- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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First place: This is, without question, a big deal for the Lions. While Detroit might have matching 3-1 records with the Bears, it has beaten Chicago, and that means first place in the NFC North for now. It also sets up what could be the ultimate statement game for the Lions on Sunday at Green Bay against the Packers. Detroit has not won there since 1991 -- and if they pulls it off, the Lions might take a step into being considered a major contender in the NFL this season.
But that’s still six days away. For now, first place in a division it has never won should sit pretty strong with Detroit a month into the season.
Secondary concerns: There’s still a bunch to learn here throughout the week, but both of Detroit’s starting cornerbacks, Chris Houston and Rashean Mathis, were knocked out of Sunday’s game by injury. Mathis insisted he passed the two concussion tests that were given to him Sunday, so that could bode well for his return against the Packers. Houston left Sunday’s game with a leg injury -- he was battling a hand injury during the week -- and his status for Green Bay will be a big issue. He is Detroit’s top cornerback, and he’ll be needed against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Going into a major game without him will be dicey.
The dominance of Ndamukong Suh: The fourth-year defensive tackle out of Nebraska is playing the best football of his career. He had his best game, statistically, this season by sacking Jay Cutler twice. One of the sacks forced a fumble that led to a Nick Fairley touchdown, after which Fairley knocked Suh down in the ensuing celebration.
Much was made last week of Suh’s matchup against Bears rookie Kyle Long on Sunday. Instead, Suh saw double-teams most of the game and still pretty well dominated the rookie.
“He’s a grown man,” Long told MLive.com after the game. “That’s a grown man I played against [Sunday].”
As written about a lot here in the past seven days, Suh’s ability to control an offensive line opens things up for Fairley, and ends Ziggy Ansah and Willie Young in a way few other defensive tackles can replicate.
Big game for Brandon Pettigrew: The tight end has been criticized in the past for his inability to hang on to the ball in critical situations. Even his coach, Jim Schwartz, said he has to catch better in traffic. Quarterback Matthew Stafford made Pettigrew a priority Sunday by targeting him seven times. The bigger deal? Pettigrew caught all seven passes for 54 yards. If Pettigrew can do this consistently, it gives Detroit three tight ends who can make plays, an advantage as the season continues on.