By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts Detroit Rock City Dweller

1. Detroit Lions, Super Bowl Champs: It’s Not a Punchline

Yes, the Lions are contenders – and not just for the role of plucky upstart that makes the playoffs and loses a close one.

This team is capable of winning the Super Bowl, this year. If you’ve got a list of possibles for winning “The Vince” this year, add the Lions to it.

In pen.

Their 21-19 road win at Chicago, paired with Green Bay’s loss at home to Philly, has the Lions in a very unfamiliar place – in charge of the NFC North through 10 weeks, and with the type of team that goes places.

Detroit is at Pittsburgh, hosts Tampa and then plays a Green Bay team (likely without Rodgers) at home the next three weeks; take care of business, and the North is on a near lockdown.

They have the five things any championship team these days is built around:

  1. Great passing game. From 2011 to today, Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson has been the single most productive statistical hookup in league history. Stafford and Johnson, on current pace, will, for the third year running, turn in a top-10-all-time yardage season. And with only seven INTs in nine games, it’s efficient too.
  2. Explosive, versatile running game. On Sunday, Reggie Bush and Joique Bell combined for 24-146, leading to 21 first downs. They are on pace to combine for over 1,500 yards rushing and 1,100 yards receiving.
  3. Good front line. Detroit isn’t putting up huge numbers in sacks (14 in 9 games) or yards-per-carry against (4.6), but their front line is doing its job, producing pressure and letting the guys in the back do their job. As a result, the secondary has been above average, and the defense has had excellent balance.
  4. Good health. With only DL Jason Jones and WR Ryan Broyles out for the year, the Lions have been starting the same basic team every week – and the longer that happens, the more they can pull away.

Ah, but do they have the head for it? Do the hot-headed Jim Schwartz and DC Gunther Cunningham have what it takes to keep this team hot – but cool when it needs to be?

On Sunday, in the win over the Bears, the Lions gave Chicago a second shot at a game-tying 2-point conversion thanks to a roughing-the-passer call.

Classic Lions, right? Not this time. They stuffed the second attempt, won the game, and control the division.

2. The 2013 Baltimore Ravens Are The Latest Zombie Movie.

There’s no earthly explanation for this Ravens team.

  • Defensive leadership: Gone.
  • Ray Rice? Can’t get out of his own way.
  • 20-million dollar quarterback?: Awful
  • Status heading into Sunday’s game: 2.5 games behind the Bengals in the NFC North.

Yep, that was where the Ravens were – dead champion walking, with about a 1-in-10 chance of making the playoffs.

But  they went from being the old style, shuffling zombies to those World War Z ones Sunday, looking vintage in building up a 17-3 lead on Cincy at home.

Then … BITTEN! Shambling! No brains! Flacco turned it over twice, the Bengals tied it on a Hail Mary that was more like a “Here Ya Go” off a tip from James Ihedigbo, and Cincy won the toss.

Back to the grave, boys! NOT SO FAST! The Ravens stopped Cincy on a fourth-and-short, got enough yards off the miss to give Justin Tucker a chance, and before you could say “braaaaaaaiiiinnnnnssss” they are a game back of a reeling Bengals team with a Week 17 rematch on tap.

Rated R for Ravens.

3. Might Be Time to Start Talking About Nick Foles.

Is Foles playing up to his stat line? Probably not. But after his 12-for-18, 228 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT session Sunday at Green Bay, he’s up to 16 TDs and no interceptions since getting the job.

He did fumble Sunday in the 27-13 win over Green Bay giving him one turnover in 166 dropbacks or runs. Laps around the stadium for you, kid.

Foles was pretty decent on a trainwreck of a team last year, with 296 dropbacks or runs and only eight turnovers, and a 79.1 rating. For a third-round “project” to be this good this fast suggests something well beyond flash-in-the-pan; that he almost beat out one of the most gifted QBs of any age in August should be a feather in his cap as well.

He’s gone wire-to-wire three times now, and the Eagles won those games 31-20, 49-20 and 27-13.

He’s pretty far from being a finished product, but with the Eagles 5-5 and the NFC East anyone’s to grab, Vick’s starting spot should be officially relinquished to the 24-year-old.

4. Rams 38, Colts 8: Like a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From.

Sometime it’s fun to watch something completely unexpected, even if it’s not really that interesting.

So it was with the Rams’ 38-8 with the Colts; it was hard to turn away from even after it was clear that there were to be no heroics from Indy this time.

The Colts are so far ahead in the AFC South that it doesn’t really matter to their bottom line of making the playoffs, and St. Louis is so far behind in the NFC West that this one will probably be the crown jewel of their season.

And yet … it was fun to watch. Part of it is because you always want to see Andrew Luck, even when things are going terrible, because he’s that type of player. There aren’t that many of them in the league.

Part of it was because of Tavon Austin’s breakout. It can go one of two ways from here to the end of 2013; Austin scores a big one every week, the Rams get hot and things get fun in St. Louis … or, more likely, he fumbles next week and has about 18 total yards as St. Louis plummets back to earth.

Part of it was because you like Jeff Fisher, and it’s fun to see his Rams game plan pay off in all the ways he could dream.

But mostly, it was just fun to watch a game go completely off-script, like a trained show horse gone mad on the Late, Late Show, shitting everywhere and knocking over cameras.

Who doesn’t like to see that?

5. But Wait! There’s More!

You probably remember Edgar Bennett from his playing career in Green Bay, but he’s been a big part of Packer staffs since retiring. He’s now the Green Bay wide receivers coach (since 2011), and that position has been bulletproof. Jarrett Boykin, an afterthought exiting camp, had 8-112 Sunday, even ith the team down to QB Scott Tolzien (nickname: “The Green Hobbit.”). Why don’t high-achieving position guys like Bennett ever seem to get head-coaching jobs? …

How bout them Jaggies! Hard to imagine anyone outside of Tennessee was rooting for the Titans to ruin Jacksonville’s coming-out party with a late comeback; fortunately for fans of the underdog everywhere, the Jaguars held out for a 29-27 road win. Great day for the Jaguars, another blow for the Mike Munchak era in Tennessee. …

It’s pretty amazing that the Texans put Arian Foster on IR in Week 10 and it was a complete non-story. This took a perfect storm of factors: the Texans are not in contention, which no one really saw coming. Usually, fantasy geeks would be all up in arms, but everyone’s savvy now and drafted backup Ben Tate to go with him – and at least now there’s no “game-time decision” heartbreak. Sorry, Arian. Get better soon. We’ll care more next year. …

It’s not totally out of line to discuss Mike Smith’s job security in Atlanta, is it? Falcons fans have never been totally sold on Smith despite the success, mostly because of so many high-profile defeats where the team is just flat. And flat is the only way to describe the 2013 unit. If they keep losing without putting up much of a stink, who knows how Arthur Blank will feel in two months? Smith does have a year left on his contract, so he’ll probably be fine, but 2014 shapes up as a huge year for him. …

The Steelers beat the Bills. The Giants beat the Raiders. In both games, there were touchdowns. Also, field goals. Also, some other stuff. Some players were pleased. Others weren’t pleased. More on this in our upcoming book “Games That Didn’t Need To Be Played.” …