- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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Once again, the injury issues of others could benefit the Detroit Lions.
When Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler went down with a groin injury last month, it looked as if there was an opening for the Lions to make a move in the division standings -- and there still is even if Cutler returns against Detroit on Sunday.
NowGreen Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers is out for at least a while with a fractured collarbone. While Rodgers may return in time for his game against Detroit on Thanksgiving Day, both of Detroit’s main competitors in the NFC North will have lost their starting quarterbacks for a period of time.
And in a divisional race in which all three teams are at 5-3 and at least one almost will definitely not make the playoffs, that’s a huge deal. The injuries to Cutler and Rodgers open up a massive door for Detroit to potentially win its first NFC North title.
Of course, the only way the Lions can capitalize is if they continue to play well and Green Bay falters with Seneca Wallace at quarterback. That may or may not happen over the next three weeks, with the Packers facing Philadelphia on a short week, traveling to New York to face the Giants, and then playing the lowly Minnesota Vikings at home.
Even without Rodgers, Green Bay could go 2-1 during that stretch and still be in the divisional race on Thanksgiving.
But all these questions for their opponents only help Detroit, a team that has stayed remarkably healthy for the most part this season. It has only lost two contributors -- receiver Ryan Broyles and defensive end Jason Jones -- to injury. And quarterback Matthew Stafford has played every snap while staying mostly upright through the first half of the season.
All of these are good things for Detroit and might point to the Lions being the divisional favorites, at least for the next few weeks of the season. For years, the Lions have waited for an opportunity like this: a talented team, opponents facing major injuries, a chance to really make a difference in the division.
Now the Lions just have to take advantage, starting with Chicago on Sunday, whether Cutler plays or not.