The division is out of reach, the playoffs are a distant thought and a winning record may be unobtainable. However, for the 1-6 Detroit Lions, there is still much to prove and even though the wins have been scarce the opportunities to rid themselves of their losing reputation are plentiful.
The Lions, who are fresh off their bye week, will get their first opportunity
against the 5-2 Atlanta Falcons. The task of defeating the red-hot Falcons may
be daunting; however, the Lions must rise to the occasion if they hope to gain
respect around the league anytime soon. The good news for the Lions is that they
are healthier now they they've been all season.
"The only ones we're missing are really up front on the defensive line," said head coach Rod Marinelli. "Other than that, our offense is in tact really other than (guard Damien) Woody."
Injured starters such as linebacker Teddy Lehman, safety Kenoy Kennedy and offensive linemen Ross Verba and Rex Tucker are all expected to be available for Sunday's game. In addition to that, players who have been struggling with minor injuries – such as wide receiver Roy Williams and fullback Cory Schlesinger – have had an extra week to recover.
Marinelli not only recognizes the importance of his team's improving health, he also realizes the Lions must start winning now.
Marinelli: "We've got some of our other guys back in the fold - boy, (they've) got some nice thump to them right now. So, it's a progress; it's a progression (of) getting better and getting better is winning this weekend."
The players returning to the Lions' lineup will play a key role for the team this weekend, along with the players who will be missing from the Falcons' lineup. Defensive end John Abraham (groin) is out. Guard Kynan Forney (shoulder) and linebacker Edgerton Hartwell (knee) are questionable. Defensive tackle Grady Jackson (knee) and running back Fred McCrary (knee) are probable. However, Falcons head coach Jim Mora doesn't appear overly concerned about his team's injury problems.
"Every team has injuries," said Mora "We're missing our best pass rusher and our starting left guard. It is what it is."
After the Falcons, the Lions face the San Francisco 49ers (2-5), the Arizona Cardinals (1-7) and the Miami Dolphins (1-6). The Lions will gain little, if any, respect with victories against these clubs. That's why, in order for the Lions to shake their ‘perennial losers' reputation, the winning must start now. If the losing continues, the notoriety of failure stays as well as the losing mentality.
"No question… 'W's' - we've got to win," said Marinelli
The Lions released wide receiver Az-Zahir Hakim and signed wide receiver Kevin Kasper. Kasper hasn't caught a pass since 2003.
Lehman has not officially been taken off the physically unable to perform (PUP) list yet. He is expected to be taken off later in the week. If he is taken off the PUP list, the Lions will have to release someone in order to make room on the roster for him.
An interesting subplot is developing between Lions receiver Roy Williams and Falcons cornerback D'Angelo Hall: Williams made a comment that suggested Hall needed help over the top in coverage. Hall responded by saying: "That's a good little Chad Johnson like comment. I played the game, I play the game. I'm a Pro Bowler - he's not. I'm considered one of the best at what I do - he's not. So, all that other stuff - we'll see on Sunday."