There is a mind game that plays out in pro football, and it can be as important as anything done on the practice field that prepares players for gameday.
The Detroit Lions are playing the mind game, and by all accounts they are faring better at it than their 0-5 won-loss record would indicate.
Losing can beget losing, and the Lions have not adopted a losing mentality. The evidence of that is how tenaciously they performed in recent losses to the Ravens and Vikings on last-play field goals.
What they showed in those games is one reason I'm picking the Lions to beat the Bengals Sunday to get their first win for head coach Dan Campbell and his staff.
It's not like the Lions don't know the score and what they're up against, but they compete hard. There's no reason to think they won't do that against the Cincinnati Bengals.
"I think you're always affected by it," said quarterback Jared Goff, with a player's take on the impact of losing.
"I don't think you can not be affected by it. It's good to be mad. It's good to be pissed off. It's good to want to be better. The scary thing is when it's numb, if it's everyone going, 'Well, whatever.'
"I don't think that's the case. I don't think it'll ever be the case. It's definitely something we have among ourselves ... the energy."
Duce Staley understands the game at every level from his 10 seasons as an NFL running back, 10 more seasons as an assistant coach, and now as the Lions' assistant head coach and running backs coach.
"It's all about the little things," Staley said. "You have to make sure you continue to do the little things right. And a lot of that is just fundamental.
"The little things that start in practice show up in the game. You have to make sure as a coach you stay on top of that.
"We understand that going out there and making plays, that fuels emotion. You see guys having fun out there. They have fun making plays, but also, we want to win.
"These guys love football. If you're around a group of coaches that love football, their (players) can continue to grab the ax and keep chopping. That what they've been doing."
Going for two: Campbell didn't win on the scoreboard with the successful two-point conversion that gave the Lions the lead in the final minute of last week's loss to the Vikings, but he sent a message to his players and staff.
He's in it to win it.
"Aggressive," Staley said. "I loved it. Aggressive. It shows the players, along with the coaches, "Hey man, we're going to do whatever we think is right.
"At that moment in time, that was right. We executed it."
Sack spree: If outside linebacker Charles Harris had gotten all four of his sacks in a splurge or two, it could be written off as a hot streak or a fluke.
That is not the case.
Harris has a sack in four straight games – from Week 2 to Week 5 – against the Packers, Ravens, Bears and Vikings. That's four different quarterbacks, four different schemes.
Increased production has led to more playing time for Harris. His snap count has risen from 15 without a sack in the opener vs. the 49ers to 26, 45, 52 and 46 from Week 2 through Week 5.
He already has more sacks in five games with the Lions than he had in any season in his three seasons with the Dolphins (2, 1, 0.5) and one with the Falcons in 2020 (3).
On the line: Regardless of who's injured and sits out and who's healthy and plays, the basic barometer for success is the same every week for the offensive line.
"As offensive linemen, we have two major goals," said Evan Brown, who has taken over at center because of Frank Ragnow's season-ending toe injury. "You want to run the ball well, and you want to keep 16 (Jared Goff) upright.
"There are so many little things that go into it. In the end, those are things that people look at."
Working man: Whatever shortcomings Goff has shown, his willingness to work cannot be questioned. Day after day, he stays after practice to throw passes to whoever wants to run routes.
Lions-Bengals breakdown: A lot of team stats and individual battles favor the Bengals, which is to be expected with their 3-2 record compared to the Lions' 0-5 mark.
Cincy's biggest advantage is in the passing game, with Joe Burrow passing to rookie Ja'Marr Chase. Overall, the Bengals have given up 20 points per game to 27.6 for the Lions. However, in the last three games it's almost even – 62 points for the Bengals, 59 for the Lions.
The Lions are due for a big break – and to break out with their first win.
Pick: Lions 27, Bengals 16