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10 QUESTIONS WITH TWENTYMAN: Are Lions healthier after bye?

Every week during the regular season Tim Twentyman will answer 10 good questions from his Twitter account @ttwentyman in a feature we call "10 Questions with Twentyman."

20man: I've got some good news for you on that front. Levy returned to the practice field yesterday (Wednesday) for the first time since Week 1, or 68 days ago, if you were counting.

Now the question is when will he return to game action this season?

I think it would make the most sense for Levy to practice this week and then again next week in preparation for a return next Thursday for the Thanksgiving Day game against the Vikings. That way Levy gets a chance to get back into game shape and isn't subjected to a short week by playing this Sunday against Jacksonville and then four days later vs. Minnesota.

It's really going to be up to what the doctors say and how comfortable coaches are with what they're seeing from him this week at practice, but I'd be a little surprised if he played Sunday.

Typically, players coming back from an extended injury get two weeks of practice before going on the active gameday roster.

Stay tuned. I'll have game designations for you at 4 p.m. on Friday.

20man: It's been an odd last month in the NFC North, right?

After a 5-0 start, most people, including myself, thought Minnesota was going to run away with the division. Injuries have caught up with them.

No one thought Green Bay would be this inconsistent both offensively and defensively, especially on offense.

After a 1-3 start, who thought Detroit would be in this position? They've made a 4-1 rally the last five games.

This division is really wide open. As it sits right now, looking at the remaining schedules for Detroit, Minnesota and Green Bay, I wouldn't be surprised at all if nine wins takes this division.

20man: We mentioned Levy above. The bye week was also good for cornerback Darius Slay (hamstring) and right tackle Riley Reiff (illness), who both returned to practice to start this work week after missing time recently – Slay the last two games and Reiff the team's last game in Minnesota.

20man: Stafford needs to continue playing like he has, that's a given.

Outside of Stafford, I'd probably say Ziggy Ansah. Detroit's had a very inconsistent pass rush through the first nine games. Ansah, who's missed really 4 games due to an ankle injury, has yet to record his first sack.

He's had a few assists on some sacks recently, but if Ansah gets back to nearly 100 percent after the bye, and can be the dominating force he's shown he can be, it will go a long way to improving Detroit's overall defense and help this team win some games down the stretch.

20man: I get what you're saying, Steve. The Lions are 17th in points scored, 23rd in overall offense and 18th throwing the ball. Those numbers don't exactly jump out.

Stafford is in the MVP talk because of some fourth-quarter magic this season, and because he has 18 touchdowns vs. only five interceptions. The latter is where Cooter has had the biggest impact.

Taking care of the football and spreading it around are two big keys in Cooter's offense. Stafford has been much smarter with the football over the last year, and that's a direct result of Cooter's philosophy and scheme, in my opinion.

@ttwentyman what do you see as the Lions toughest obstacle to make the playoffs? — Donnie Drama (@ItsDonnieG) November 16, 2016

20man: Quite frankly, themselves.

We saw Stafford's play deteriorate down the stretch in 2013, when they found themselves in a similar spot in first place late in that season.

In four losses to finish that season, Stafford completed just 56 percent of his passes with two touchdowns, five interceptions and a 63.8 passer rating. It was a big reason they faltered down the stretch.

Given the way Stafford's played most of this season, I'd be shocked to see him regress to those levels.

If the Lions stay relatively healthy, take care of their business at Ford Field, and Stafford continues to play well, they should be fine.

20man: There's a lot to go through there.

Let's start with cornerback Johnthan Banks. He gives the Lions nice size and length, but I don't foresee him replacing Nevin Lawson, who's been playing pretty darn good of late on the outside. I currently see Banks as a depth player.

Bostic, if the Lions eventually decide he's the one player designated for return off IR, which is yet to be determined, could potentially challenge for a role as the SAM linebacker on defense. When Levy returns, he's the WILL. Tahir Whitehead is the MIKE. I could certainly see a scenario where he challenges Josh Bynes and Antwione Williams for the SAM. They held onto him for a reason.

Pettigrew was spotted a couple weeks back working off to the side with trainers at the open portions of practice. As of Wednesday, he remains on PUP. The Lions could certainly use his skills as an edge blocker. This one seems to come down to a medical decision. He's 11 months out from a torn ACL. If and when he's cleared medically, I'd expect he slots back in as the No. 2 tight end behind Eric Ebron.

20man: This is a good question. Caldwell was asked Wednesday if the team's current standing might affect their IR plans. Could the Lions wait a little longer to make a decision on who they designate to return with the playoffs in the picture?

Caldwell said he has narrow focus and doesn't look at scenarios that could arise down the road. This is a personnel and medical decision, however, which will ultimately be GM Bob Quinn's decision.

It really just depends on the return outlook for Abdullah coming off foot surgery. I do not know what that is. The fact that it's Week 11 and Abdullah hasn't even been out to the open portion of practice, let alone working on the side, like Bostic has, makes me think Abdullah's more of a long shot to return at this point.

@ttwentyman In your opinion, what will be the Lions greatest challenge for the remainder of the season? #10Questions — Brad (@GxDAssassin) November 16, 2016

20man: Their biggest challenge is to find a way to be more consistent on both sides of the ball earlier in games.

In my opinion, this constant battle of having to fight back late in the fourth quarter to snatch victory from the hands of defeat isn't a sustainable model over 16 games.

It's seemed like too often this season either the offense is playing well and the defense isn't, or vice versa. There haven't been a lot of times when both sides of the ball are playing well together, hence all the comebacks.

They've got to find some stability and consistency.

20man: I'd expect that to be his role, if he's active on gameday.

As it stands right now, Marvin Jones Jr. is the only real deep threat among the receiver corps. At least he's the only one who consistently gets opportunities to make those catches down the field. Jones is averaging 17.9 yards per catch. The next highest among Lions receivers is Andre Roberts' 12.7 yards per catch on eight receptions.

We've seen Golden Tate make catches down the field at times this season, but he's used more as an intermediate and short option, utilizing his shiftiness and ability to make plays after the catch.

Fuller averaged 15.1 yards per catch in 2014 and 19.0 last season in a limited role.

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