Lions are close, and Stafford is the catalyst

The wins might not be there right now, but the Lions get better and better every time they take the field. This team is getting close.

I called their game at New Meadowlands Stadium last week, and although it felt like the Giants always were in control, the Lions had several chances to go away … but didn’t. Shaun Hill played well until he got injured. He was replaced by third-stringer Drew Stanton, and although nothing he does is pretty or should be considered a work of art, at the end of the game he was 19 of 34 for 222 yards, made a nice throw to Calvin Johnson that turned into a touchdown and even ran for a couple of first downs. Stanton made some plays against one of the better defenses the Lions will face this season.

Jim Schwartz and his crew are putting something together in Detroit, and much of it starts with GM Martin Mayhew. The organization just needs validation by getting some wins. They’ve been competitive in every game this season and have yet to get blown out by anyone. They just need to get over the hump, and that will start with the return of QB Matthew Stafford.

I would really like to see a 16-game sample with Stafford on the field to see where this team can go. Stafford is the difference-maker for the Lions, because of his arm, because of his intelligence, because of his moxie. But he needs to stay on the field. Not only does he make the receivers better, he helps the run game because the Lions are instantly more of a threat through the air.

Stafford just needs to play consistently, and then I think we’ll find out more about this team.

If I’m in the NFC North, I’m scared to death of the Lions. It’s a game everyone is going to expect to win, but it’s not a gimme anymore. Not even close. It wouldn’t shock me at all to see the Lions beat some people down the stretch.

But the Lions need to go from faith — which is belief without evidence — to belief, which means the evidence has been presented. Right now, they’re still on faith. I think they’ll get to belief pretty quickly — they can contend for the playoffs next season — and Stafford is an integral part of that.

— Charles Davis

Follow me on Twitter @CFD22 and follow The NFL Network @nflnetwork.

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