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The Detroit Lions have faced constant chatter about being the underdog ahead of the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night.
The Niners are playing at home. They are making their third straight appearance in the championship and their 19th in team history – the most by any NFC team. By comparison, Detroit is making its first NFC Championship appearance in 32 years and has never punched their ticket to the Super Bowl.
Christian McCaffrey, right, of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates with teammates after scoring a 6-yard rushing touchdown against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional Playoffs at Levi's Stadium on Jan. 20, 2024, in Santa Clara, California. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Talk of San Francisco’s firepower versus that of the supposedly lesser known Lions’ has also been a topic of debate.
But Super Bowl champion and Pro Football Hall of Fame safety LeRoy Butler is challenging that narrative.
"The Lions are the better team," the former Green Bay Packers legend told Fox News in an interview this week. "They're very well-coached. They got a hell of a running game."
Butler went on to sing the praises of several players, including David Montgomery, Jahmyr Gibbs, Aiden Hutchinson and star wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown. He even commended the organization for its successful rebuild under head coach Dan Campbell.
Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown celebrates after catching a 1-yard touchdown pass against the Minnesota Vikings, Dec. 24, 2023, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)
"Amon-Ra St. Brown, arguably the best receiver, but his name is not DeeBo Samuel. Brandon Aiyuk, a second-team All-Pro – we love these guys. But Amon-Ra St. Brown, you may look at him as a generic instead of the brand, but the generic does the same thing as the brand and costs cheaper.
Earlier this week, quarterback Jared Goff faced comparison questions about the Niners’ "superstars."
"I think we have a ton of great players who maybe haven’t had the national stage that up to this point a lot of the other guys have. Obviously, they have a ton of good players as well and a ton of Pro Bowlers and All-Pro players over there."
"We feel like we have a lot of good players, too, though," he continued.
Jared Goff of the Lions runs onto the field for the Minnesota Vikings game at Ford Field on Jan. 7, 2024, in Detroit. (Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
The Lions had five players selected for the Pro Bowl and five received All-Pro honors. San Francisco had seven players receive All-Pro honors and nine Pro Bowl selections – the most of any team this season.
But none of that will matter on Sunday night.
"We don't base it off of that," Butler said. "There's no accolades for the playoffs. It's either the Super Bowl or bust. Detroit's used to the negative stuff and I really think they're the best team and I expect them to win."
Butler knows what a win here means for the city. He’s also rooting for a redemption story.
"If there's one guy that I want to see get to the Super Bowl, it's Jared Goff… You sent him to Detroit. You thought you were sending him to purgatory. But no, he flipped that script. Jared Goff is going to write his headline, not the Rams."
San Francisco 49ers host the Detroit Lions in the NFC Championship on FOX. (FOX)
Sunday’s NFC Championship game kicks off on FOX at 6:30 p.m. ET.