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Lions revival right on schedule

Detroit Lions v Denver Broncos Getty Images

We’re looking in-depth at each team during their bye week.

Carolina and Jacksonville already got the treatment. Now up: The Lions.

Right on pace

This was the year everything was supposed to come together for the Lions. It has.

There is a sense this team may not be “for real” after back-to-back home losses, but that’s silly.  They are 6-2 and on track for a playoff spot.

They are good enough to convincingly beat teams when they are down (Chiefs, Broncos, Bears), but not good enough to put together four quarters most weeks. Detroit is 3-2 in one-score games.

Great free agent class

Lions G.M. Martin Mayhew doesn’t get enough credit for rebuilding this Lions roster. He had a terrific year signing free agents without spending huge coin.

Stephen Tulloch and Justin Durant have helped to solidify a once-embarrassing linebacker group. Cornerback Eric Wright has played very well at a bargain basement price. This defense is no longer just about the line. They compete at every level of the defense.

Can’t run, can’t stop the run

Second round pick Mikel LeShore was lost in camp and the Lions never found a power back to replace him. Jahvid Best started the season well, but he’s not a workhorse back and is out indefinitely with a concussion.

The Lions are 27th in the league in rushing. It hasn’t killed them because they play from behind so often, but Detroit will struggle to close out good teams if they get a lead.

The Lions also struggle to stop the run. They are 30th in rushing yards allowed and 30th in yards-per-carry allowed. Opposing teams take advantage of Detroit’s aggressive line.

The Lions are very tough to pass against, though. Only one team gives up fewer yards-per-pass.

Turnover titans

The Lions leads the league in turnover margin at +13. They have 18 takeaways and only five giveaways. Second in the league: San Francisco.

Stafford surviving

The main question for Matthew Stafford this year: Could he stay healthy? He has done that, and continued to develop into a quality starting quarterback.

Stafford can get erratic with his accuracy. Sometimes nothing works except “Throw it up for Megatron.” But these are quibbles.

Stafford can deliver the ball from any angle like few quarterbacks in the league. He’s thrown 19 touchdowns to only four interceptions. He’s legit.

(Calvin Johnson, by the way, is realizing all his potential with 804 yards and 11 scores.)

So-so Suh

The conversation regarding whether Ndamukong Suh is a “dirty player” has helped to obscure the fact that Suh isn’t having a great season. We’d argue that he’s not playing at Pro Bowl level. It’s not just that his “splash plays” are down. He can disappear for stretches and sometimes be a liability in the run game.

Sure, he sometimes “attracts attention” from the offense. Great players overcome that.

Headed for a Wild Card

It says a lot that Lions fans were booing their home team throughout their loss to the Falcons. Expectations have been raised for this 6-2 squad.

The schedule over the second half is difficult. They play Green Bay twice. They also have road games in Chicago, Oakland, and New Orleans. Home games against Carolina, San Diego, and Minnesota are more manageable.

4-4 or 5-3 over the last eight games is reasonable. That should get Detroit to the playoffs, which would make this year a resounding success for the Lions.

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60 Responses to “Lions revival right on schedule”
  1. trbowman says: Nov 4, 2011 4:57 PM

    I still find it hilarious how the Lions used a first rounder on a third down back in Jahvid Best.

  2. drshakedown74 says: Nov 4, 2011 5:00 PM

    Yep, yep and yep. A whole lot of what I already knew. Thanks. FYI….I like meat with my stats. Not just typical rankings ala 1-30 and plus or minus. Happy Friday.

  3. drshakedown74 says: Nov 4, 2011 5:01 PM

    I’m an Eagles phan, and all I know is that I don’t wanna play the Lions.

  4. chc4 says: Nov 4, 2011 5:04 PM

    Wasn’t Best a 2nd rounder?

  5. smad210sports says: Nov 4, 2011 5:09 PM

    I wouldn’t wanna play anybody except the cowboys if I were an Eagles phan.

