Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 12/26/11
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The Detroit Lions are in the NFL playoffs for the first time this millennium.

This is a remarkable accomplishment considering the team was winless just three seasons ago. The absence of Matt Millen in the front office certainly has expedited the process of turning the culture of the organization around. While it’s certain that the club will play in the wild card round, the opponent isn’t for certain yet.

The teams that are in the mix are the San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, and the Dallas Cowboys.

The two possible seeds for the Lions in the NFC bracket are the fifth and sixth. I will not play the “if this, then this” game. It is very dry reading for one, and secondly that is done more efficiently in a table format rather than prose. What I will provide is an argument for the most beneficial opponent for the Lions.

The Dallas Cowboys are the most favorable foe for Detroit. Tony Romo’s lack of success in December is legendary. The microscope in Dallas is the biggest in the NFL. The franchise has a micromanaging owner who constantly inserts himself into every decision on a daily basis. Romo’s playoff accomplishments certainly have not satisfied the masses in the football starved lone star state. He is a Brett Favre type of player whose ability to make positive things happen is matched by his propensity for a mistake.

Dallas also plays indoors, which would benefit the prolific passing attack of Detroit. Matthew Stafford is used to playing in hostile environments in the SEC and the NFC North; there would be an increased level of adrenaline from competing against America’s team.

The New York Giants would also provide a positive experience for the Lions. Eli Manning has had a record setting year, but so have a handful of quarterbacks. His Super Bowl victory was more due to luck than skill. He definitely is not his brother in terms of leadership or preparation.

Like the Lions, the strength of New York’s defense is the d line. Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck have the ability to pressure Stafford, but this will simply necessitate quick passing plays by Detroit or draws to keep them at bay. The Lions have demonstrated the propensity to come back in games this season. Their prior performances against the Vikings and Chargers are evidence of their gritty nature. Tom Coughlin does not hold a coaching edge over Jim Schwartz. His refusal to go out on a limb can be a blessing or curse, depending on the situation.

The San Francisco 49ers could be a better team for the Lions than the Saints. Frank Gore doesn’t possess the explosiveness that he did in the past. There is a lack of experience in this type of situation for Jim Harbaugh and Alex Smith. The defense has been the key to the success of the franchise all season, but linebacker Patrick Willis has been banged up recently. In addition, the team wrapped up the division so early that they haven’t played in very meaningful games lately. It’s tough for players to simply flip a switch for competitiveness.

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