NFC North: At 4-5, Lions need to take advantage of three-game home stretch

Posted Nov 12, 2012

Those three games have become the difference between a late playoff run for the Lions or irrelevancy in the playoff picture by December.

The Lions are 4-5 after Sunday’s loss at Minnesota and 0-3 in the NFC North, yet to play Green Bay in 2012.

That’s the current state in Allen Park.

Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said after a 34-24 loss that he wouldn’t describe their mentality as desperate.

“Desperate is not a very good word to use,” he said. “We’re 4-5. We need to go play. We’ve got some home games we need to take advantage of.”

That’s what it’s come down to. That’s the current state the Lions find themselves in. They’ll still have the next-game-is-the-most-important game mentality, and right now that the Green Bay Packers Sunday at Ford Field, but the Packers kick off a three-game stretch that also includes the Texans and Colts at home.

Those three games have become the difference between a late playoff run for the Lions or irrelevancy in the playoff picture by December.

The Lions have to win at least five of their last seven games to have a legitimate shot at the playoffs at 9-7. Six of seven to get to 10-6 and likely assure themselves of a spot.

If the Lions can go on a mini-roll over the next few weeks and get to 7-5, things wouldn't look terrible in early December.

But how realistic does that seem just one day after watching quarterback Matthew Stafford and the offense sputter to another slow start and observing the defensive line made to look irrelevant ... again?

The offense has scored just one first-quarter touchdown all year. Coincidentally, they’ve only led at the half one time this year (at Jacksonville).

"Our shot for the playoffs, it's kind of slim,” cornerback Chris Houston admitted after Sunday’s loss. “But if we come back and win these three home games, we'll still have a shot."

Houston’s was the one honest assessment Sunday of where the Lions are nine games into the season.

The NFC North race tightened up Sunday when the Bears lost for only the second time this season, a 13-6 defeat at home vs. Houston. There is now one game separating the Bears (7-2) and Packers (6-3). The Vikings, by way of their win Sunday, are now 1.5 games back at 6-4.

The Lions are 1.5 games behind the Vikings and three games back from the Bears with only seven games remaining.

After digging out of the 1-3 hole to start the season, the Lions are right back in another hole in the NFC playoff race. Currently, eight teams in the NFC have a better record.

"It's a long season," linebacker Stephen Tulloch said. "I've been in situations like this before. We just need to find a way to bounce back. We can't let up now.

"We are a good football team. We just need to put it all together and limit the mistakes. We talk about it week in and week out, but it's gut-check time here. Green Bay is the mission at this point. We need to put this one behind us and move on."


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