The Detroit Lions found a way to win five games in the first half of the season and a way to lose three others.
Head coach Jim Schwartz always says his team is only as good as its record would indicate. Well, at 5-3, the Lions still have some work to do to earn a second playoff berth in the last three seasons.But things should be very interesting after the Monday Night Football game between Green Bay and Chicago.
The Packers lost quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the opening series of the game to a shoulder injury and Green Bay wasn’t the same afterward.
The Bears played inspired football behind their backup quarterback Josh McCown and beat the Packers 27-20. That puts the Lions, Packers and Bears all at 5-3 on the season and 2-1 in the division.
The Carolina Panthers are also 5-3 in the NFC South and the Arizona Cardinals (4-4) and Philadelphia Eagles (4-5) are just one game behind in the win column.
That should make for an entertaining second half of the season.
“We are only halfway through the season and the tale of this season is not going to be written in the first half, it is going to be written in the second half and that is what we have to concentrate on,” Schwartz said.
Here’s a look at the road to the playoffs for the Lions in the second half of the season:
AT CHICAGO (5-3)The Bears are coming off an impressive win at Lambeau Field taking advantage of the Rodgers injury. Reports surfaced Monday that quarterback Jay Cutler could return to practice this week and start against Detroit on Sunday after suffering a groin injury three weeks ago. That’s a big boost for the Bears and makes Sunday’s game a little more evenly matched.
AT PITTSBURGH (2-6)
It's odd to see the Steelers at the bottom of the AFC North. The defense is allowing the second-most rushing yards (131.2) per game in the NFL and is 23rd in points allowed (26.0). Pittsburgh is still a tough place to play, but these aren’t the same old Steelers.
VS TAMPA BAY (0-8)
Don’t let the winless record fool you. The Bucs are a better football team than their record might indicate. They lost to the New York Jets by one point, the New Orleans Saints by two and took the Seattle Seahawks to overtime. The problem with the Bucs is that they don’t score enough points (15.5 per game) to keep up with some of the more high-powered offenses in the league, like the Lions.
VS GREEN BAY (5-3)
The biggest question in Green Bay this morning is the long-term health of Aaron Rodgers after Monday night’s injury to his left shoulder. If that’s a serious injury, the Packers are in trouble.
One can only imagine what Ford Field will be like if this game has true division repercussions on the line. In this match-up, we'll find out if this Lions team is not only a playoff contender, but also a power player in the NFC.
AT PHILADELPHIA (4-5)
With a new coach and new system, the Eagles may have simply needed time to adjust before hitting their stride. Under Chip Kelly, Philadelphia ranks in the top half in the NFL in every major offensive category and have a quarterback in Nick Foles who threw seven touchdown passes in a game against Oakland. However, the Eagles rank last in the NFL in yards allowed (419.3) and last in passing yards allowed (307.6). That’s something that could come back and bite them against Green Bay, Detroit and Dallas.
VS BALTIMORE (3-5)
The Lions are hoping this late-season Monday Night Football game has some serious playoff implications. Amazingly, the defense has persevered through the notable losses of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. They’re 11th in total defense (339.5) and 10th in points allowed (21.5). The real problem has been the offense, especially the run game. The Ravens are averaging just 71.6 yards per game on the ground.
VS NEW YORK GIANTS (2-6)
The Giants are notoriously a second-half team, and they’ll have to be amazing after a 2-6 start. New York is averaging just 17.6 points per game, 69.9 rushing yards per game and leads the NFL with 16 interceptions. That’s not a good combination, and certainly not a recipe for playoff football.
AT MINNESOTA (1-7)
No matter what their record is at the time, the Vikings will be emotionally up for this game. They say goodbye to the Metrodome and move to University of Minnesota’s field the next couple seasons while their new $975 million stadium is being built. The Lions have won at the Metrodome just once in their last 15 visits there.