Are the Lions Playoff-Bound?

9/30/13 in NFL   |   Andrew_Ericksen   |   230 respect

Sep 29, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush (21)breaks a tackle from Chicago Bears defensive end Cornelius Washington (94) on his way to a thirty seven yard touchdown run in the second quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY SportsThe NFC wildcard race could be as exciting as ever this year.  The Atlanta Falcons - one of the NFC’s top-rated team’s going into this season - are now off to a 1-3 start to the year, while similarly hyped Green Bay is at 1-2.  Then there’s San Francisco at 2-2, and their 2-game deficit in the West looks almost insurmountable with how well the Seahawks are playing.
So while Atlanta, Green Bay, and San Francisco have struggled out of the gate, the door of opportunity has begun to open for Chicago and Detroit, both now at 3-1.
In their first meeting of the year, the Lions were able to get some retribution on their NFC North rivals after the Bears won both duels last year.  With their 40-32 victory on Sunday, the Lions improved to 2-0 against the North.  Last year, the team lost all 6 games to the Bears, Vikings, and Packers, but a rejuvenated Lions team looks ready to make the most of their opportunities to move ahead in their division this season.
Reggie Bush was the offensive star for the Lions in their week 4 victory, with 173 total yards and a score on the day.  The Lions offensive line created massive holes for the speedy runner all game long and Bush took advantage of every opening.
All in all, however, it was the Lions defense that really propelled the team.  Forcing 4 Jay Culter turnovers (3 picks and a fumble), the Lions defense did everything they needed to do in order to maintain control of the scoreboard.  Louis Delmas had quite possibly his best game as a pro, intercepting 2 passes, while Glover Quin added a third.  Ndmukong Suh sacked Cutler twice and caused a big fumble that fellow defensive tackle Nick Fairley returned for a touchdown.  And in the middle of all the action, linebacker Stephen Tulloch recorded 14 tackles, 10 solo, and joined Suh in the sack department with one of his own.
So the question we’re all here for…….Will the Lions make the playoffs this year?
I’m saying yes.  They’re going to need to come up with some key victories, such as Cincinnati at home in week 7, on the road in Pittsburgh in week 11, and at home against the Packers on Thanksgiving, but this team isn’t the 4-8 team we saw last year, and it’s not even the 10-6 team we saw in 2011.  The secondary isn’t anything of an elite unit, but it’s vastly improved.  A healthy Delmas has been key and the addition of Quin has given the secondary the veteran leader its needed for years. Meanwhile, Chris Houston has become a top-level #1 cornerback (the team’s #2 corner is maybe the biggest question defensively).  The offensive line has been horrendous the past decade, but this year, Matthew Stafford has had all the time he’s needed while both Bush and Joique Bell have been well protected on the bulk of their carries.
I’m not counting out Atlanta, but the 1-3 hole is going to be tough to dig out of.  New Orleans has a vastly improved defense and at 3-0, they’re going to be tough for the Falcons to catch.  Right now, the Seahawks look as close as you can come to a sure thing for the playoffs, and then the dreadful NFC East will unfortunately get their champion into the playoffs as well.  So with three spots remaining (figuring the Saints, Seahawks, and NFC East champions in), that leaves the Lions, Bears, Packers and 49ers as the frontrunners for the remaining 3 spots (the 2 wildcards and the NFC North winner).  The Cardinals (2-2), Panthers (1-2), and Falcons (1-3) are then next in line.
It’s an extremely important season for the Detroit Lions organization, particularly head coach Jim Schwartz, Stafford and Suh, all three coming off disappointing follow-up’s to 2011’s success.  10 wins needs to be expected with the amount of talent on the roster and while that may actually not even be enough to make the postseason in the NFC this year, it’s an accomplishment that would deserve much credit in a difficult division and with one of the NFL’s toughest schedules.
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