Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 5/25/12
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A year after finishing 10-6, the Detroit Lions' season-win total for 2012 has been set at 9 12 by Las Vegas sports books. In other words, take the "over" if you think they're going to win 10 or more; the "under" if you think they'll win nine or fewer. For a little historical perspective, consider that never in club history have the Lions reached double-digit victories in back-to-back years. Expectations have been rising ever since the Lions won their final four games in 2010 and then followed that up last season with their first playoff appearance in 12 years. But can they sustain this success? It's one thing to get there; it's another to stay there. In a league of parity like the NFL, a rise one year can easily turn into a fall the next. Here are a few examples from the NFC in just the last five years of teams having major slides after playoff seasons: Seattle went from 10-6 in 2007 to 4-12 in '08. The New York Giants from 12-4 in 2008 to 8-8 in '09. Carolina also from 12-4 in 2008 to 8-8 in '09. Minnesota from 12-4 in 2009 to 6-10 in '10. Dallas from 11-5 in 2009 to 6-10 in '10. Arizona from 10-6 in 2009 to 5-11 in '10. Chicago from 11-5 in 2010 to 8-8 in '11. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay, a long-time suffering franchise similar to the Lions, won 10 games in 2010 even though they didn't make the playoffs. But with growing expectations last year, the Buccaneers dropped to 4-12. You can go from good to bad and bad to good very quickly in the NFL. More than likely, it's going to happen again this year to one - or more - of last season's playoff teams. Just because the Lions appear to be on the rise doesn't guarantee them anything, especially in a conference where a total of nine teams have season win totals set at nine games or more. The others are Green Bay (12), Philadelphia (10 12), Atlanta (opened at 10, now 9 12), New Orleans (9 12), San Francisco (9 12), the defending Super Bowl champion Giants (9 12), Dallas (9) and Chicago (9). Only six of these perceived NFC contenders can make the playoffs. At least three will be left out. The Lions are going to play seven of their 16 games against this group, including two against Green Bay (home and away), two against Chicago (home and away), one against Philadelphia (away), one against San Francisco (away) and one against Atlanta (home). As always, injuries will be a big factor in ultimately determining who's in and who's out. Just ask the Bears, who appeared to be a playoff threat a year ago. They might have even beaten out the Lions, if not for injuries to quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte. What's also going to be crucial in the Lions' case is not becoming complacent, too satisfied with what they did last season. They were the toast of the town for their turnaround, but if they don't keep pushing and doing what they did to get there, they'll easily be left behind at playoff time. The veteran players certainly know it. "We're close to becoming something special, where we're a good team every year, where we could be a perennial playoff team," defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said. "But we can't take things for granted." Center Dominic Raiola agreed, saying that the Lions "haven't done anything yet." "To be honest," Raiola added, "we have to continue to remind ourselves of that. "Regardless of the media attention we get this year, the games we get on prime time, guys doing interviews, flying out of town, we still have to understand that we haven't brought a ring home to Detroit. "That's going to be a sign of us arriving. Until then, you're not going to see us walking around with our chest out." So, yes, the players are saying all the right things. Coach Jim Schwartz also appears to be taking the lead by downplaying last year's accomplishments and suggesting that the Lions need to get to where simply clinching a wild-card playoff spot isn't cause for a huge state-wide celebration. He wants division championships, conference championships, Super Bowl championships. Then it will be time to celebrate. Any other type of approach could send the Lions back to the bottom just as fast as they rose toward the top. That said, the day the schedule came out, I picked Detroit to finish 11-5 with losses at San Francisco, at Philadelphia, at Chicago, vs. Houston and at Green Bay. Too high? Maybe. But as of now, two months before training camp starts, I'm sticking with "over" 9 12. EXTRA POINT Despite that win total, the Lions were actually favored in 10 of their first 15 games by Cantor Gaming's sports books in Las Vegas. Cantor recently posted lines on every NFL game except for the season's final week when key players often are held out to get healthy for the playoffs. (The Lions, at this point, also would be presumably favored at home over Chicago in their regular-season finale). Here is the game-by-game breakdown of how the lines opened: Week 1: - 9 12 vs. St. Louis. Week 2: 3 12 at San Francisco. Week 3: - 1 at Tennessee. Week 4: - 9 vs. Minnesota. Week 5: Bye. Week 6: 4 12 at Philadelphia. Week 7: 2 12 at Chicago. Week 8: - 6 12 vs. Seattle. Week 9: - 4 12 at Jacksonville. Week 10: - 3 12 at Minnesota. Week 11: 3 vs. Green Bay. Week 12: - 2 12 vs. Houston. Week 13: - 9 12 vs. Indianapolis. Week 14: 7 12 at Green Bay. Week 15: - 1 12 at Arizona. Week 16: - 4 vs. Atlanta. Week 17: NA vs. Chicago.
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