Fine, I'll say it.
Injuries and a 1-5 record aside, things actually appear to be improving for the injury riddled Detroit Lions.
For starters, the nightmarish opening six weeks of 2009 bestowed (or saddled) upon Detroit by the league's "fair" scheduling process is now over.
The team's pre-vacation stint was akin to "Saw IV," dropping its five contests to teams with a combined 21-6 record.
Two of those teams are still undefeated.
Although both the Lions and head coach Jim Schwartz would publicly dismiss any excuses, that doesn't detract from the undeniable truth: Detroit is, for all intents and purposes, an expansion team. They were competitive in mosts of their games, facing opponents with significant advantages in nearly all facets.
And in the past few weeks, injuries have practically debilitated both offense and defense.
"I don't want to make excuses, but that's a problem right now," admitted linebacker Larry Foote.
But while they might be bruised and battered, the Lions aren't broken.
As opposed to last year at this time, Detroit doesn't rank at the bottom in any major statistical category. The team actually cracks the top 25 in a handful of statistical areas, which isn't all that bad, considering the circumstances.
The team's injury situation is a bit more unsettled, however. Although they expect receiver Calvin Johnson (thigh) to be almost completely recovered in two weeks, rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford's status remains uncertain.
The right knee of Detroit's golden boy continues to be treated as it is: the franchise's achilles heal. Detroit is consulting with Dr. James Andrews in Alabama likely for due diligence. Lions' GM Martin Mayhew dismissed surgery concerns proposed by ESPN's Chris Mortensen (which would end Stafford's rookie campaign) as "rumors" -- and there's credence to that.
After all, if it were more serious, Stafford would be in Andrews' office, turning his head and coughing, not traveling with the team to Green Bay this past weekend.
On Monday, Schwartz said he was optimistic about the injury situation, and that each of Detroit's injured players had a "good" chance of returning to action following the bye -- and Stafford was no exception.
If Stafford can return by November 1, the team can expect to enjoy much more success the remainder of the year.
Consider this: Leaving the bye, the Lions have tilts against St. Louis (0-6) and at Seattle (2-4), and after traveling to Minnesota, they return home to host Cleveland (1-5) followed by the Packers on Thanksgiving.
Optimistically, Detroit could register three or even four wins in that five week period, a mid-season swing that would give the team and its young quarterback a quantum leap in both confidence and success.
Prior to the season, most analysts and fans alike had the Lions pegged as a sub .500 team, perhaps capable a few wins, but not much more. But after surviving the initial six weeks in 2009, and achieving its first win since 2007, Detroit has found itself to be a competitive, capable ball club, led by a rookie quarterback whose absence has underscored both his importance to the team and potential.
The Lions have 10 games left to prove their in the midst of a turnaround. Schwartz said his team accepts the challenge.
"You can't change 1-5; it's already in the books," he said. "When you play golf and you put up a quadruple bogey on one of the holes, you can't erase it.
"What you have to do on your next drive is put it in the fairway and keep playing and not let that affect what the rest of your score looks like.
"We can't change 1-5, but we can learn from it and we can go forward from it."
- Schwartz said the Lions are flirting with the idea of moving veteran cornerback Anthony Henry to safety beside rookie Louis Delmas. Henry was replaced at his position by fellow veteran Philip Buchanon.
- Although he didn't admit to any direct talks, Schwartz did say the Lions would attempt to be active in acquiring -- or ridding of -- players with 24 hours before the league's trade deadline.
"We're open to everything and if we think it's something that will improve the team, we're not shy about making that move," he said.
- Schwartz on getting Matthew Stafford back to practice: "We'll get him back on the practice field as soon as we can. I don't know if that will be this week, I don't know if that will be next week, I don't know if it will be the week after, but as soon as he's ready and he's able to get out there we'll get him back on the practice field.
"He's doing everything he can to get back and we're doing everything we can to get him back and that's the philosophy we'll take with it."