Have you ever seen a movie where you swore you knew how it was going to end because you've seen plots like this play out before, only to be pleasantly surprised by the unpredictable finish?
The Lions are favored to win the NFC North after finishing 8-2 in the final 10 games of 2022. But, can you really trust a team that hasn't won a playoff game since the 1991 season, the longest active drought in the NFL?
Then there's the Jets, Super Bowl contenders on paper after boosting their offense with the additions of four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers and Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook in tandem with a top-five defense. But, they haven't even been to the playoffs since 2010, the longest active drought in the league. They also haven't won a title since Joe Namath's guarantee.
I'm here to tell you that history shouldn't get in the way of you getting behind these teams. Sure, let Rodgers' age or the Jets offensive line be the reason you're skeptical. Let Tagovailoa's health or Jalen Ramsey's injury scare you off the Dolphins. Defense is a legit reason to be down on Detroit.
But history on teams like these show that ancient playoff history should be disregarded. Yes, I'm using history to show you that other history shouldn't be trusted, if that makes sense.
I looked at every team in the last three decades with an Over/Under win total of at least nine (so they were expected to be a winning team) and a playoff win drought stretching at least 10 seasons. These are your teams like this year's Lions, Jets and Dolphins. Big hype with big baggage.
Twenty-nine teams met that criteria. Twelve went under their Over/Under win total, 11 went Over and six pushed. In other words, there was really no correlation between how often they matched the hype, or fell flat on their faces per usual.
Nine of those 29 teams actually won a playoff game. Four reached the Super Bowl and one even won it -- the 2020 Buccaneers.
Of course, for every 2020 Buccaneers there was 2019 Browns. Let's run through the good, bad and ugly of these cases.
2020 Buccaneers: The Buccaneers hadn't won a playoff game since Super Bowl XXXVI against the Raiders when they signed Tom Brady. Jets fans can find hope in this example as Tampa Bay's playoff misery didn't stop an all-time great QB from winning it all.
2020 Bills: This is for the Dolphins fans. The 2020 Bills won their first playoff game since the 1995 season. They lived up to the hype after Josh Allen went from promising first-round pick to superstar following the acquisition of Stefon Diggs. Miami is somewhere in that realm after Tua Tagovailoa blossomed with the Tyreek Hill trade. The Dolphins just need a healthy Tagovailoa in 2023.
2018 Rams: Here's your hope, Lions fans. Jared Goff helped turn around a franchise that hadn't won a playoff game in 14 years. Los Angeles was already on the cusp with a playoff appearance in 2017, similar to how last year's Lions just missed the playoffs. Sean McVay, Goff and the talented Rams team took another step forward and reached the Super Bowl in 2018, losing to the Patriots. I think Detroit would sign up for its first Super Bowl trip in 2023.
1993 Packers: I'm throwing in this example mostly because it's cool. The Packers were a miserable franchise in the '70s and '80s, managing just one playoff win. Then Brett Favre came along and pfff, the playoff misery went away. He turned heads after taking over the QB job early in 1992 with Green Bay, and led the Packers to a playoff win in 1993.
Of course, not every dumpster fire is so easy to extinguish. Sometimes the Raiders are still the Raiders, and the Browns are gonna be the Browns.
2017 Raiders: This was going to be the Raiders' year, until it wasn't. They were 12-4 in 2016 thanks to Derek Carr's breakout season, full of one clutch performance after another. Then he broke his leg and Oakland went one-and-done in the postseason. They couldn't follow suit in 2017, not even with Marshawn Lynch coming out of retirement and getting traded to his hometown team. The late-game magic was gone, Amari Cooper missed four games and the defense didn't intercept a pass until Week 12. Fast forward to 2023 and the Raiders still haven't won a playoff game since the 2002 AFC Championship Game.
2016 Bengals: This Bengals team was coming off four straight 10-win seasons, but still seeking their first playoff win since the 1990 season. Andy Dalton's breakout 2015 season was cut short by a broken thumb, so naturally there was hope he could pick up where he left off. That wasn't in the cards after WRs Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones signed with other teams, and WR A.J. Green and TE Tyler Eifert suffered injuries. These Bengals won just six games.
2015 Dolphins: Miami was supposed to take a step forward after Ryan Tannehill threw 27 touchdown passes to 12 interceptions in 2014. The team was 8-8 with talent at RB (Lamar Miller), WR (Jarvis Landry) and pass rushers (Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon). It didn't happen though and head coach Joe Philbin was fired after Week 4, making way for interim head coach Dan Campbell.
2019 Browns: This was definitely going to be the Browns year. They were still searching for their first playoff trip since returning to the NFL in 1999, but they had No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield coming off a stellar rookie year and had just traded for Odell Beckham Jr. Only they did what the Browns do, disappoint. Mayfield threw 21 picks and never developed the type of chemistry with Jarvis Landry and OBJ that many expected.
2012 Lions: The 2019 Browns provide one example of what could happen to the 2023 Lions. The 2012 Lions are the other. The 2023 Lions have 22-1 odds to win the Super Bowl, their best since 2012. Those 2012 odds were warranted at the time. Detroit made the playoffs the previous year and Matthew Stafford matched Dan Marino as the youngest player with either 5,000 passing yards or 40 touchdown passes in a season (age 23). None of that translated in 2012, even though Calvin Johnson broke Jerry Rice's single-season receiving yards record. Detroit finished just 4-12 and Stafford threw 20 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
These are all fun examples and this year's Lions, Jets and Dolphins are just as likely to fall into any of these buckets, from a Super Bowl trip to a top draft pick. History shows the past should be left in the past for these franchises.