  6. jimmylions says: Nov 4, 2011 5:11 PM

    trbowman says:
    Nov 4, 2011 4:57 PM
    I still find it hilarious how the Lions used a first rounder on a third down back in Jahvid Best.
    ______________________

    I’m guessing the Bears were also laughing, until Best blew past their defense 88 yards all the way to the house.

    The kid can play. It’s too bad that he probably shouldn’t (because of his concussions).

  7. jimmylions says: Nov 4, 2011 5:13 PM

    chc4 says:
    Nov 4, 2011 5:04 PM
    Wasn’t Best a 2nd rounder?
    __________________

    He was 30th overall – (late first round).

  8. sbxxix says: Nov 4, 2011 5:18 PM

    Offense wins games Defense wins championships… They really have a shot to go all the way. It would be cool to see Det @ SF in the NFC Championship. Two teams that were no where near the playoff pic last year. I wonder what the handshake will be like at the end of the game?

  9. hrmlss says: Nov 4, 2011 5:21 PM

    Lions will lose at least 5 more games.

  10. The Phantom Stranger says: Nov 4, 2011 5:24 PM

    Stafford to Johnson is the main reason this team is doing so well. I hope they can keep it up.

  11. dgreenfi says: Nov 4, 2011 5:25 PM

    Right on time??? Are you kidding me? The revival is 10 years late because it took forever to fire Millen.

  12. ryan6 says: Nov 4, 2011 5:27 PM

    Its only the 1st year of many more!!!

  13. cakemixa says: Nov 4, 2011 5:32 PM

    Whats the point in hyping a team whose goal (and reality) is one and done in the playoffs?

  14. redruckus81 says: Nov 4, 2011 5:33 PM

    The Lions defense has actually been pretty good stopping the run despite the numbers against them. They have been giving up too many long runs the last 4 weeks but other than those opposing RBs really havent been able to move the ball on them.

    Of the three games that contributed the most yards against them (Chicago, San Fran and Atlanta) only Gore really had a good game. Forte and Turner were non factors in their games plowing into the line for 2 or 3 yards 9 out of 10 times before breaking a long one on the 10th. Dont believe me? Just look at the play by play for the Atlanta game… other than the 50 yarder turner had one carry for more than 6 yards and the bulk of them went for 3 or less.

    Cutler was the only reason the Bears were in that game and Tony Gonzalez and 3rd down penalties hurt the Lions against Atlanta alot more than Turner did

  15. turdfurgerson68 says: Nov 4, 2011 5:42 PM

    The Thanksgiving Day game against Green Bay will be the real litmus test…we’ll see just how good the Lions are.

    Either win or lose, it’s great to see the Lions. In the playoff race…finally!

  16. woodyg says: Nov 4, 2011 5:48 PM

    The Lions should feel fortunate to be 6-2 at the halfway mark …… If it weren’t for the Vikings & Cowboys imploding, the Lions would be looking at 4-4 at this juncture ….. Regardless, 6-2 may become 2-6 the second half & the Lions finish 8-8 …… Even if the Lions can pull out a 4-4 the 2nd half it guarantees nothing …… Two teams in 2010 finished 10-6 & missed the playoffs ……

    Good to see a ‘just’ analysis of Suh’s play thus far in 2011 …… “So-So Suh” hasn’t played nearly as well as his rookie year (His focus is talking, not playing)……. Cue the Lion Fans: “He’s double & triple & quaduple teamed on every play” …… Lion Fans want to believe this but this simply isn’t the truth ….. Check the film …….

  17. buckybadger says: Nov 4, 2011 5:51 PM

    sbxxix says:
    Nov 4, 2011 5:18 PM
    Offense wins games Defense wins championships… They really have a shot to go all the way. It would be cool to see Det @ SF in the NFC Championship. Two teams that were no where near the playoff pic last year. I wonder what the handshake will be like at the end of the game?

