- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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Each week, we’ll look at who or what might be rising or falling with the Detroit Lions.
Lions playoff chances: Detroit could play Chicago either with a Jay Cutler on the mend or no Cutler at all. It could play Green Bay with a recovering Aaron Rodgers or no Rodgers at all. And those, for now, are the two teams the Lions play the rest of the way that are over .500 at this point in the season. So the opportunity -- massive as it is -- awaits for Detroit. No excuses to not make the playoffs now.
WR Nate Burleson: The veteran wide receiver practiced for the first time Tuesday and while his return for Sunday is questionable at best, he said Tuesday he is feeling healthier, lighter and fresher than he has in a while. In other words, he’s ready to go once he gets full clearance from the doctors. He said in October he felt he would be able to return and still have a shot at a 1,000-yard season. While that seems unlikely (he has 239 yards right now) he is confident he can come back and play well.
WR/returner Jeremy Ross: If Burleson can’t play Sunday, don’t be surprised if Ross remains active and sees a lot of snaps in the slot since Ryan Broyles is out for the season. And depending on Detroit’s defensive line situation, Ross may end up as the returner, too, if Micheal Spurlock is once again made inactive.
RB Joique Bell: Heading to the grass of Soldier Field and with the slot receiver spot in some question this week, Bell could receive more carries -- or at least more snaps -- if the Lions choose to adopt more of a two running back look or have Bush in the slot more. Bell has shown to be a more than capable running back this season and this could be a strong opportunity for him.
RB Mikel Leshoure: He has barely played, wasn’t traded at the deadline and with all of Detroit’s running backs healthy enough to play at this point, doesn’t look like he’ll be active again any time soon. The former second round pick has long said he just wants a chance to play but right now, it just doesn’t look like it’ll happen.
WRs Kris Durham and Kevin Ogletree: If and when Burleson does return, both Durham and Ogletree could see fewer snaps depending on game plan situations. Durham has become a dependable outside receiver for Detroit and should still see some action. Ogletree has shown flashes of speed and skill and should still end up on the field at points, but their number of snaps might diminish.
Returner Micheal Spurlock: We won’t know for sure until Sunday about the status of Spurlock, but he is at least in a competition for the returner role with Ross at this point. Considering Spurlock is little-to-no threat in the passing game on offense, he needs to be able to hold on to his job as a returner to continue to have a viable spot on the team.