins have not been against a healthy and powerful team such as the 49ers. The oddsmakers see it that way, too. It is never a surprise this season when the Eagles win, no matter how they do it. It would be a surprise if they can pull off a similar escape against the Niners.”

Remember Hall-of-Fame wide receiver Drew Pearson of the Dallas Cowboys taunting the Eagles fans at the 2017 NFL draft in Philadelphia? His sentiment hasn’t changed in six years.

“My index finger still will not allow me choose the Eagles,” Pearson said. “But I would pick Niners anyway despite fact they have to travel across country. Also, with the 3:25 kick off weather could be a factor before it’s over.”

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of significant key players in American sports today. It's member list draws on people from media, team management, and league management. It is not a scientific survey, but the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those who know most about the sport.

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