Mike: It isn't easy, but they have five games left starting Sunday against the Colts, and if they go through the motions, a bad situation will get worse. As disappointed and discouraged as they might be at this point, the Lions can't tank it the rest of the way.
It doesn't matter what the reason is, they have to motivate themselves to compete the rest of the season. No player should want his teammates and opponents think that he gave up. Competing hard hasn't been an issue before. It shouldn't be this time.
Tim: If I'm coach Jim Schwartz my message is that this thing is far from over. The Lions have given no reason to think they can roll of five wins, but if I'm Schwartz, I put nine wins on the big board and make that the goal. There's an outside chance nine wins can get into the playoffs.
Again, it's a long shot, but until the math says otherwise, I'm still fighting and clawing if I'm the Lions.
What has to change these last five games to make a run?
Mike: To start the run, they have to win a game, and they haven't won a game since getting to .500. So the simple answer is, win.
That leads to the question: how do they win? The answer isn't as simple, but in the three-game losing streak, the opponent made plays in crunch time. The Lions didn't.
It's no secret how I feel about the offense. I'd ride
I'd even line him up in the backfield and let the defense wonder how he's going to be used. I'd like to see defenses try to tackle Calvin after he catches a quick pass in the flat. I like his chances to gain yards on plays like that.
Tim: A streak starts at one and the Lions need to snap this three-game skid in the worst way.
I don't see the Colts being able to limit the Lions offense a whole lot, so I see this game coming down to the defense and their ability to get pressure on young Andrew Luck, who's been as good as advertised, maybe even a little better. He has been known to turn the ball over when pressured (13 interceptions), so that's the key for the Lions.
I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned making plays in crunch time, Mike. The Colts (7-4) are 6-1 in games decided by eight points or less. The Lions (4-7) are 3-6 in those types of games. Playoff teams find a way to make plays. The Colts have so far this season and the Lions haven't.
We'll see if that changes Sunday.
What is your assessment of Luck and his play this season?
Mike: He's the most polished rookie quarterback I've ever seen in terms of ability to play the position. He has a high level of athleticism, but what sets him apart from other rookies at this point are his awareness and command of the position.
The Colts got lucky when it was time to rebuild the franchise with a quarterback drafted first overall. Andrew Luck was worth all the praise and hype. If they had to cut ties with Peyton Manning next year, it would have set the franchise back 10 years. Maybe 10.
Tim: That's quite a statement from you, Mike. Does that date back to the Otto Graham days?
Plenty of rookies have come into the league and put up bigger and better stats than Luck in their first year, but the thing I like about Luck is that he's already tied the rookie record for wins (Sam Bradford, 7) after just 11 games.
The kid is a winner. In the end, that's the most important thing. He's taken a 2-14 team and has them 7-4 and in the playoff hunt.
He's the NFL Rookie of the Year, in my opinion, for that simple fact.
Who has the edge Sunday, Luck or former No. 1 pick
Mike: Otto Graham wore No. 60, by the way. I never saw him play, but I've seen his picture. Wise guy.
Stafford has the edge. The Lions are at home. He's throwing to Calvin Johnson. And it's time for them to win a game.
Tim: I'm with you, Mike. I know the records are on separate ends of the spectrum but I still like Stafford to come out on top Sunday because of the fact that he's at home and the Lions have their backs against the wall – no really this time.
Colts receiver Reggie Wayne and Lions receiver Calvin Johnson both lead their respective leagues in receiving yards, so they cancel each other out. I like the Lions' other weapons a little better.