When the schedule first came out and this game was announced as one of week fourteen’s prime-time matchups, it instantly got circled as one that would have huge implications in the NFC North.
Those circles have since been erased.
The Detroit Lions are undoubtedly one of the NFL’s biggest disappointments in 2012, and at 4-8, staying out of the cellar is the only divisional implication remaining.
Meanwhile, the Green Bay Packers are in the thick of a heated divisional race against Chicago. The Packers will look to improve to 9-4 and gain the division lead over the Bears. A win on Sunday night at Lambeau Field combined with a Bears loss to the Vikings would put the Packers one game clear of Chicago.
The story of Detroit’s season has been heartbreaking. The Lions have led three straight games at the two-minute warning and have successfully found a way to lose all three. Someone in Detroit has to step up and lead this team to wins late in games, and the two best candidates seem clear to me.
First and foremost comes Matthew Stafford. He’s the quarterback and the captain, and his play is what makes the Lions go. He can make all the throws and has all the tools to be truly great in this league, but I often question his leadership. He needs to be more vocal when leading this team in the future.
The other leader is Calvin Johnson. Megatron has always been a guy who lets his play do the talking, and I respect that. He’s the best wideout in the game right now, and his play speaks louder than his words ever could. He needs to continue going about his business, but I would also like to see him motivate his teammates more often.
This leaves the defensive side of the ball open for the taking. Who will emerge for Detroit as the heart of the defense? I’d like to say Ndamukong Suh, but I’m not sure he has
the respect of his team. It was reported that an unidentified Lion spoke out against Suh, but until that person takes claim to those remarks, I’m not sure I buy it.
So if not Suh, then who will it be? Stephen Tulloch? Chris Houston? Louis Delmas?
It doesn’t matter who it is, it only matters that these Lions players begin to take more ownership of this team as a whole, and sometimes that begins with one man.
As the end of the season plays out for the Lions, we’ll begin to see the character of this team and its coaches. Head coach Jim Schwartz has taken some heat for this poor season, and he deserves it. This squad is much too talented to be 4-8 and already out of playoff contention.
But the Lions still have something to play for.
They have been owned by the Packers in the last ten years and have no love lost for one another. They have guys on their roster and on their coaching staff that have something yet to prove this season. At wide receiver, the Lions are basically having an open tryout right now due to a slew of injuries and Titus Young’s immaturity.
And don’t forget about the record book. Calvin has a legitimate shot at topping Jerry Rice’s single-season receiving record and Stafford has a chance to become the first quarterback to ever throw for 5,000 yards in consecutive seasons.
The Packers’ defense is banged up right now and missing their star player in Clay Mathews. Charles Woodson is also out, leaving the door open for the Lions’ potent aerial attack.
This Sunday Night, do your best to tune out Cris Collinsworth’s nonsense because there should be plenty of excitement, and most likely more than a few points.
The game kicks off at 8:20 and airs on NBC.
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