Next 5 Notes Week 7: Look ahead to the Detroit Lions’ next five opponents


How did you spend your bye week? The Detroit Lions spent it trying to figure out how to right the ship after losing back-to-back games for the first time this season and falling to 3-3. The bye came at a good time in terms of injuries (although it may not have helped Golden Tate enough), so Detroiters are hoping a healthier squad can get the team back on track. Here are the next five teams they will attempt to do that against, as well as the biggest stories coming out of their locker rooms.

WEEK 8 – vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2), Ford Field, Sunday Night Football

The Lions might be getting the Steelers at the wrong time. Had they played Pittsburgh in the first few weeks of the season, they looked pretty beatable. Now? Not so much. Le’Veon Bell has back-to-back 130-plus-yard rushing games, and Ben Roethlisberger has only one interception since throwing the ball to the Jaguars five times three weeks ago. The team is playing loose, too, as evidenced by this fun TD celebration in their win over Cincinnati on Sunday:

There is a distraction in the Steel City with receiver Martavis Bryant intensely voicing his displeasure about his diminished role in the offense, and he skipped a team meeting Monday. We’ll see if that commotion knocks them mentally off task before coming to The D on Sunday night.

WEEK 9 – at Green Bay Packers (4-3), Lambeau Field, Monday Night Football

Brett Hundley is NOT Aaron Rodgers. That was evident in the Packers 26-17 home loss to the Saints, where Hundley, the new Green Bay starting quarterback after Rodgers’s injury, completed just 12 passes for 87 yards and throwing an interception. It is a second straight loss for the defending NFC North champions, who fell to 4-3 on the year and will be without Rodgers until at least late in the season. He might return just in time to take on the Lions in regular season finale, but let’s cross that bridge when we get there. This weekend, the Packers have to wallow in that two-game losing streak during the bye, just like the Lions did last week.

WEEK 10 – vs. Cleveland Browns (0-7), Ford Field

The Browns played tough defense and actually forced overtime before falling to the Tennessee Titans 12-9 on Sunday. Cleveland’s offense? Not so tough. Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer was benched after two interceptions and was replaced by Cody Kessler, who is such a good player that he was inactive the first six weeks of the season. Oddly enough, though, the biggest story for Cleveland is about an offensive lineman. Joe Thomas tore a tricep muscle and is out for the rest of the season. Thomas had not missed a snap in his entire career, an NFL record 10,363 consecutive plays in his 11 seasons. The Browns now have to take their winless team all the way to London to face the Vikings on Sunday. You’re welcome, England!

WEEK 11 – at Chicago Bears (3-4), Soldier Field

The Bears offense was bad under rookie signal caller Mitchell Trubisky, but they still won going away, topping Carolina 17-3. Trubisky only threw the ball – and I am not making this up – seven times, only completed four of them. 4-for-7. In a win. Seriously. Yikes. However, the defense was the only offense Chicago needed, with rookie defensive back Eddie Jackson taking a fumble back for 75 yards, and an interception 76 yards to the house. He is the first player in League to have a pair defensive TDs of 75 yards or more in one game.  The Bears take a two-game winning streak into New Orleans on Sunday.

WEEK 12 – vs. Minnesota Vikings (5-2), Ford Field, Thanksgiving

One of the Lions’ three wins was in Minnesota in Week 3. The Vikings haven’t lost since and now sit alone atop the Division at 5-2 after wins over the Bears, Packers, and a 24-16 win over the Ravens on Sunday. Running back Latavius Murray, who was signed to back up and push rookie Dalvin Cook, finally looks healthy after off-season ankle surgery. With Cook going down to a knee injury in the Detroit game, Murray has a chance to be the number one back, and he used that position to run for 113 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries on Sunday. Case Keenum is a game manager at quarterback, letting the Vikings defense win the games. They only gave up 208 yards to Baltimore, and the only team to score more than 19 points on them this year was Pittsburgh in Week 2. The Vikings get a European vacation of sorts this week as they head to London to take on the Browns.