1. Lions are dead last in rushing this season. What is going on with that?
Though the Lions have a perceived running back committee full of talent, things haven't been quite as rosy as expected. Almost all of the Lions' struggles on the ground result from a porous offensive line. The line currently consists of a rookie left guard, a center starting for the first season in his career and a turnstile of players at the right tackle position (currently Michael Ola, who was acquired in late October). Ameer Abdullah leads the team in rushing yards simply because he's the most equipped to dodge defenders in the backfield.
2. The Lions defensive line got an overhaul this season with the departures of Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh. What should we expect from that unit now?
The Lions did their best in replacing the huge exodus of players among the defensive line. They traded for Haloti Ngata on the verge of free agency and signed an up-and-comer in Tyrunn Walker. Unfortunately, Walker was put on IR after Week 4 and Ngata is showing his age. As a result, the Lions defense has taken a nose-dive this season. They are generating very little pass rush outside of Ezekiel Ansah, and their run defense is extremely inconsistent. There has been some optimism in Detroit after an impressive performance from the secondary against Packers last week, but two Lions cornerbacks were injured in that game, swallowing up any silver lining.
3. Most fans like to say their team 'could just as easily be (fill in a better record)'. Can the Lions justifiably make such a claim or is their record pretty much indicative of where they are as a football team?
Well, a pretty easy argument could be made that the Lions should have won in Seattle on Monday Night Football, but outside of that game, the Lions have earned every single loss on their record. Detroit ranks near the bottom in the league in both offense and defense, and some games have not even been close. You could argue that this team should be 3-6, but anything above that is silly fandom.
4. In their two wins and other moments in which the Lions have had success this season, what areas/players have stepped up and been a strength?
As mentioned above, the Lions' secondary came up huge against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers last week. Conversely, when the Lions beat the Bears, it was an offensive explosion that led them to victory -- specifically challenging the defense downfield with threats like Calvin Johnson and Lance Moore. That pretty much tells you everything you need to know about this team. They've shown flashes of the successful team from 2014, but they can't seem to play with any sort of consistency this year.
5. Usually those who follow bad teams cling to the few games on their schedule against teams they view as 'beatable'. Is there a feeling among your readers or staff of optimism the Lions 'should' beat the Raiders? In what ways have you seen those readers/staff that informs their opinion?
There is a feeling that this is one of the few remaining games the Lions "could" win. In fact, eight of our 14 staff members are picking the Lions this week (although I am not among them). One common rationalization is that if the Lions can hold Rodgers in check in Green Bay, surely they could stymie the Raiders passing attack at home. Additionally, the Raiders don't appear to have a very strong defense, opening the door for the Lions to keep pace with the Raiders if the defense doesn't step up. However, I personally think the Raiders are a better passing team than the Packers at this point, and the Lions will struggle against them with their beat up secondary.
To see my answers to his questions, click here.