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How Lions can improve in the division

Lions GM Bob Quinn said after the season that he definitely looks at the strength of the division and the talent level among the other three teams in the NFC North when constructing his roster. 

"I look at it because the quickest way to the playoffs is win your division," Quinn said when asked about the Packers and Vikings specifically. "So that's our competition, including the Bears. Despite what their record is, they have a lot of young talent as well.

"So I think that's definitely something that we study and look at in the offseason and during the season about how can we beat our division opponents. I mean I'd be naïve not to look at that."

The Lions lost both of their meetings this season to the Green Bay Packers, who won the division for the fifth time in the last six years.

Detroit split the season series against the Chicago Bears, and defeated the Minnesota Vikings twice.

Green Bay was Detroit's biggest obstacle to a division title this year, and that's been the case for a number of years now.

The Packers not only won the NFC North, but have beaten their first two playoff opponents to set up a berth in this weekend's NFC Championship Game in Atlanta.

What areas can we point to in the two losses to the Packers as specific areas where Detroit has to get better if they're going to challenge Green Bay for the title moving forward?

Three things jump out right away.

*1. The need for defensive playmakers  *

In both losses to the Packers, the Lions did not record a single turnover. No interceptions from the secondary or forced fumbles by the front seven. Nothing.

Detroit's defense also failed to get to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers with any real consistency. That's not just sacks (3) and hits (6), but also limiting the damage he does outside of the pocket extending plays and running the ball. In two games vs. Detroit, Rodgers completed 42 of his 63 passes for 505 yards with eight touchdowns and no interceptions for a 130.6 passer rating.

A lack of difference makers in the front seven allowed Green Bay to rush for 276 yards in two contests against Detroit, affording them the opportunity to control both the line of scrimmage and the tempo on offense.

**2. Find a way to run the football


Lions fans know this to be the case overall, but the two losses to Green Bay highlighted the need. Detroit rushed for 50 yards in the first loss (34-27) and had 76 yards on the ground in their 31-24 defeat Week 17.

Detroit's pass-to-run ratio was 65-to-35 percent pass vs. run in the first meeting and 66-to-34 percent pass over run in the second matchup. Part of the disparity had to do with the scoreboard, especially early on in the first matchup, but a team that isn't a threat to run is much easier to defend.

On the flip side, Green Bay was able to rush for 123 yards and 153 yards, respectively, in both matchups. They rushed it 24 times and threw it 24 times in the first matchup for perfect balance. It was a slightly higher pass percentage in the second game as Rodgers threw it 39 times and the Packers ran it 31 times.

A team that can run the football opens up play action and so many other aspects of their offense. There's a reason offensive coordinators strive for balance on offense. It's hard to defend, which the Packers proved in their matchups with Detroit.

3. Red zone defense has to improve

The Lions struggled in this regard all year. Their 67.9 touchdown percentage allowed in the red zone was the third highest. Their 36 red-zone touchdowns allowed were tied for the fifth most in the NFL.

However, Green Bay took it to a whole new level against the Lions. The Packers ranked 10th this year in red zone efficiency (60.6), but against Detroit, they scored a touchdown eight of the nine times they entered the red zone.

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