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Lions Rewriting History on Way to Conference Championship Game

Lions Rewriting History on Way to Conference Championship Game article feature image
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Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images Pictured: Josh Reynolds of Detroit Lions

This Lions team is just different.

Detroit’s struggled pretty much every way imaginable over the years, earning the unfortunate distinction as one of the most tortured teams in all of sports. However, Lions head coach Dan Campbell has completely changed the trajectory of the franchise. They entered Sunday’s game favored for the second-straight postseason game, marking only the second time in history they were favored in consecutive playoff games. The only other time was over 70 years ago in 1952.

The Lions closed as six-point favorites against Tampa Bay, which is the biggest line in franchise history. They’ve struggled as postseason favorites, going only 2-3 straight up and 1-4 against the spread. Yet once again, in situations in which they used to fold, Detroit persevered with several big time fourth-quarter plays to beat the Buccaneers, 31-23.

The Lions have been the league’s most profitable team since Campbell arrived, going 36-17 against the spread, and are largely considered a terrific home team. However, they were exceptional away from Ford Field in the regular season. They had the fourth-best record straight up (6-3) and the second-best mark ATS (7-2), which is huge as they must go on the road next week to earn a Super Bowl berth.

To do so, Jared Goff will have to shake his reputation as a poor outdoor quarterback. His career indoor-outdoor splits are drastic. He’s 36-17 ATS all-time indoors, including 26-9 since arriving in Detroit.  However, he’s just 34-35-2 in the elements over his career. He’s particularly struggled late in the year when the weather’s worse, going 9-15-1 in December and January.

Goff's turned around ominous trends in the past, though. He began his career 0-7 ATS as a rookie. He's turned that around in a major way, going 70-45-2 ATS (61%). He's 52-29-1 ATS (64%) over his five seasons and 34-16 ATS (68%) over the past three, which are the best marks in the league over that span.

Detroit now looks to rewrite the franchise’s history next week against the 49ers. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. ET, and they opened as seven-point ‘dogs.

Still, you can't count the Lions out no matter the odds. Just look at Sunday. Every time they got punched in the mouth, they punched right back. It looked like they lost all momentum when Tampa Bay tied the game with mere seconds to go in the third quarter. Instead, the Lions authored a five-play, 75-yard drive in just 1:57 culminating a 31-yard Jahmyr Gibbs touchdown.

The defense also followed suit, bowing up when it mattered most. They picked off Mayfield when Tampa Bay had a chance for a game-tying drive with 1:59 left.  They also stopped a key two-point conversion with 4:37 left, preserving an eight-point lead instead of seeing it cut to six.  It was a “good teams win, great teams cover” moment, allowing them beat the six-point spread. The public was certainly grateful as 52% of the bets and 58% of the money was on Detroit covering.

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