Next 5 Notes, Week 9: Look ahead to the Detroit Lions’ next five opponents

The Lions are riding high after their dominating 30-17 win at Green Bay on Monday night, finishing the first half of their schedule 4-4. In terms of overall record, the second half opponents for Detroit look much easier. Here are the next five teams the Lions will face and the biggest stories coming out of their locker rooms.

WEEK 10 | vs. CLEVELAND BROWNS

The Cleveland Browns (0-8) had a bye week, which means this is the only week in the NFL season so far that they didn’t get a loss. Cleveland having an extra week to prepare is about the only reason Lions’ fans should give this game a second thought.

Unless you are convinced that no team other than the 2008 Lions will be inept enough to ever go 0-16, then maybe you believe karma will find a way hand a win to the lowly Browns. Even without playing, the Browns got some distractions this week as receiver Josh Gordon was conditionally reinstated by the NFL after he got a drug suspension in February of 2015. Gordon cannot begin practice until November 20, but he is at the practice facility and attending meetings.

We will see if that causes any kind of distraction when the Brownies come to Detroit on Sunday.

WEEK 11 | at CHICAGO BEARS

The Chicago Bears (3-5) also had a bye this past weekend, and used it to get healthier. Receiver Markus Wheaton, linebacker John Timu, and a pair of offensive linemen – Cody Whitehair and Hroniss Grasu – all returned to practice this week. By the way, those last two are REAL players, not characters from Game of Thrones.

The week off also gave rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky additional time to work on the team’s passing game, which is statistically the worst in the NFL. Chicago only averages 158 passing yards per game. We’ll see if he can take advantage of the Packers secondary like Matthew Stafford did when the Bears host Green Bay (4-4) on Sunday.

WEEK 12 – vs. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (Thanksgiving)

Now the trifecta – the Minnesota Vikings (6-2) are ALSO coming off their bye week. Weird, huh? Minnesota sits atop the NFC North, two games ahead of both the Lions and Packers. The Vikes added quarterback Teddy Bridgewater back onto the active roster and placed Sam Bradford on injured reserve. Bridgewater has completed a lengthy recover after suffering a non-contact knee injury last August.

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Case Keenum is still the starter, with Bridgewater serving as his backup. Keenum’s passer rating this year is 88.8, the highest of his career. The Vikings travel to Washington (4-4) this weekend.

WEEK 13 | at BALTIMORE RAVENS

The Baltimore Ravens (4-5) went to Tennessee this past Sunday and played the Titans tough, but fell short 23-20. Baltimore actually outgained Tennessee by nearly 100 more yards but a pair of Joe Flacco interceptions led to 13 Titans points.

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It was nice just to see Flacco out there after the devastating hit he took from Miami’s Kiko Alonso the week before. Flacco did throw two touchdown passes in the final nine minutes to make it interesting, but a last-minute onside kick was unsuccessful. Baltimore has lost 3-of-4 games to fall to 4-5 on the year.

To keep the theme going, the Ravens have a bye this week.

WEEK 14 | at TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-6) are riding a 5-game losing streak after falling 30-10 in New Orleans on Sunday. Apparently they are not hungry enough to eat another “W.” Did you witness the… umm, odd pregame speech by Jameis Winston?

Just watching him put his fingers in his mouth like that gives me the heebie-jeebies. I am embarrassed for him, his teammates, and the entire finger-licking state of Florida.

On the football side, things are really falling apart in Tampa Bay. Receiver Mike Evans was suspended one game for a vicious cheap shot on Saints rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore during a sideline scuffle in that game, and Winston didn’t play in the second half because of shoulder stiffness. Or perhaps he was too full from all the Ws he ate.

The Bucs will try to right their rapidly-sinking pirate ship when they host the Jets (4-5) on Sunday.