Tim: They aren't out of it, yet, but they're on life support. The next three games at home vs. Green Bay, Houston and Indianapolis will determine if the Lions are playoff contenders or irrelevant in the playoff picture by December. They have to win at least two of those three games at home and be no worse that 6-6 heading into the final four-game stretch to keep their chances alive, in my opinion. That starts with Green Bay on Sunday. The Packers are limping into Ford Field -- literally -- and the Lions need to turn this thing around and get a division win. Simple as that.
The Lions have done pretty much everything the hard way this season, why not add getting into the playoffs to the list?
Mike: You’re right. They’re not out of it, but they’re close – desperately close – because of Sunday’s loss to the Vikings. That had so many negative ramifications, the won-lost record and losing to a division rival among them. But most disappointing was the way they played – with the season on the line, and against an opponent that was struggling and was without Percy Harvin, one of their three best players.
The Lions need to play with more abandon, starting at home Sunday against the Packers. That’s been a missing element with this team. I want to see more fire. If they have to play like wild men, so be it.
Am I right, or am I just a wild man with a wild idea?
Tim: We talked about this in one of our Emmy nominated videos - wait, what - earlier this year when we discussed the Lions getting back their edge. I think you're right, Mike. They need some fire. Play like the team that was trying to prove to everyone last year that they weren't the same old Lions. They played with an edge a year ago. They were a little nasty, too. I'm not saying they should get back to penalty-after-the-whistle nasty, which was a problem last year, but the good kind of nasty. The knocking-someone-in-the-jaw nasty and letting them know you just knocked them in the jaw. That was the Lions of 2011.
There's no better opponent to play against with that edge than the Packers on Sunday. They've been the bullies on the block for the past few years.
Head coach Jim Schwartz didn't want to call the situation desperate on Monday, instead, he said the word to use was urgent. We'll see if that message got across to the players.
Mike: You think maybe they should listen to us? Okay, that would be desperate. I’m not sure if it’s possible to do in football what I’m about to suggest, but I’d treat the last seven games like the playoffs in hockey or basketball. I’d shorten the bench – especially on offense. I’d ride the playmakers –
Megatron is the only receiver in football who can make a 200-yard game look ordinary – like he did last week at Minnesota. For him, it was like LeBron James getting breakaway dunks. The opposition has no chance.
Again, am I right, or just a wild man?
Tim: ALL these years of experience have made you pretty smart, Mike. I think you're right on. If you're going to go down, go down swinging. The Lions have done a good job so far of taking what the defense has given them and have committed to the run, but it's time to put the ball in Stafford's hands and let him do his thing. It's time to throw to set up the run, not the other way around. Come out firing. That should be the game plan Sunday and the rest of the way.
I know that's what you want to see on offense.
Mike: On defense, too, but it’s hard to do that with Aaron Rodgers. He’s too good and too smart. He’s a candidate to be the MVP again.
Let’s wrap it up this week with two questions, and I’ll give you the last word.
First, can the offense ride the Stafford-to-Calvin connection the rest of the way?
And second, will the front four that was supposed to carry the defense finally live up to its billing?
I say yes to the first. It’s as close to unstoppable as you can get.
And the second – we’ve been waiting to see the big rush all year, and that’s not a good sign.
Tell us what you think.
Tim: I’ll bet on Stafford-to-Johnson every week. Calvin has proven too many times over the last two years that it doesn’t matter what other teams do to him, he’s still going to get his. Let the man eat.
By far one of the biggest disappointments of the year for the Lions has been the disappearing act, at times, from their defensive line. Not sure how a unit can be so dominant against the Eagles one week and hit Michael Vick 15 times and then be so ineffective other weeks. It’s the inconsistency that’s been the biggest head-scratcher with that unit.
The Lions are counting on their front seven to make up for some of the injuries and deficiencies in their secondary. They dropped the ball Sunday at Minnesota. Now they get the likes of Aaron Rodgers and that Packers passing attack this week. Matt Schaub, Andrew Luck, Rodgers again and Matt Ryan are the horizon. The Lions need more from the guys upfront. More sacks, more pressures and more disruption. If they don't get it, all this talk about what they have to do to get into the playoffs is pointless.