Raiola looks back on last season as evidence of how predictions are meaningless – at any point in the season -- and there are no sure things.
Three sets of numbers from last season are riveted in Raiola’s memory -- 6-3, 1-6 and 7-9. They represent how a bright start to last season ended in a disastrous skid.
The Lions started with a 6-3 record that gave them a solid grip on first place in the NFC North, but they went 1-6 in the last seven games to finish 7-9 and skid out of the playoffs.
Most analysts are predicting a fourth straight division title for the Packers, who won the North with a record of 8-7-1 last year. The Lions and Bears are projected to be in a close race for second.
As far as Raiola is concerned, predictions might as well be about the price of bamboo on the world’s commodity exchange.
“We’ve been over this enough,” Raiola said Tuesday. “I don’t really think it matters now. We talked about it last year, when we were a shoo-in to win the North (during the season). After going through that, I don’t think it really matters.
“What really matters is what we do. I know it sounds cliché, but that’s really what it is. It’s what happens on the field. It’s what happens on Sunday.”
Raiola referred to how new head coach Jim Caldwell’s demeanor and leadership are keeping the team focused on what is immediately at hand so players don’t get caught up in predictions.
Caldwell has been on Super Bowl winners in Baltimore and Indianapolis as an assistant coach, and he was head coach of the 2009 Indy team that lost in the Super Bowl to the New Orleans Saints.
Caldwell has championship-game experience, and he consistently talks about championships, not win totals, and what it takes to win them.
“I always feel like we’re a reflection of our leadership, and our leadership is the guy who stands up in the team meeting in front of us talking to us,” Raiola said, referring to Caldwell.
“One of my first times meeting him, that’s all he talked about (championships). He already has that aura about him that we’re going to talk about championships. That’s the only way you get there -- if you act like one (a champion), play like one and think like one.”
There are very few issues – if any – that Caldwell does not cover with the team. Predictions are covered.
“We talk about those kinds of things from both ends of it,” Caldwell said. “There are people that predict that you’re not going to do well and there are people that predict that you will do well.”
Caldwell spoke of the old saying that “flattery is much like flowers.”
“You can smell them, but you can’t eat them,” he said.
“Leave that up to you guys,” Ihedigbo said, referring to the media. “There’s no reason to. We have our own goals that we have as a team. Nothing’s going to be perfect or pretty. You can’t fall into what other people think. It’s not going to get you far.
“You can think you’re better than you actually are. You leave yourself up for a rude awakening. We just try to stay on an even keel around here, not too high, not too low. That’s the leadership. That the makeup of our team.”