A look at why the Lions have a chance to win the NFC North

Vikings have a tough upcoming schedule

OK, so the season is half over, the Lions are 4-4 and 2-0 against NFC North opponents after Monday night’s 30-17 win at Green Bay.

From a schedule standpoint, the tough part of the season is behind them. From a realistic view, the season typically gets tougher after the midpoint.

The Lions have a legitimate chance to win the NFC North.

Here are a few things to know:

— Of the next eight opponents, the only one to have a winning record is the Vikings who are 6-2. Next up for the Lions are the Cleveland Browns (0-8) at Ford Field on Sunday. The Lions can’t afford a letdown. If there was such a thing as an easy win in the NFL this would be the opponent.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

— Those Vikings are atop the NFC North but can they hold on? Four of their next five games are on the road. Their next five are tough: at the Redskins (4-4), home to the Rams (6-2), at the Lions on Thanksgiving, at Falcons (4-4) and at Panthers (6-3). They also will play at Lambeau on Dec. 23 when there’s a possibility that Aaron Rodgers will be back.

— At 4-4, the Lions are tied with the Packers for second in the NFC North while the Bears (3-5) are in the basement. The Lions still can catch the Vikings to win the NFC North, but they must maintain their focus and not overlook opponents like the Browns and the Bears.

— Left tackle Taylor Decker could be back on the field on Sunday. He practiced last week for the first time since his shoulder surgery in June. Brian Mihalik has done a solid job replacing him, but Decker is the real deal. The return of Decker could help (maybe) with the run game.

— Wide receiver Kenny Golladay (remember him?) also could return on Sunday after missing the last five games with a hamstring. The rookie gives the Lions another down-field option.

— The Lions have been a better team in the final eight games of the seasons (2014-16) since Jim Caldwell took over with a 16-8 record in those games. Now is no time for a letdown.

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Author: Paula Pasche

Paula Pasche, a veteran sports writer, covers the Detroit Lions for her Lions Lowdown blog. She has written two books, "Game of My Life Detroit Lions" and "100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" which are available at bookstores and on Amazon.com. She won first place for column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists in Detroit (Class B) in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was The Oakland Press 2010 Staffer of the Year.

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