During the Jim Schwartz era, the Lions have been your standard-issue steady tortoise. They followed up the disastrous 0-16 season of 2008 with a two-win year in 2009, a four-win bump to 6-10 in 2010, and another four-win bump to 10-6 last year. They've basically made the exact stride that the majority of the public would have expected them to make before each season, the closest thing to team progression chalk I can imagine.
The next step for the Lions, naturally, is to blossom into a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Can they do that? I'm skeptical for a variety of reasons -- doubts about their offensive line and secondary stand out -- and history also suggests, on the macro level, that the Lions are probably growing a little too fast. Remember how I mentioned that they were 6-10 in 2010 and 10-6 in 2011? Well, there have been 40 teams during the 16-game era who won either six or seven games in a given season and followed that up with a nine- or 10-win campaign the following year. In the third year of that stretch, the teams in question won an average of just 7.8 contests, with more losing 10 or more games (nine) than winning 10 or more (eight).