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2011 NFL Season: Can the Detroit Lions Clinch a Wild Card Playoff Berth?

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2011 NFL Season: Can the Detroit Lions Clinch a Wild Card Playoff Berth?
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 19: Starting quarterback Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions warms up prior to the game between the Cleveland Browns and the Detroit Lions at Cleveland Browns Stadium on August 19, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Detroit Lions and playoffs are kind of like oil and water, they just don't go together—not unless Barry Sanders is in the equation.

Just three seasons ago the Lions lost all of their regular season games. That was, however, three seasons ago. They've actually come quite a long way since then.

In 2010, the Lions had the 17th best offense as far as yards per game. And that was, for the most part, with Shaun Hill as their quarterback and running back Jahvid Best on the sideline. Speaking of injuries, that's the one thing the Lions can't have if they want to make the playoffs this season.

We've seen what this team can do when they are healthy, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Matthew Stafford and Pro Bowl wide receiver Calvin Johnson have the potential to be one of the best duos in the NFL for the next decade. Not to mention the fact that second year running back Jahvid Best has all the tools to be a Pro Bowler and young tight end Brandon Pettigrew has already proven himself as one of the best in the league.

Detroit's worries have never really been about their offense, though. It's been the defense that has made the Lions one of the worst NFL franchises of the past decade. That is, until Ndamukong Suh came to town.

Can the Lions make the playoffs this season?

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In his inaugural 2010 season, Suh led the Lions in sacks (10) and was even fourth on the team in tackles with 66. Collectively, the defense was fourth in the league in sacks with 44.

The Lions showed that their pass rush is not something to be laughed at anymore, especially with veteran defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch and rookie defensive tackle Nick Fairley in the mix (if Fairley can stay healthy).

But, unfortunately for the Lions, they don't have 11 Suhs. They were still 24th in the league against the run in 2010 and were tied for 28th in rushing touchdowns allowed. No wonder they drafted Fairley.

The secondary was improved last season. They were 16th in the NFL against the pass and safety Louis Delmas is a budding star.

The bottom line for the Lions is if Stafford can stay healthy. He is what makes the offense churn and offense is how the Lions win football games.

I don't think they can win the division, but with a healthy offense and an improved defense, there's no question Detroit can be in the hunt for a wild card berth.

Source: NFL.com 

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