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10 things I think I know about Week 9: Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers

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This week’s game will probably decide who’s in and who’s out of the NFC North race.

Darius Slay vs. Jordy Nelson

Maybe the Lions will get into the end zone this week. That was the only thing missing from a very winnable game last week against the Steelers. The Packers will be coming off their bye week, but without Aaron Rodgers this is a game the Lions should win.

Here are 10 things I think I know heading into Week 9 against the Packers:

1. I think the Lions are a mid-level NFL team right now. The Lions dropped to 3-4 on the season after Sunday night’s loss to Pittsburgh. Even sitting at below .500 this team is not far off from last year’s team.

The only difference I see is last year the Lions won the close games they were in, and this year they aren’t. The Lions have lost three games by five points or less. Last year they got the breaks. This year they’re not.

NFL: Preseason-Detroit Lions at Pittsburgh Steelers

2. I think getting Taylor Decker back is a big deal for the Lions. They didn’t make any trades this week, but getting Decker could serve as an even bigger boost going forward.

The Lions have been serviceable at left tackle through the first half of the year, but they’ve been limited in what they can do offensively because they’re constantly having to help out the left tackle. If Decker can get back on an island this season, it will give the Lions much more flexibility with how they play—that is, if Jim Bob Cooter can get himself together.

3. I think we need to blame the players, not the coaches for the Lions red zone woes last Sunday against the Steelers. Was the play calling great? No. But the Lions players had multiple chances to score touchdowns on Sunday. Drops, missed blocks, and off-target passes all contributed to the Lions red zone troubles.

It’s the coach’s job to call the play and player’s job to execute. Neither did their job well on Sunday.

4. I think I agree with Jim Caldwell’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line late in the third quarter. I think there was little doubt in Caldwell’s mind that the Lions couldn’t get a 1-yard touchdown. And there’s no way he would have predicted giving up a 97-yard touchdown just a few plays later. The logic was sound. Get the touchdown or force Pittsburgh to march down the field. Once again, the players didn’t execute.

5. I think if the offense can turn it around, the Lions could go on a run. The only thing missing from the Lions offense last Sunday was touchdowns. The Lions had over 400 yards of offense through the air against the Steelers.

Before Sunday’s game, the Steelers had given up more than 200 pass yards only twice this season. That bodes well for the Lions offense. They were able to effectively move the ball. Now they just need to get touchdowns rather than field goals.

NFL: International Series-Minnesota Vikings at Cleveland Browns

6. I think the Minnesota Vikings are the clear front runner in the division. The Vikings have the best defense in the league right now. Case Keenum is playing well enough. And it looks like they have figured out the right formula to win games. In my mind the Lions will have to win at least 10 games win the division and will probably be fighting for a wild card spot when it’s all done.

7. I think you all need to read Andrew Kato’s Film Review of the Lions red zone offense. Andrew does a great job breaking down every single red zone possession against the Steelers.

8. I think I’m okay with the Lions not trading away Eric Ebron. It seemed like it was a near certainty that the Lions would move Ebron this week. Clearly the Lions didn’t get an offer they fell in love with or they actually have a plan to incorporate Ebron back into the offense. I hope it’s the latter, but I fear it’s the former.

9. I think the Lions need to remember what it feels like to win. The Lions have had a tough month. They haven’t won a game since October 1, and haven’t won at home since Week 1 of the season. They have a good shot to turn it around this week.

10. I think if the Lions don’t beat the Packers on Monday night, they won’t make the playoffs this year. A loss this week would put the Lions at 3-5 and bury them in the playoff standings. At that point, it would take a miracle to win the NFC North behind Minnesota and Green Bay, and would put them amongst the bottom-dwellers in the NFC.

A win gives the Lions tiebreakers over both the Vikings and the Packers and keeps them in the thick of the hunt for the NFC North crown.

This is about as much of a “must-win” as I’ve seen in awhile.