Who will be next first-time winners?
With the Los Angeles Kings winning their first Stanley Cup, the search is on for the next first time championship team among professional sports.
Two teams that come to mind are the Oklahoma City Thunder and the hometown Detroit Lions. The Thunder recently advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time in team history, representing the powerful Western Conference. The Lions also appeared in the NFL playoffs for the first time in 12 years, breaking their image as the league’s doormat team.
Both teams have rebuilt from hard times through the draft. Oklahoma City has groomed Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden into a powerful, homegrown trio. The Thunder have become a popular team led by a strong core, so it is probable that they will win a championship sooner than later.
Detroit has turned their horrible seasons and high draft picks into amazing players such as Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford, and Ndamukong Suh. This trio has brought great times, media attention, and hope to the city of Detroit.
Johnson is featured as the cover athlete for the popular video game, Madden NFL 13. Stafford joined elite company in 2011, becoming one of four players in NFL history to throw for 5000 yards in a single season. Suh has had problems on and off the field in the past, but still shows promise to become a dominant force on the Lion’s defense front. The Lions are in a good situation, with their talent blooming into their prime all at once.
Their 2012 schedule is one of the weakest in the NFC, featuring six games against quality teams with playoff hopes for the 2012 season. Fans are also excited about their revamped Lions. Earlier this year, the Lions featured a preseason predictor on their site for fans to respond to about the upcoming season along with the team’s final overall record. A popular choice was a 15-1 finish, which would be phenomenal for any NFL team, especially the Lions. A 15-1 finish isn’t impossible, and seems like a feat that could be accomplished by a dangerous duo in Johnson and Stafford.
However, a realistic 2012 record among sports writers would be 11 or 12 wins for the Lions. A finish like that could put them in the wild card mix for a consecutive playoff appearance. The Lions had a small shot for a run in the playoffs if they didn’t face the New Orleans Saints in the first round. The loss last year could be the one that propels this Lions team to a Super Bowl appearance, if not a championship, down the road.
Making the postseason is the most important step towards a championship. Look no further than this year’s champions, the Kings (NHL) and New York Giants (NFL). The Giants squeezed into the NFL playoffs after the final week of the regular season. The team got hot at the right time, and propelling them to major upsets over championship favorites.
An overall record no longer matters once the playoffs start; it’s all about who catches fire at the right time. If the Lions make the playoffs, watch out because you just might be a witness to history and a first championship.