    ———————–

    This was true at one time but not anymore. It is an offensive passing game. The days of Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson winning with great defenses are over. You need to be able to score to beat teams like the Packers.

  18. buckybadger says: Nov 4, 2011 5:52 PM

    cakemixa says:
    Nov 4, 2011 5:32 PM
    Whats the point in hyping a team whose goal (and reality) is one and done in the playoffs?

    ——————-

    Are you in their locker room? Trust me the Wild Card goal is that set of their fans and media. The players like all players want to win it all.

  19. tformation says: Nov 4, 2011 6:09 PM

    How awesome is it that the game against Green Bay will be the first Detroit Thanksgiving Day actually WORTH WATCHING for the first time in what, 10 years?

    Looking forward to the rematch against my Bears, too… I’d still like the Lions to lose to my Bears, of course, but if nothing else games with the Lions are certainly more interesting to watch…

  20. twb5003 says: Nov 4, 2011 6:09 PM

    Right on time? Is that a joke? They were 0-16 in 08 I think the revival is much earlier then most of us thought. The last bit of the schedule isn’t as tough as it seems no one is scared of SD and the lions know they can beat the packers. On top of that week 17 at green bay the lions could be 9-6 needing a win to make the playoffs and green bay could be resting. As a lions fan I know this team can hang with anyone and I hope they get a chance to show it in the playoffs.

  21. jimmysee says: Nov 4, 2011 6:28 PM

    The rapid turnaround of the Lions should give Vikings fans hope.

  22. jeromepc01 says: Nov 4, 2011 6:29 PM

    As Lions’ season ticket holder, I can tell you we weren’t booing our team (against Atlanta). We were booing Scott Linehan, who likes to run the same inside zone trap play about 75% of the time on first down. And that game it felt like 100% of the time. I think we were in a second and long position on nearly every single set of downs due to the lack of creative play-calling. It’s frustrating when an offensive coordinator has Calvin Johnson at his disposal, but would rather focus his offense around Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams. We were booing the play-calling. I promise.

  23. snarkzilla says: Nov 4, 2011 6:31 PM

    You know, it’s easy to find stats on the NFL site. Suh currently ranks 17th for all D linemen for tackles+assists+sacks. And he does get doubled.

  24. doowix says: Nov 4, 2011 6:33 PM

    Fans weren’t booing the team in the Atlanta game. They were booing Scott Linehan and his stale play-calling, which was justified.

  25. johnnycash19 says: Nov 4, 2011 6:46 PM

    It hasn’t killed them because they play from behind so often
    —————–

    What? Played behind so often? Ok Minnesota and Dallas. That was their only “big deficits” all season. I don’t believe they trailed San Fran or Atalanta by more than one possession.

    Also another good stat would be to say the Lions also lead the league in defensive 3 and outs with 33.

  26. visible4 says: Nov 4, 2011 6:49 PM

    trbowman says: Nov 4, 2011 4:57 PM

    I still find it hilarious how the Lions used a first rounder on a third down back in Jahvid Best.

    —-

    After week 6 of the season Best accounted for over 30% of Detroit’s total offense. Maybe you are confusing him with someone else? Or maybe you just have no idea what you are talking about. I’d guess you just have no clue on what you are talking about.

  27. pacificamjr says: Nov 4, 2011 6:57 PM

    The rapid turnaround of the Lions should give Vikings fans hope.
    ====================
    Is 50 years rapid to you?

  28. visible4 says: Nov 4, 2011 6:58 PM

    Detroit’s offense and defense is both top ten in points. Stafford is the highest rated QB in the league during the second half of games (once Linehan lets him play). Detroit leads the league in turnover margin. Detroit leads the league in 4th down defense. Detroit is top 3 in sacks. I would say they are not only legit, but are way ahead of schedule. They are only two years removed from a 2 win season, and 3 years removed from a 0-16 season. That is a pretty impressive turnaround.

