The Lions and Colts are terrific examples of how preseason expectations and reality don't always go hand-in-hand in the NFL.
Coming off a 10-6 season and their first playoff appearance in 12 years, there were expectations for the Lions to not only make the playoffs again this season but to make some noise in the playoffs. That, obviously, isn't materializing as the Lions had hoped as they find themselves on the outside of the NFC playoff picture.
The Colts, on the other hand, didn't enter this season with too many lofty expectations. To be honest, there probably weren't a lot of high expectations even in Indy itself after coming off a 2-14 season and the organization saying goodbye to Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning to start rookie quarterback Andrew Luck this offseason.
But after 11 games the Colts (7-4) and the Lions (4-7) are on opposite sides of the NFL spectrum. The Lions haven't lived up to expectations and the Colts are exceeding them.
But why? How have the Colts, with one of the youngest teams in the league, managed to go this whole season without losing back-to-back games, while the Lions have been unable to win back-to-back games more than once this season with same core players as a year ago?
The Colts seem to be playing with the same passion and fight their head coach, Chuck Pagano, has shown in fighting cancer. They seem to have taken on his never-give-up kind of attitude and it's been an inspiration to them. Don't discredit how powerful an emotion that can be.
Want a more tangible reason why the Colts are 7-4 and the Lions are 4-7?
Here it is:
The Colts are 6-1 in one-possession games, meaning games decided by eight points or fewer. Only Atlanta is better, at 7-1.
Eight points or fewer have decided nine of the Lions' 11 games. Unfortunately, they're 3-6 in those games. They've lost by a field goal twice in overtime and dropped other one-possession games to the 49ers, Vikings, Bears and Packers.
"We've got to find a way to make that one extra play," Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said after last week's 34-31 loss to the Texans in overtime.
"Our margins aren't real high. You said we've played close games. The Houston Texans found a way to make those plays today and, when we do, we'll be on the winning side of the score."
Schwartz is right. The Lions were able to find ways to win those games last year. This season it's eluded them for whatever reason.
The Colts tied an NFL record by reaching the playoffs in nine consecutive seasons from 2002-10. During that stretch, they were 54-19 in one-possession games, according to the Indianapolis Star.
The Colts have a rookie quarterback, an interim head coach and one of the league's youngest teams, yet they're 7-4 because they find ways to make enough plays to win games.
"We're the type of team, we're going to be in a lot of close games and fortunately we've found a lot of ways to win them," interim coach Bruce Arians told the paper Monday.
It's the difference between 7-4 and 4-7.