A Puncher’s Chance

Every year that I’ve been a Lions fan (since the Harrington/Mooch era, mind you), I’ve known something about my team that no one in the national media knew or cared to know. I would yell at the TV because ESPN’s analysts couldn’t be bothered to say anything positive or hopeful about the Lions. I always told myself that these Lions were different and they’d prove the doubters wrong. They had found that magic formula that just snuck under the radar because ESPN operates like an old boy’s club and always take the proven winner over the up-and-comer. Every year, that particular incarnation of the Lions let me down, showing the bullies that they could keep picking on the little guy.

This year’s Lions are different. And just like every year before, I knew it all along. I knew that Matt Stafford was the first Lions QB I’ve ever seen that could consistently put up that line that I would always see in the opponents column of the box score (You know, the 19-25, 300 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT line). I knew that Calvin Johnson was the best wide receiver in the NFL. I knew that Delmas could chase down the Kentucky Derby winner if given a chance and I knew that Suh could beat Mark Schlereth like a drum if he was man enough to shut up and try to block the Lions D-line. I knew that this Lions team was a playoff contender – a Superbowl contender even. I knew that they could hang with the best teams in the country. The difference comes in that this year’s Lions have proven me right and are earning the respect that they deserve. If you’re reading this and you’re a Lions fan, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Ty at The Lions in Winter predicted that Matt Stafford would be a top 5 QB. Little did he know that Stafford would be a top 5 QB in history (at least by yardage). Jeremy at Detroit OnLion knew the Stafford to CJ combination would be solid gold.

So now the Lions need to keep this going. They need to pull out this game where the entire nation is betting against them (10.5 point dogs at the moment). And they need to do it not to prove the doubters wrong, but to prove the believers right. They need to win this game so that Lions fans can shove it in the faces of everyone that made fun of them during 0-16, so that they can say “oh you’re a saints fan, hahaha” like I’ve heard a million times about my Lions fanhood. They need to knock media darling Drew Brees on his ass and travel back to Lambeau to face their ultimate demons. If that paragraph didn’t get you fired up, then this video absolutely will:

(This one is for my sister, who has tried desperately to get me to include this all year)

And so now that you’re sufficiently amped (or psyched, as kids of my generation would say), you’re in the right frame of mind to listen to my game prediction. If you pay attention to the Lions blogosphere, you’ll have already seen statistics-based predictions like Ty’s Watchtower and Jeremy’s On Paper preview. You may have also seen PFT picking the Lions on a whim. And then you’ve probably heard all of ESPN’s non-believers take the Saints because of that old boy’s club thing that I mentioned.

But a couple of phrases I’ve heard from quite a few people are “punchers chance” referring to the Lions and “machine” when referring to the passing game of the Saints. And of course, that leads me to the greatest movie of all time (I’m sure I’ve said that about 10 or 15 different movies since starting this blog), Rocky IV. Not only do I own the VHS of this classic, but it is also the oldest surviving listing on my DVR.

The puncher, in this case, is of course Rocky:

Meanwhile, the machine is the stone-faced, man of few words, Ivan Drago:

In case you haven’t seen the movie, the story goes like this: Drago comes to America and fights a retired Apollo Creed, beating him to such a pulp that Apollo dies. Ivan Drago weighs in on the situation, “If he dies…he dies.”

Rocky then comes out of retirement to avenge Apollo’s death, having to travel to Russia (New Orleans) to fight Ivan Drago on his home turf (the Superdome). No one thinks Rocky can win. There are some training montages, some part of the story where Adrian further inspires Rocky, etc. Ivan Drago injects steroids, Rocky counters by yelling “DRAGOOOOOO” from the top of a mountain.

When they finally fight, the Russian comes out strong, attacking Rocky with a surgical precision (sound familiar?). The ring-side announcer mentions, “He’s not only fighting what appears to be an invincible opponent…he’s also fighting a very hostile crowd, the Russian Premier, and most of the Politburo are looking on.” Rocky claws his way back and catches Drago with a big right hook to open a gash over his left eye, to which Rocky’s corner man comments, “You cut him! You hurt him! You see? You see? He’s not a machine! He’s a man!” and Drago comments, “He’s not human…He is like a piece of iron.”

Rocky guts it out in a tough fight where both opponents are obviously physically exhausted, trading blow for blow until the final round, where Rocky lands a knockout blow, winning the fight, winning over the crowd, and ending the cold war (I admit, the movie doesn’t make a ton of sense, but that’s what’s great about it).

You see, the Lions are the underdogs, on the road, facing the superhuman. They’ve been counted out by everyone except those that have been with them all along. They’re up against not only the Saints, but also a very hostile crowd, the commissioner, and most of the referees. On Saturday, the Lions will take on the Saints in a matchup where the Saints are superior on paper. But you know what? I believe that the Lions will prove that the Saints are human and I’m betting the Saints will be surprised by just how tough this Lions team is. My prediction is that the Lions will win, winning over the national media, and ending the cold war (I admit, my prediction doesn’t make a ton of sense, but that’s what’s great about it).

From where I sit, a puncher’s chance is just what the Lions need to take down the Saints this Saturday.

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