  29. warvette says: Nov 4, 2011 7:06 PM

    as a packers fan, i’ve been waiting to use this one: suh having an off year? maybe he’s having a year off from the HGH, huh?!?! and also, shame on lions fans for booing their own team. but hey, stay classy, lions fans!! (oh, all that felt good)

  30. warvette says: Nov 4, 2011 7:06 PM

    as a packers fan, i’ve been waiting to use this one: suh having an off year? maybe he’s having a year off from the HGH, huh?!?! and also, shame on lions fans for booing their own team. and this one: but hey, stay classy, lions fans!! (oh, all that felt good)

  31. gosuhgo says: Nov 4, 2011 7:10 PM

    woodyg says: Nov 4, 2011 5:48 PM

    The Lions should feel fortunate to be 6-2 at the halfway mark …… If it weren’t for the Vikings & Cowboys imploding, the Lions would be looking at 4-4 at this juncture ….. Regardless, 6-2 may become 2-6 the second half & the Lions finish 8-8 …… Even if the Lions can pull out a 4-4 the 2nd half it guarantees nothing …… Two teams in 2010 finished 10-6 & missed the playoffs ……
    ___________________
    And the Lions could be 7-1 if not for a ridiculous 5 bonus yards and a 4th and 6 td conversion that made it by 2 inches. I love the what-if game. Good luck or bad luck, it all evens out. It evens out to 6-2.

  32. warvette says: Nov 4, 2011 7:13 PM

    by the way, why can’t we delete our own comments here? the wordpress thingy says you can, but if it double posts or something, how do you delete?

  33. staffordsyear says: Nov 4, 2011 7:13 PM

    Good thing the lions are good on the road…wow I havnt said that in a looong time,the roar is restored!

  34. goldrush36 says: Nov 4, 2011 7:20 PM

    I really want to hate these guys because of their crybaby hypocrite coach, but damn after all these years the fans deserve it. In spite of Schwartz

  35. lionking1971 says: Nov 4, 2011 7:25 PM

    By triple teaming Suh this enables Avril and Vanden Bosch a free shot on your qb! Keep multiple dudes on 90 and your signal caller will end up on I.R. or at least flat on his @$$!!!!

  36. essentialsausage says: Nov 4, 2011 7:47 PM

    I disagree about Suh not playing well. He’s drawing double-teams all the time and still he’ll bust through with a great play occasionally. His play powers up the weaker parts of the defensive line (Cliff Avril).

  37. bamalion3 says: Nov 4, 2011 8:01 PM

    great article Captain Obvious.
    beef:
    Suh affects the way opposing offenses play him and just because he isn’t showing up on the stat sheet doesn’t mean he isn’t playing up to par. Articles like this show up when a journalist simply doesn’t understand beyond a stat sheet.
    The front four run defense is guilty of being aggressive and a couple of great coaches used that against us with counter traps/whams.

  38. puba76 says: Nov 4, 2011 8:46 PM

    There’s not a roster in the NFL I would trade the Lions roster for straight up. The combination of talent and youth on the Lions is plain scary. Big 3? How about Johnson/Stafford/Suh. More playmakers on both side of the ball than any other team.

    It’s a shame GB and Detroit are in the same division, because these will be the teams of the teens!

    If you think Avril is the weakest link in the chain, this chain ain’t breaking. Unfortunately someone will probably give him $10M/year when he is really a 6M-8M player.

    I, and the entire team, would LOVE a rematch with SF!

    Who knew all Millen had to do was listen to Mayhew to be successful? GM of the year, perhaps decade, perhaps ever. They were 0-16, how do you come back so quickly after that?

    They’re young, and may not win a playoff game this year, but they are learning. This team, barring catastrophic injury, will win multiple championships. Period.

  39. hendeeze says: Nov 4, 2011 8:57 PM

    since when do complete defenses let the offense play from behind?

