Calvin Johnson has been banged up all year, but the Lions are 3-0 without him. His departure has allowed other WRs to get some attention, most notably FA acquisition Golden Tate, the team's leading receiver so far in 2014. While the Lions have averaged 23.2 points per game with Johnson in the line up, they've averaged 21 points a game without him. That's not a massive scoring dropoff. When's the last time since 2007 (Calvin's rookie season) that the Lions were able to survive without CJ there to pick up the offensive slack?
Penalties aren't killing the team, they're helping
Penalties have only helped them once so far in 2014, but nonetheless, a penalty actually benefitted a team that lost games because of their penchant to draw flags. The Week 8 contest against the Falcons in London was won because of a penalty. With four seconds left and no timeouts, kicker Matt Prater shanked a 43-yard FG with Detroit down 21-19. However, a delay of game penalty on Detroit extended him a second opportunity. Since the clock had been stopped on a Matthew Stafford spike prior to the missed FG attempt, the game clock could not be run out. With new life, Prater nailed a 48 yarder and won the game for the Lions 22-21. And get this, through eight games this season the Lions have three fewer penalties then they did last year at this time. Hey! It's the small victories that count, right? (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)
Getty ImagesJordan Mansfield
Locking it down
The Lions have been surprisingly dominant on defense this year. They've allowed just 162 points all year (15.8 ppg), making them the best scoring defense in the league at mid-season; despite injuries sustained by several key pieces including rookie OLB Kyle Van Noy and FA SS James Ihedigbo, and recently to DT Nick Fairley. Detroit is still tops in scoring and total defense, fifth in rushing defense, and second against the pass. And the Lions allow opponents to convert just 32 percent of their third-down opportunities, the second best percentage in the league!
Ann Heisenfelt/Associated PressAnn Heisenfelt
Killing them loudly
The Lions are 2-0 in the division this year, and they've beaten both Green Bay and Minnesota by 12 and 14, respectively. Last year they were 2-1 in divisional games through their first eight contests, but didn't win any of those games by at least a dozen, as they have each time this year. With Chicago sputtering , maybe just maybe, they can start 3-0 in the division when they host the Bears in Week 13. The last time they started 2-0 in division after the first eight weeks was in 2011, which is also the last time they started 6-2 and the last time they made the playoffs. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Getty ImagesGregory Shamus
Lions fans know all too well about the classless, reckless coaching style and behavior of former head coach Jim Schwartz. He displayed it all too loudly when he was carried off the field by a Bills' defensive player after Buffalo's Week 5 victory in Detroit. Reportedly he was asked to be carried off the field by his defense if they won the game. Jim Caldwell may be a little conservative in his playcalling, and he may not have much of a personality, but he's gotten this team to play a better brand of ball, and he doesn't treat October regular season games like the Super Bowl. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Getty ImagesJoe Sargent
A bit of a cushion
Last year, the Lions were tied for first in the NFC North with Chicago and Green Bay. This year they have a one-game cushion in the division. With the Packers looking like the only real competition in the division; maybe a division crown (which would be their first since 1993), is in their future.
You can ring his Bell
Joique Bell, that is. The fourth-year back (and third year Lion) has been having a very nice season so far, both in, and coming out of, the Detroit backfield. Bell leads all Detroit rushers with 313 yards and three touchdowns, while also contributing as a receiver out of the backfield. Bell's averaging 9.1 yards per catch, and he's caught 15 balls so far this year for more than 130 yards. That's pretty good for a brusing- type back, and he's been electric in the screen game, providing Matt Stafford with a go-to play on third down. Only Reggie Bush has more yards per catch, and only Theo Riddick has more total receiving yards among Lions RBs. Yeah, it's safe to say Joique is a beast and, a Michigan boy to boot.