Well, here we are. As we know, the Lions are 6-2 today, and undoubtedly enjoying their week off. We already know what happened the last time the Lions went 6-2. There's no need to rehash it, so I won't.
What I will say though is the Lions need to do five simple things to take the next step to the playoffs. While achieving this task is never easy, if the Lions can do these things, the door to the playoffs in the NFC is wide open.
First, the Lions' No.1 priority must be to keep Matt Stafford upright. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: whatever direction Stafford goes is the direction the team goes. Through the first eight games, Stafford has looked incredible at times, and awful at times, which is to be expected.
In the first five games, it seemed nothing could go wrong for the Lions. The offensive line was doing a decent—not great, but decent—job of protecting Stafford, and it showed. In the games against Atlanta and San Francisco, not so much. It showed then too.
If the Lions can keep Stafford upright, he can do a lot of great things and show that he is the leader of the team fans and front-office staff expect him to be.
Second, the Lions need to keep maintaining home-field advantage. Granted, the Lions lost two games that they should have won in Detroit. However, that doesn't mean the fans cannot keep making Ford Field one of the most disruptive NFL stadiums to play in.
Third, and perhaps the one of the most obvious things, is the Lions MUST establish some form of running game. That will obviously be a lot more difficult this time around with the loss of Jahvid Best. Maurice Morris has done an adequate job this season. He must step up, as must Keiland Williams, if the Lions are going to go anywhere.
Fourth, the Lions have to take AT LEAST two out of four against NFC north rivals. It's highly unlikely that they'll beat the Packers twice. Maybe once on Thanksgiving at home, but I doubt they'll win in Lambeau.
Finally, the Lions defense must bear down, stay at home and play the way they played the first five games and the Denver game. As a collective unit, they've become one of the best in the NFC. However, some of the Lions' biggest penalties this season have come on defense, and it's cost them greatly.
The Lions are in second place in the NFC North right now, and the way the Packers are going, that's where they're likely to stay. However, the Lions need to win just four more games this year. Of those four, three of them are easily winnable. Carolina, at Chicago, Minnesota at home and at Oakland. The Oakland game will be tough, but winnable.
If the Lions can do just these five things through the remaining eight games, they will likely be playing more meaningful games in January for the first time since 1997.