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O'HARA'S FINAL THOUGHTS: Lions start home stand against Panthers

Lions-Panthers Final Thoughts: Glover Quin's road to the playoffs, including the bumps; Cam Newton, big man, big improvement; return of return game memories and Random Thoughts – including Lions' snow day, wining at home and sticking with my pick:

Glover Quin's World is a place with a road map for success – and road signs that warn of the dangers and pitfalls.

The veteran safety laid out all of those in his weekly session with the media when he charted a path that leads to the Lions making the playoffs.

With a 3-6 record and a roster patched in key areas, the Lions aren't riding in the fast lane with their foot to the floor. They're closer to the breakdown lane.

The scenario Quin presented, step by step, began with a question about the motivation for a team that's in last place, with a three-game losing streak.

Quin started with the obvious.

"For us, we've got to look at where we are," he said. "We're 3-6 right now, and everybody kind of wrote us off. That's how it is. For now."

Up next are three straight home games – Carolina, Chicago on Thanksgiving Day, and the L.A. Rams.

"We've got three home games in a row," Quin said, going through the three opponents. "We've got a chance to get to 6-6.

"Then we've got to go to Arizona. We've still got to go to Buffalo. We've got Minnesota back at home. And then we finish at Green Bay."

The Arizona and Buffalo road games are sandwiched around the Minnesota game. Arizona and Buffalo have struggled this season. Minnesota already handled the Lions once.

Isn't it a daunting task, going from 3-6 to making the playoffs?

Quin knows the reality.

"I'm not saying it's not daunting," he said. "I'm not saying it's easy. I'm just saying I'm pretty sure any other team in the situation we're in will take three home games in a row, Arizona and Buffalo on the road, Minnesota back at home. And then close at Green Bay.

"Anything can happen. We just got to go out and do it. You're in the NFL. That should be motivation enough."

Instant returns, like Desmond: A change appears to be coming – and needs to be -- in the Lions' return game, which has been a non-threat since Jamal Agnew went out with a knee injury in Game 5.

Bruce Ellington, who was signed before the Chicago game but was not active, has a proven record as a return man from his previous stops with the 49ers and Texans.

A return man should be able to make an immediate impact. No one did it faster for the Lions or had a more memorable debut than Desmond Howard.

After being released by the Packers, Howard was signed by the Lions on Saturday, Dec. 5 of the 1999 season just in time to beat the NFL deadline to be active for Sunday's home game against Washington.

Howard returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown just before the end of the first half to give the Lions a 17-10 lead in what became a 33-17 win for the Lions. That snapped an 18-game losing streak to Washington that included two playoff losses.

Cam Newton – super sized: No quarterback has Newton's combination of size (6-5, 245), speed and arm strength. Newton burned the Lions with his arm in last year's win, throwing three TD passes with a passer rating of 141.8. He was credited with seven official runs for no yards, but that does not indicate the threat he poses as a runner.

"No other quarterback is that big and can run like that," Quin said. "Big Ben (Roethlisberger) is probably as big as Cam, but he doesn't run like Cam.

"To have that combination of size and speed and ability – he's a rare guy."

Random Thoughts:

On Norv Turner's influence: Turner's impact on Newton in his first year as offensive coordinator is reflected in two key stats. Newton's 68.5 percent completion rate and 1.7 percent interception rate are career bests and far better than last year's marks of 59.1 and 3.3 percent respectively.

Said Panthers head coach Ron Rivera of Turner: "I think he's helped him in terms of understanding how important it is to do certain things within our offensive scheme and let the offense work for him as much as him trying to make it work."

On Lions' WR shuffle: Filling holes in the depth chart created by the injury to Marvin Jones Jr. and the trade of Golden Tate is deeper than player-for-player replacements. It starts with two players who move into bigger roles. Then somebody has to move up to replace the players who moved up

However, as head coach Matt Patricia said in his Friday presser, the Lions have had a full week of practice to prepare for not having those players. A bigger challenge is when in-game adjustments are required because of injuries.

On Lions' practice in the snow: Agree or disagree with it, I don't think Patricia's decision to practice outdoors Thursday compares to Marty Mornhinweg ending practice and riding off on his motorcycle in training camp 2001. Some have made that connection. What Mornhinweg did was a stunt. Practicing in the snow was not a stunt.

Ford Field advantage: The Lions have to win it back. They were 4-4 last season, and it kept them from making the playoffs. This year they're 2-2 – with dismal losses to the Jets and Seahawks who combined to score 59 straight points against the Lions (31 by the Jets, 28 by the Seahawks).

Not winning at home and the inability to stop teams when they go on scoring steaks are two of the biggest disappointments of this season. The Lions have loyal fans who show up ready to rock. The Lions have rocked them to sleep.

Pick problem: Based on the respective won-loss records – 6-3 for Carolina, 3-6 for the Lions – the pick for this game looks cut and dried in Carolina's favor. But Elliot Harrison of had an item in his prediction column this week that illustrates the dilemma, as follows:

"One team will come into this matchup after sitting on a blowout loss for nine games (Steelers 52, Carolina 21) while the other hasn't won a game since Week 7."

Harrison's pick: Panthers 30, Lions 21.

Sticking with my pick: The Panthers are healthier, and they won three straight before the loss to the Steelers. The Lions have lost three straight, and they have key injuries at wide receiver and the offensive line. The Lions need something they haven't gotten this year – sacks and turnovers.

Pick: Panthers 30, Lions 20.

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