It’s been a rough 21st century for Detroit Lions fans. Since 2000, Detroit has seen two playoff appearances, both ending in Wildcard losses. In fact, the last time the Lions have won a playoff game was over 20 years ago in 1991, when they managed a to take down the Dallas Cowboys but lost to the Redskins in their next matchup. Nonetheless, loyal fans have become the cornerstone for the organization, and here are four reasons why their belief could become reality.

Golden Tate

With no primary number three receiver for Matthew Stafford to target, Golden Tate and Calvin Johnson still hold a big lead on every other receiver throughout training camp. And even though Johnson is the better receiver of the duo, Tate is the beneficiary. While Megatron constantly faces double and triple­teams, Detroit’s acquisition last season has been given looks all over the offense, switching roles between the Z and Y spots, as well as serving valuable time in the slot. Tate’s production rose above any expectations last season, as he recorded over 1,300 receiving yards and 99 receptions. Keep in mind he rose to the occasion even with Calvin Johnson was injured, proving he can take on double coverage. The sky is the limit with the former Seahawk, and the Lions should utilize him even more this upcoming season, taking pressure of Megatron while allowing tight end Eric Ebron and possibly a third receiver to explode onto the scene moving forward.

Teryl Austin

As far as coaching goes, Teryl Austin is one of the best, if not the best defensive coordinator. His transformation of the Lions’ secondary this season has resulted in an unbelievable turnaround. Even with the loss of Bill Bentley, Nevin Lawson, Stephen Tulloch, and Cassius Vaughn to injuries last season, Austin was able to construct the fourth­best defense in terms of yards allowed per game, and fourth­best defense against the run. After shutting out Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers, and Geno Smith last year, the Lions’ defense was credited as arguably the most feared in the league, and one that should provide its offense with multiple opportunities to score, whether that be through turnovers or three­and­outs. Austin has also been able to consistently bring in depth, most notably at the cornerback position. But he will face his biggest test so far after suffering major losses on the defensive line this offseason in Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. However, the addition of both Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker should yield the bleeding as the Lions look to defend their title as one of the best defenses in the league.

Darius Slay

Two seasons ago Darius Slay would have been an afterthought. After being benched alongside of ex-­Lion Chris Houston, for their poor play against Cincinnati and A.J. Green, Slay realized that the NFL was a much harsher environment to play in than during his career at Mississippi State University. Last season, both he and Rashean Mathis were ranked as one of the league’s best cornerback duos. And it couldn’t have come at a better time, as guys like Nevin Lawson, Bill Bentley, and Cassius Vaughn all went down with injuries. And if last season wasn’t evidence enough that Mathis will continue his dominant performance week in and week out even at 34 years of age (35 by the time the season rolls around), you should’ve seen him during OTA’s andmini camp. Nevertheless, Slay is only approaching his third year in the NFL, he has great upside and undoubtable potential to reach the next level. As long as he continues to play well and shut down wideouts like Randall Cobb and Victor Cruz, so too should the Detroit Lions’ defense.

DeAndre Levy

Earlier last season, Levy revealed his preparation for each game, with a pad of notebook paper and a pencil. His old­fashioned approach to the game and hard work have brought him to the next level defensively. Levy has not only become the leader of the Lions’ defense, but he has also played well enough to be considered a Pro Bowl snub the past two seasons, even without his counterpart Stephen Tulloch last year. His ability to play the zone has stood out to Defensive Coordinator, Teryl Austin, who believes Levy is one of the league’s top linebackers. The Lions linebacker accumulated 151 tackles last season, second only to Pro Bowl linebacker Luke Kuechly. However, Levy also defends well in the flat, recording highlight reel interceptions almost every week. Detroit’s future will continue to depend on the play of their defense, and leading the way is DeAndre Levy.