Check with Packers
The Lions are legitimate, no question. They have a dynamic quarterback-receiver combination in Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. Their defensive line may be the best in football. They come to play well-prepared and fired up.
Their biggest problem is they play in the same neighborhood as the Super Bowl champions, and as of now, the Packers still are carrying a bigger stick.
The Lions are not flawless. Questions remain about their running game and secondary. But if they can keep Stafford healthy, they are going to be a playoff team.
Couldn't you envision an NFC championship game in Green Bay between the two division rivals? It could happen.
Wild card bound
The NFC is so weak, even Army would be at 5-2 odds to make the playoffs.
All the Lions need to do is go .500 the rest of the way to finish 10-6 and earn a wild card behind the Packers. And remember, the Lions have played only one home game.
We'll earmark the other wild card to the NFC South; forget about the West and East, where the Redskins will fold and the Cowboys and Eagles throw away more games than the quality control inspector at Hasbro.
The Lions aren't Super Bowl contenders because they can't get by the Packers, but if the playoff bracket breaks the right way, a trip to the NFC title game would have the Motor City revved up in January.
Could be 13-win team
As long as Matthew Stafford stays upright, the Lions could be the second-best team in the NFL.
Of course, the downside for the Motor City is that the men wearing Honolulu blue and silver are also the second-best team in the NFC North as Packers games look like men playing against boys.
However, as long as their quarterback can shake his injury-prone rep, the Lions, loaded with youth, athleticism and talent, could be a 12- to 13-win team.
Suddenly the Packers-Lions game on Thanksgiving Day at Ford Field looks like an electric matchup — as opposed to one that usually, when combined with an overdose of tryptophan and carbs, puts even the most ardent NFL fan to sleep.
Staying healthy key
It's far too early to project where the Lions might wind up. But in terms of talent, they are definitely a team that could make a deep run into the playoffs and maybe more.
Staying healthy is the key, especially for the big three of quarterback Matthew Stafford, receiver Calvin Johnson and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
What we do know about the Lions is they believe they're never out of a game, as evidenced by their epic comebacks in consecutive weeks.
It will be interesting to see how this team plays in cold-weather road games. It's a classic dome team in all respects, mostly because of that big defensive front that relies on size as much as speed.