Jim Schwartz, like most NFL coaches, splits the regular season up into four-game quarters.
The Detroit Lions got off to a terrific start with a 3-1 first quarter with wins over Minnesota, Washington and Chicago in September. Their only stumble was to Arizona on the road.
The second quarter was respectable (2-2) with wins over Cleveland and Dallas and losses to Green Bay and Cincinnati.
Their third quarter was just completed on Thanksgiving with the win over Green Bay and the Lions again finished 2-2. The two wins, however, were against division rivals Chicago and Green Bay and could factor into any playoff scenarios down the stretch.
That adds up to 7-5, currently good for first place in the NFC North. The Lions control their playoff destiny and are on track to host a playoff game, depending how the fourth and final quarter plays out.
November is considered "moving month" in the NFL. It’s the four-week span where teams set themselves up for a playoff push in December.
The Lions have bean dealt good cards as the calendar flips to December. They simply need to play their hand right the rest of the way.
The fourth quarter consist of games at Philadelphia (6-5), home vs. Baltimore (6-6) and the New York Giants (4-7) and on the road to finish the year at Minnesota (2-8-1).
Detroit is hoping a successful month of December turns into their second playoff berth since 1999. At the very least it will take a 2-2 mark over the next four games, but more likely 3-1 to get to 10-6.
As we’ve seen in season’s past, once a team qualifies for the playoffs, there’s no telling what can happen.
The New York Giants needed a 3-1 month of December in 2011 just to get into the playoffs at 9-7. They got hot at the right time and ended up winning the Super Bowl.
A year prior, Green Bay snuck into the playoffs with a 2-2 record over their last four games. They won tiebreakers over the Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers and went on to win the Super Bowl.
Playing good football in the final quarter of the season is still the best recipe for success, though. Six of the last 10 Super Bowl winners have a winning record over their last four games and their combined record over that span is 27-13.
The 2009 New Orleans Saints and last year’s Baltimore Ravens are the only two Super Bowl winners over the last 10 years who finished with a losing record (1-3) over their last four games. They both, however, still won their division because of terrific starts.
As dominate as their 40-10 win over Green Bay was on Thanksgiving, the Lions still haven’t played their best football. Maybe that comes in the month of December and becomes a springboard to something greater than just an invitation to extend their season past 16 games.