  40. fatbaby81 says: Nov 4, 2011 10:09 PM

    If the lions offensive line would get a better push, and bigger holes for the running back to run thru, it wouldnt matter who is back there and best would be over 100 yards every game.

  41. donmajik7 says: Nov 4, 2011 11:28 PM

    By triple teaming Suh this enables Avril and Vanden Bosch a free shot on your qb! Keep multiple dudes on 90 and your signal caller will end up on I.R. or at least flat on his @$$!!!!

    ***************************************

    People like you, comments like this and the borderline dirty play of your team are the reason NFL fans are starting to hate the Lions and their fans. Great job taking what was a feel good story about a team and city on the rebound and killing it.

  42. shorttracknews says: Nov 5, 2011 1:56 AM

    Lions go 3-5 the rest of the way, finish 9-7 and miss the playoffs.

    Regardless that they beat the Bears (and every Lion fan will bring up the fact they did) earlier in the season, they will lose to them when they play in Chicago. They will also lose both games -vs- Green Bay and -vs- the Saints. They will also lose one more of the other 4 games.

    ONLY saving grace is they play GB in week 17 and the Packers should have home field sewn up by then and may not play 100% and rest the starters. If that happens they make go 10-6

  43. johno731 says: Nov 5, 2011 2:01 AM

    This is what I love about the media bias. They say that Pittsburgh and Baltimore are “aggressive”, but Detroit is “dirty”. How is Suh’s game any different from James Harrison’s and Ray Lewis’s? Even worse than the media bias are the ignorant fans that buy into their B.S. and believe everything they hear. There isn’t a single fan or D coordinator that would pass on Suh for a second if he were available. And if they didn’t want him, then they must have forgotten that the NFL is not a flag football leauge. You can call them “dirty” all you want, but they play the game with the level of intensity that is meant to be played with. Stop being a mindless lemming, and watch them play before calling them “dirty” because you heard Cowherd mention it on the radio.

  44. presidentjesus says: Nov 5, 2011 2:24 AM

    Lios vs. SF in the NFC Championship!? Sorry but neither team will be there.

  45. goawayeverybody says: Nov 5, 2011 3:55 AM

    I would like to see Brandon Pettigrew get more involved as well.

  46. steelwarriors55 says: Nov 5, 2011 4:15 AM

    This team is going to finish 8-8 or 9-7 at best and miss the playoffs.

  47. jimmysee says: Nov 5, 2011 6:17 AM

    Thanksgiving day will tell the tale!

  48. motowncool says: Nov 5, 2011 6:22 AM

    People like you, comments like this and the borderline dirty play of your team are the reason NFL fans are starting to hate the Lions and their fans. Great job taking what was a feel good story about a team and city on the rebound and killing it.
    ******************************************

    Haters gonna hate! If you are not a Lions fan, who cares if you hate them? No one. No one hate losers, so that says something. Looking for a reason to hate a winning team is the way it goes.
    NE, PITT, BALT, JETS, BOYS just to name a few.
    So keep hating

  49. snarkzilla says: Nov 5, 2011 7:08 AM

    It’s that self-serving, almost whiny yapping with a tone that’s supposed to be intimidating – that’s what I don’t like. And it’s trotted out in public too often.

    Warren Sapp called Suh out – hard – this week. I guess he must be a “hater” too.

  50. emmonsh says: Nov 5, 2011 7:16 AM

    trbowman says:Nov 4, 2011 4:57 PM

    I still find it hilarious how the Lions used a first rounder on a third down back in Jahvid Best.

    i would take best over bush and he was #2 in the draft. this girl has to be a bears fan. only they can be so stupid.lol

  51. Dynasty says: Nov 5, 2011 7:30 AM

    LeShore was the answer in backfield. Tough loss. This kid looked powerful in camp. Hope he makes it all the way back. Go Lions

  52. otis52gsh says: Nov 5, 2011 7:58 AM

    Detroit is not going to the playoffs. They are not legit. Schwantz will be gone by 2013. Same old lions. The only decent player on the team is megatron. He truly is amazing. But when matty can’t just drop back and heave it, they can’t win. It’s like culpepper to moss all them years. Moss made a below average QB a ton of money. Matty should give half is check to megatron.

