In another city, they might be "gimme" games against a couple of the NFL's struggling teams. But in Detroit, they're big. They're "winnable" games against "beatable" teams.
After the Lions return from their bye week, they play St. Louis at home Nov. 1. They play Cleveland at home three weeks later. And they need to take advantage of those opportunities. Those same teams are looking at the games against the Lions as a golden opportunity, too.
The Lions aren't just 1-5. They're 2-28 in their last 30 games. They're 33-102 since 2001, when they hired Matt Millen as team president. They fired Millen last season, but the new regime still has a lot of work to do to repair the damage and return the franchise to respectability.
The coaching staff has used the bye, including the past few days of practice, to continue the ongoing project in rebuilding the ball club.
"We had a good walk thru on Wednesday," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said Friday. "Got a lot done from a coaching standpoint from looking at cut ups and evaluating sort of where we've gone well, where we haven't, what we need to do, a couple more adjustments and things that fit us.
"It's been a productive week."
Beating the Rams and Browns at Ford Field would be a minor boost, but a boost. The Lions sold out their last game at home, but that was only because more than half the fans were rooting for Pittsburgh. The game before that -- the one they actually won over Washington, snapping their 19-game losing streak -- their announced attendance was only 40,896, their smallest home crowd since 1989.
The Lions have Saturday through Monday off to enjoy their mid-season vacation, but return to practice on Tuesday.
Player Personnel Notes:
- CB Demarcus Faggins could become a starter after the bye, even though he was just signed last week. The Lions have benched the cornerbacks who entered the season as starters: Phillip Buchanon and Anthony Henry. Faggins should adjust to this defense quickly because he spent the preseason with coach Jim Schwartz's former team: Tennessee.
- LB Vinny Ciurciu signed a one-year deal with Detroit. An undrafted free-agent in 2003, the former Boston College standout has played with six different teams in his brief NFL career, tallying 100 tackles. He was last on New England's practice squad in early September, and Detroit hopes he can make an impact on a struggling special teams unit. The Lions placed veteran DE Copeland Bryan on injured reserve, ending his season.
- S Louis Delmas has had an up-and-down first six NFL games. He has made some impressive hits and tackles, but he still makes too many rookie mistakes. Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham says he needs to learn how to be a professional and study more to get the mental side of the game down.
- LB Julian Peterson recorded 2.5 sacks in the Lions' last game, at Green Bay, finally giving the Lions the pass-rushing presence they wanted when they acquired him in a trade with Seattle. He has been playing more defensive end, partly because injuries have thinned the Lions' defensive line.
- TE Brandon Pettigrew is going to be a special player, in the Lions' estimation. But he's still a rookie who missed a lot of training camp because of a hamstring injury, and he might have too much on his plate. The Lions wanted to reduce his snaps to help him focus more. The bye should help, at least in theory.
- G Daniel Loper started the Lions' last game at left guard. He and Manny Ramirez continue to rotate at the position. They have been competing hard since training camp.