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O'HARA'S MONDAY COUNTDOWN: Where Lions stand in the NFC North

The frustration was so thick in the Detroit Lions' locker room at Ford Field Sunday night that you couldn't cut it with a knife.

It might have taken a chain saw, or even something stronger to hack the disappointment the Lions felt after a 20-15 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

They gained yards and made enough plays to beat the Steelers. And they gave up enough yards and had enough plays made against them to lose.

Golden Tate searched for answers as he talked about the offensive breakdowns – including a bizarre fumble of his own in the fourth quarter – that contributed to the loss.

"We have everything we need to be good for a long time," Tate said. "We make too many knucklehead, stupid mistakes."

The Lions had a 482-392 advantage in yards over the Steelers, but all those yards couldn't get them into the end zone. Strip away everything except what really counts – the outcome – and the Lions are at a crisis point in their season one game away from hitting the halfway point of the season.

This week's Monday Countdown looks at where the Lions stand in the NFC North, and if what is immediately in front of them on the schedule offers any hope of a turnaround in time to save the season.

There's also a look at some memories and thoughts from Alumni Night, which along with the crowd of 64,983 added to an electric atmosphere.

We start with the schedule, and an update of some projections of the next four games that I made in a column two weeks ago.

1. No Aaron Rodgers: That's the first thing I think of – and what anybody except the players and coaching staff should think about – in looking forward to next Monday night's game at Green Bay.

I thought all along that the Lions would at least be in the NFC wild card race if they split their first two games after the bye to make their record 4-4 at the halfway point, as long as they beat Green Bay.

Nothing has changed in that regard. The Packers are 4-3 and will be playing without quarterback Aaron Rodgers for an extended period – perhaps the rest of the season – because of a broken collarbone sustained in Game 6 against the Vikings.

The Packers are not the same team with Brett Hundley at quarterback. The Lions win at Lambeau in 2015 – with Rodgers at quarterback – is their only road win over the Packers since 1991.

Without Rodgers, next Monday night's game is more winnable than ever.

Get to 4-4, and the Lions are in business for a wild card berth in the NFC's congested middle ground.

Lose and fall to 3-5, and it's another matter.

2. Cleveland Browns: They're the Lions' next opponent after Green Bay. The Browns will be coming off a bye, with a record of 0-8 this year and 1-15 in 2017. Watching them play in Sunday's loss to the Vikings, they aren't flukes. They've earned their losses. Count this as a should-win.

3. At Chicago Bears: It's a road game against a Bears team that is 3-5 and has only three offensive touchdowns in the last three weeks. Rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky might be a fine prospect, but he has struggled in his four starts in an offense that lacks talent except for running back Jordan Howard. A playoff team should win this game.

4. Minnesota Vikings: It's a Thanksgiving Day rematch against a team the Lions beat 14-7 on the road in Week 4 to get to 3-1. With three straight losses, the Lions aren't the same team. And with four straight victories, neither are the Vikings.

Home field should be an advantage vs. the Vikings – except the Lions have lost their last three at Ford Field to the Falcons, Panthers and now the Steelers.

5. Eric Ebron status: He talked openly Sunday night about speculation that he might be traded. The deadline for deals is 4 p.m. Tuesday, and he has been a hot name. He is not campaigning to be traded but understands it's a possibility.

"If it is, it is," he said Sunday night, among other things.

However, before we get too quick to think trading Ebron will go a long way to solving the Lions' offensive problems, consider the following: Ebron's two catches Sunday night were for gains of 14 and 44 yards. Both were in the fourth quarter.

Darren Fells had one catch out of three targets.

A pass in the end zone went through his hands.

Rookie Michael Roberts had no catches on two targets. He had one clear drop, on a ball that was face-mask high that went through his hands. A catch would have gone for a good gain beyond midfield.

6. Pass rush: There isn't one. In the last two games Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger have combined to throw 61 passes without the Lions registering a sack. They've been credited with six quarterback hits.

Alumni Night – memories and thoughts:

7. Sack flap: I'd prefer an eraser, but I'll settle for an asterisk in a sacks record awarded to San Diego Chargers Joey Bosa. A sack of Tom Brady gave him 19 in his first 20 games, which sets a new record for most sacks through first 20 games. The previous best was 18.5 sacks, set by Aldon Smith.

The NFL did not consider sacks an official record until the 1982 season. That means the 23 sacks Bubba Baker recorded as a rookie for the Lions never happened – unless, of course, you ask the quarterbacks he drilled into the turf.

8. Twitter tease: I asked on Twitter yesterday afternoon for fans to pick one ex-Lion to add to the current roster, assuming the player was in his prime. Barry Sanders was a landslide choice for No. 1, and Billy Sims wasn't far behind. I would not argue with either because of the instant impact a runner can have.

View in-game photos from the Detroit Lions' Week 8 game vs. Pittsburgh Steelers.

However, it was heartening to see solid support for players such as offensive tackle Lomas Brown, cornerback Lem Barney, wide receivers Herman Moore and Calvin Johnson, linebacker Chris Spielman, and safety Bennie Blades.

9. My pick: It's a split choice right now for the pressing needs of the 2017 Lions between Lomas Brown and Bubba Baker – even though I think Barry Sanders is one of the three greatest Lions of all time along with Joe Schmidt and Bobby Layne. The Lions need a pass rusher and a left tackle in the absence of Taylor Decker.

10. The 10 greatest single-season offensive performances, as selected by a committee of one – me.

1. Barry Sanders, 1997: 2,053 yards to lead the Lions to a 9-7 record and a wild card playoff berth. A season beyond compare in the history of the Lions' franchise – and almost any other franchiser for that matter.

2. Matthew Stafford, 2011: 5,038 passing yards, ninth most in NFL history, and 41 TD passes to lead the Lions to a 10-6 record and their first playoff berth since 1999. Stafford is one of four quarterbacks with a 5,000-yard season.

3. Bobby Layne, 1951: 26 TD passes, fourth-most at the time in NFL history, in a 12-game season. The Lions had a 7-4-1 record, only their second winning record since 1939.

4. Billy Sims, 1980: 1,303 yards rushing and 621 receiving to lead the Lions from a 2-14 record in 1979 to a 9-7 record. Sims led the league with 16 TDs – 13 rushing, 3 receiving.

5. Herman Moore, 1995: 123 receptions for 1,663 yards and 14 TDs. At the time the receptions were the most in one season and are still tied for fifth most. The yards are 10th most. Moore helped lead the Lions to a season-ending seven-game win streak and a wild card playoff berth.

Notable: Calvin Johnson set the single-season record for receiving yards with 1,964 in 2012. However, the Lions went 4-12 and ended the season with eight straight losses. Losing devalues his performance that season, but not his career.

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