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Friday, December 24, 2010
Have at It: Stage set for Lions

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

Fully of holiday cheer, Sundevilaw announced early on that our Week 16 "Have at It" was "pretty lame" and wondered who might care about the outcome.

In fact, there is limited real-word relevance to whether the Detroit Lions or Minnesota Vikings finish the season in last place of the NFC North. The NFL will incorporate it into the scheduling formula for a 2011 season that might or might not take place, but that's about it.

From what I could tell, the comments were mostly unanimous and reflective of the divergent moods in each team's fan base.

"The Vikings finish last," wrote erhancoc. "They've completely given up this season. It was absolutely embarrassing to see them fold up shop against the Bears in a meaningful game with a great crowd behind them. It's not often you see a professional franchise display that little pride and heart, and right now I'd take any NFL team plus a lot of college teams over them."

I don't know if I would go quite that far, but the Lions' schedule does have some built-in advantages. They'll travel to Miami this weekend to play a Dolphins team that is 1-6 at home this season. And their season-ending game against the Vikings will take place at Ford Field, where the Lions are 3-4 in 2010.

Wrote googlegirl0102: "I think the Lions win out. Miami is not very good at home, for whatever reason, and the Vikings seem to be in freefall."

Fortunately, some of you expanded the topic into a bigger-picture discussion about the futures of both franchises. Again, those of you who took the time to comment suggested the Lions have positioned themselves for quicker future success than the Vikings -- regardless of who finishes third or fourth this season.

"I'm not sure it matters who finishes last THIS season," wrote machinemanske. "It seems more poignant to look ahead. In doing so, it is plain to see one team on the rise as the other, by most indications, circling the drain. Jump ahead 5 years and it would seem the Lions could be legitimate contenders while the Vikings could be one of the very worst teams in the league. On the bright side, maybe the Vikings will be in a new city, or have a new facility, or at least a new roof.............or not."

Ouch.

Tyslink tried to tap the brakes on that discussion: "All this talk about the Lions being on the rise is a bit laughable. How about we all wait until they actually contend for at least a division title before we get all hot and bothered with the Lions?"

But DomDoyle offered this reasonable compromise: "I wouldn't put the Lions in Super Bowl contention quite yet ... but I would say that I wouldn't trade our roster for the Vikings roster."

Concluded Briley508: "This article just made me hate my life a little bit."

My take? I'm not sure if the Lions will beat the Dolphins this weekend, but I would be absolutely stunned if the Vikings win Sunday night at Philadelphia. So at worst, the Lions should have an opportunity to escape the cellar by defeating the Vikings in Week 17. Based on the Vikings' level of disinterest in the past two weeks, I wouldn't be surprised in the least if it happened.

To what extent would that matter? It would be an awfully symbolic landing place for the Vikings, who committed one of the NFL's highest payrolls this season in one final effort to win the Super Bowl with their current nucleus. And it would serve as a small measure of progress for the Lions in the recovery process from their 0-16 season in 2008. Small moves, Ellie. Small moves.