  53. ogre2010 says: Nov 5, 2011 10:28 AM

    Like I explain to ‘In Denial’ Jacksonville Jaguars Fans. When you fix things starting from the top, everything else falls in place!! Case in point, the Detroit Lions!!

  54. lks311 says: Nov 5, 2011 10:28 AM

    warvette says:
    Nov 4, 2011 7:06 PM
    as a packers fan, i’ve been waiting to use this one: suh having an off year? maybe he’s having a year off from the HGH, huh?!?! and also, shame on lions fans for booing their own team. and this one: but hey, stay classy, lions fans!! (oh, all that felt good)
    ———————————————————-
    Yup…and Clay Matthews has been such a force this year. Wonder what’s going on with him?

  55. houseofspears90 says: Nov 5, 2011 10:56 AM

    otis52gsh says:Nov 5, 2011 7:58 AM

    Detroit is not going to the playoffs. They are not legit. Schwantz will be gone by 2013. Same old lions. The only decent player on the team is megatron. He truly is amazing. But when matty can’t just drop back and heave it, they can’t win. It’s like culpepper to moss all them years. Moss made a below average QB a ton of money. Matty should give half is check to megatron.
    **********************************************

    So how come Johnson never had these kind of numbers before a healthy Stafford? Hmmmm, you’re an idiot. And the only “decent” player is Megatron? You obviously have no clue how to evaluate talent. I am not saying the Lions are the best ever or SB this year or anything, but even the average fan can see the talent. Why can’t sports talk be rational ever?

  56. packrulzm says: Nov 5, 2011 11:26 AM

    Uh. Cripes people. One good start to a season does not make it a revival. As a Packer fan who happens to like the Lions, I’m glad to see that their fortunes are turning around. However, let’s slow down on proclaiming them to be an elite team. Also, why is anyone surprised that they “suddenly” became good? Healthy is more like it. Finally, they’ve been picking in the top 10 of the draft for what, 19 years? Wow, what a mystery that they were able to actually get a great player or two. Eye roll………..

  57. otis52gsh says: Nov 5, 2011 12:56 PM

    @houseofspears90

    Im an idiot? I don’t know how to judge talent? Maybe both are true, but I did not realize I was dealing with an NFL scout, or some teams general manager on here. I figured all you types would be worrying about your Sunday games, or preparing for the next team after your bye week . Thanks for taking the time to chime in on this subject. For the record, I stand by my previous statement. Lions are garbage except for megatron. That includes your precious matty (glass shoulders) at QB. And let’s forget ndirtyman sue.

  58. adirtyplayernamedsue says: Nov 5, 2011 1:18 PM

    @otis52gsh- you could not be more correct. The lions fans have the blinders on big time.

  59. dewalt2990 says: Nov 6, 2011 5:37 PM

    7-1 for the last 8 games, who knows where the loss will come from, I just had to account for a percentage of error…Vikings, Saints, Raiders, Packers…none of these teams scare the Lions. 4-0 on the road this year. Theyre hungry like no other team.

  60. 2wheels2many says: Nov 7, 2011 12:15 AM

    Delusional fellow fans and haters aside, I’m just happy to finally fall into the “any given Sunday” category.
    To call for 7-1 is just ridiculous. The fact that the clown shoes saying Calvin is the only talented player on the team is spouting off with his “hate” is also encouraging. It’s a heck of a lot better than the pity we’ve been receiving for years.
    Next year, after a Oline upgrade, I’ll worry about playoffs. Go Leos!

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