Detroit Lions face daunting playoff challenge Detroit Lions face daunting playoff challenge
A turnaround season for the Detroit Lions continues this weekend with the team’s first playoff appearance in 12 years. After 10 consecutive losing years,... Detroit Lions face daunting playoff challenge

A turnaround season for the Detroit Lions continues this weekend with the team’s first playoff appearance in 12 years.

After 10 consecutive losing years, the Lions’ high-powered offense and stout defense has taken them from one-time joke of the league to a postseason participant with a bright future.

The Lions face a tough task in their first playoff game since 1999. They will take on record-setting quarterback Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints on January 7 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, where the Saints (13-3) are undefeated this season.

Detroit (10-6) fell to the No. 6 seed in the NFC after losing to the Green Bay Packers 45-41 in the regular season finale on New Year’s Day. The team is a 10 1/2-point underdog to the Saints, who beat the Lions 31-17 in Week 13.

Just after playoff dates and times were announced on January 1, StubHub.com listed the lowest-priced ticket for the Lions-Saints playoff game at $173. Ticket search site SeatGeek.com listed an average ticket price of $450 on the resale market, but the average price dropped to $301 by late January 2.

A team’s long playoff drought can feed what StubHub.com spokesperson Joellen Ferrer called “the starvation factor” for fans hungry for postseason game tickets after years of futility. In addition to the Lions, the Houston Texans made the playoffs for the first time, and the Denver Broncos are returning to the playoffs for the first time in six years.

Ferrer told TicketNews that buyers have been snapping up playoff tickets for all teams for the past few months. Fans are banking on their team’s success continuing and don’t want to be left out, in addition to speculators hoping to cash in on the secondary market.

“There’s relative value right now because the market hasn’t yet set for these games,” Ferrer said. “Additionally, fans get a full refund for any games that don’t actually happen, so there’s no risk involved.”

The Packers’ season-opening 13-game winning streak — and subsequent NFC Central title — kept the Lions from hosting a playoff game for the first time since 1993. Still, the franchise has come light years from its days as an NFL laughingstock when it endured a 0-16 season three years ago.

Images of fans with bags over their heads at Ford Field in Detroit under the disastrous reign of former team president Matt Millen are a distant memory. Detroit now boasts the fourth-highest scoring offense in the league after the breakout season of quarterback Matthew Stafford.

The third-year quarterback set a franchise-record for passing yards and was third in the NFL in touchdown passes with 38. Stafford’s favorite target is wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who has developed into one of the NFL’s elite pass catchers.

Detroit’s defense features formidable — and controversial — tackle Ndamukong Suh, who was suspended two games after stomping on the Packers’ Evan Deitrich-Smith in a Thanksgiving Day match-up. That and other on-field incidents have given Suh a reputation as an alleged dirty player.

The Lions will need a big defensive effort to stop Brees, who set NFL records for passing yards (5,476), completions and completion percentage (71.6).