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TIM AND MIKE: Lions are in good position for second half of season

Posted Nov 6, 2013

Tim Twentyman and Mike O'Hara discuss the changing landscape of the NFC North due to injuries and whether the Lions are built for a playoff run

This might be a charmed season for the Lions, after all.

They had a week off, and they moved into first place in the NFC North – with company. The Lions, Bears and Packers all are 5-3, and the logjam at the top was created by the Bears’ 27-20 win at Green Bay Monday night.

The North is in the news because of the tie and injuries to critical players. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers went out in the first quarter Monday night . . .. Bears QB Jay Cutler already was out with a groin injury. He may or may not return for Sunday’s home game against the Lions.

Regardless of who plays and when, the North race is on in the second half of the season. Where do the Lions stand? And what about the other issues and events in the NFL of late – the incident in Miami involving offensive linemen Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin, and the 49ers waiving cornerback Nnamdi Asomghua.

Mike: The Lions were in good shape to make a playoff run even before Rodgers got hurt, but they’d be foolish to focus on the Packers’ problems. They play the Packers in four weeks – on Thanksgiving Day. Before that, they play the Bears and Steelers on the road in the next two games, then the winless Bucs at home.

Whether Josh McCown or Cutler plays for the Bears, the Lions have their hands full. Matt Forte has always given them problems, and the Bears have big, physical receivers who’ll make it tough on the secondary.

It’s a game the Lions can win and probably should win, but they have trouble in Chicago. Coming off the bye, the Lions have to get their focus immediately. The opportunity is there to make something special out of this season. Do not take it lightly.

Tim: The Lions should continue to have the same focus that got them to 5-3, which is "this week" and "the next opponent." Don’t worry about anything else. Don't worry about two weeks from now, let along four.

Chicago is a tough place to play and it isn't any easier if they play against McCown or Cutler. McCown has played well in relief of Cutler and led the Bears to a, 27-20, victory over Green Bay at Lambeau Field Monday night. He has over a 100 passer rating and brings a scrambling element to that offense.

The Lions can sweep the season series and earn some very important tiebreaking points for the end of the season. Division games are always big, but this sets the tone for the second half of the season.

After the incident in Miami, should every team in the NFL institute the same hazing rules the Lions have in place?

Mike: From talking to veteran players, they like the no-hazing policy on their team, and they’re against what happened in Miami. They draw a line between making the rookies do "chores," as one veteran put it, as opposed to demeaning a player, which is what appears to have happened in Miami.

If the Lions and other teams who have similar policies are models for acceptable behavior, that’s good. But it would be better if Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL Players Association worked together to set the standard, instead of reacting to how a rogue enforcer for how the Dolphins were allowed to treat – and mistreat – a young player.

It’s one thing to make a player buy donuts and dinner for teammates at his position, and to carry helmets and pads to and from practice. But to be forced to shell out money for trips, and be the target of demeaning, racist threats is miles over the line.

I expect to hear from the NFL how it hands down punishment in this issue.

But there also should be a message and a standard set by the NFL for behavior that will not be tolerated.

Do you have any problem with the league mandating behavior?

Tim: Not at all.

I’ve had to sign a code of conduct policy form in every job I’ve been hired for.

There’s a big difference between having a little bit of fun at a rookie’s expense and creating an environment in which a player doesn’t even want to come to work in a profession he’s probably dreamed about since he was a kid.

I talked to Nate Burleson on Tuesday and he said there was no problem with shaving some eyebrows (which he had to do in Seattle) or spending a couple hundred bucks to get food for veteran players or carrying helmets. All that stuff, in his opinion, can help build some camaraderie.

But the reports of racial slurs, threats and tens of thousands of dollars being spent is way over the line.

I’m not quite sure how the NFL would enforce hazing rules. Quite frankly, it should be dealt with in-house by the head coach, like Jim Schwartz did when he first got to Detroit. Other teams do it too.

I though Schwartz had a good line when asked about it Tuesday: "We’re a 12 billion dollar business or whatever it is, we’re not a fraternity."

Enough said.

Since we brought it up, should the Lions have made a waiver claim for Nnamdi Asomghua?

Mike: No. You can’t cook with cold grease. He hasn’t done anything of late to indicate he can help a team, especially one that’s in a playoff race. If it was the Asomghua of three or four years ago, that would be one thing. And he wouldn’t have been on waivers.

His best days are gone. So are his average days. This is no time to hold a tryout camp.

Any disagreement?

Tim: None. A big name, which Asomghua is, doesn’t always mean an upgrade, especially in this case. Fans should always ask themselves, ‘Why is this guy on the waiver wire to begin with?’

The truth is, he’s not an improvement over anything the Lions currently have, even with their inconsistent play through the first eight games.

He's big (6-2) and has a history of playing at the line of scrimmage, which the Lions like, but he's past his prime. He’s not the same player he was three or four years ago -- not even close.

I’d rather give some of the younger players like Darius Slay and Bill Bentley a chance to gain experience and get better.

Is this Lions team built for playoff run?

Mike: Yes. Without a doubt. But they could be saying the same thing in Chicago, Green Bay and Carolina – all teams that could be in the hunt for a wild-card berth.

I’m beating the drum to win the NFC North. That eliminates all tiebreakers and guarantees playing the first playoff game at home.

I don’t want to imagine what Ford Field will be like in a playoff game. I want to see it and hear it.

Tim: A playoff game at Ford Field would be quite an experience.

They have a shot at it, too, because they have a quarterback playing at a Pro Bowl level. Their second-half schedule is favorable.

With the addition of Reggie Bush, the Lions have the ability to run the football and be more balanced on offense. They also have a defensive front – when healthy and on their game – that can get after the quarterback and affect the game. All of those elements are important and any one of them can win a team a football game.

The Lions have set themselves up to make a run at the playoffs, and possibly the division title, which is what they’ve been building for the last four-and-a-half years.

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