Fresh off their mistake-prone loss to the Chicago Bears, the Jets welcome another NFC North opponent to MetLife Stadium this Sunday -- the Detroit Lions, also known as the cure for all that ails you. Has any pro sports franchise been as bad for as long as the Lions? (The planet’s lone remaining Islanders fan just raised his hand, but hey, you guys were winning Stanley Cups while Lions fans were pinning their hopes on Eric "Chris Berman, please don’t call me 'The Nipple'" Hipple – 'nuff said.)
This is a franchise so dysfunctional that its best player ever, running back Barry Sanders, gave up earning millions playing the game he loves, at the peak of his career, because he simply couldn’t stomach being a Lion anymore.
Sanders didn’t know how good he had it. His teams made the playoffs five times in his 10 years. Since he left after the 1998 season, they’ve only been back to the postseason twice. They were led for eight years by Matt Millen, the single worst executive in pro sports history. Millen got the boot more than five years ago, and he’s still trying to draft yet another troubled receiver for Detroit (it seems he still thinks you usually only play two or three WRs at a time). Millen’s first hire as head coach? Marty "Time Out" Mornhinweg. Need I say more?
But this is a new year, and a new Lions team. And, surely, you haven’t heard that since … 2013, when they finished 7-9. Or 2012, when they went 4-12. Or…
Through the first three games of the 2014 season, though, this Lions team appears to be stronger than those of years past. The defense has been stout, giving up just 15 points a game – second-best in the league -- and has been particularly tough against the run, which has been the Jets’ offensive strength.
On the other side of the ball, Matt Stafford-to-Megatron remains one of the most dangerous pass-and-catch combos in the NFL, and if the Jets have someone who can effectively cover the 6’5” All-Pro receiver, he should make himself known ASAP. Golden Tate, who joined Detroit as a free agent in the offseason after snagging a Super Bowl ring with Seattle, has also been a key contributor. Like Calvin Johnson, Tate lit up the Giants secondary in a 35-14 shellacking to open the season a few weeks ago.
While it’s very early in the season, the Jets desperately need this game, considering the tough slate they face over the next few weeks. If they can get pressure on Stafford and that forces the QB into the same kind of mistakes Geno Smith made last week -- and if Smith can avoid making those errors on Sunday (a feat that will be tougher if Eric Decker’s injured hamstring keeps him out of action) -- then they should come away with the W.
Pete Zwiebach writes about the Jets for NBCNewYork.com. Zwiebach lives in New York City with his wife and two kids, who without fail manage to block his view of the TV whenever a game-changing play occurs.