They are still running dead last in the not-so-awesome NFC North but even modest gains are treasured by the Detroit Lions and -- as unlikely as it might sound for a 4-8 team -- they have actually accomplished a couple this season.
-- They have won more games already this year than they won in their first two seasons under the presidency of Matt Millen. Coming off 2-14 and 3-13 seasons, their four wins are at least a step in the right direction.
-- They have established a home field advantage in their second year at Ford Field. They are 4-2 with a three-game home winning streak in progress.
-- They have beaten a team with a winning record (Green Bay was 6-5 going into the Thanksgiving Day game) for the first time this season and only the second time in three years.
For a playoff contender, all of those accomplishments would be pretty much business as usual but for a team trying to work its way out of the NFL depths, they are significant mile markers along the way.
And with four games left on the schedule, coach Steve Mariucci has a chance to knock off a couple more.
A win Sunday against the 2-10 San Diego Chargers would assure the Lions of their first winning home-field record since the 1999 team went 6-2 at the Silverdome in Bobby Ross's final full season as the coach.
But what the Lions need most in the month of December is a road win.
Their 22-game road losing streak is just one game short of the NFL record, an ugly fact of life that has been sneaking up on them for three years. Their last road win was three years ago -- Dec. 17 at the Meadowlands, when they beat the New York Jets 10-7 on guard Jeff Hartings' fumble recovery in the end zone.
Since then there has been nothing the Lions could do to win on the road.
They have two more chances on the road this year -- Dec. 14 at Kansas City and Dec. 21 at Carolina -- and will be lopsided underdogs in both games.
A loss in both games would make them the NFL's all-time worst road team; a win would break the streak and get the monkey off their back going into the off-season of preparation for the 2004 season.
The one thing that has become obvious to the Lions is that there is no quick fix in getting back to NFL respectability.
Regardless of what happens in the remaining four games, Millen still has a lot of rebuilding to do.
The atmosphere will be much better, however, coming off a 6-10 or 7-9 season than a 4-12 season that ends on a four-game losing streak.