Lions primed for big second half

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) looks downfield as he scrambles during the first quarter of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Detroit, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Through week 9 of the NFL season, the Detroit Lions sit at 4-4 and 2-0 in the NFC North. As many football analysts have put it, the Lions are exactly where everyone expected them to be: close, but not elite. If we backtrack five weeks, the Lions were 2-1, fresh off a heartbreaking loss to the Atlanta Falcons; a game where they were half a yard from winning, but a controversial reversal and ten-second runoff lead to a loss. Despite the loss, the Detroit Lions were anointed as one of the teams to beat in the NFC. During those first four weeks of the season, the Lions offense was showing serious potential. Quarterback Matthew Stafford was picking up where he left off in 2016, throwing 7 TDs to just 1 INT. Ameer Abdullah & Co. were beginning to show flashes of a consistent running game, or at least a manageable running game that was taking pressure off of the quarterback. Additionally, players on the outside were making big-time catches and plays, with the likes of Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and Eric Ebron getting involved.

However, the following three weeks would not be the same. Three straight losses to the Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, and the Pittsburgh Steelers sent the Lions down the rankings and left fans looking for answers. Facets of the team that were evident the first four weeks seemed almost nonexistent. The defensive line did not tally a single sack, the offense was stagnant and lacked any stability, and Matthew Stafford was beaten up and thrown around as the offensive line lacked any blocking consistency. The losses the Lions suffered to New Orleans and Carolina also dimmed any hopes the Lions would have at a wildcard spot, as they would not have the tiebreaker.

Fast forward to Monday night’s game, and you can see how one solid football game can turn the momentum. The Detroit Lions are showing excitement once again after the Lions played their best game in 2017 on Monday against Green Bay. Matthew Stafford “shredded” the Packers for 366 yards while completing almost 80% of his passes. The defense shut down young QB Brett Hundley, allowing only 153 total yards through the first half. Stafford had a clean pocket nearly the entire game, he was throwing back shoulder timing routes, perfectly called screen passes, and showed the confidence and focus of a guy who is ready to carry this team into the playoffs. Detroit made it evident on Monday night that there is plenty of football left for them to make a charge at the division.

Looking ahead, Detroit faces one team in the remaining eight weeks that has a winning record (see below).

Home vs. Cleveland Browns (0-8)

Away vs. Chicago Bears (3-5)

Home vs. Minnesota Vikings (6-2)

Away vs. Baltimore Ravens (4-5)

Away vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-6)

Home vs. Chicago Bears (3-5)

Away vs. Cincinnati Bengals (3-5)

Home vs. Green Bay Packers (4-4)

The eight teams remaining have a combined 22-34 record, and four of the games are divisional games. The one game versus an above .500 team is the Thanksgiving bout with the Minnesota Vikings. Detroit has not lost since 2012 on Thanksgiving and I do not see it happening this year either. Detroit has the potential to come out of this record 6-2, 7-1, or even 8-0. Detroit has the tools needed to be successful, it is simply a matter of consistency. Jim Caldwell’s teams have always performed well in the second half of the season, and the soft schedule Detroit faces increases the possibility even more.

Look out January, you may be seeing some Honolulu blue there.