Each week, we’ll look at who or what might be rising or falling with the Detroit Lions.
Lions chances at a divisional title: By sweeping Chicago, Detroit gave itself a much better chance at a playoff berth but also a one-game lead over the Bears and Green Bay for its first NFC North title. Since Green Bay is having major issues at quarterback and the Lions hold that tiebreaker over the Bears, they are in a pretty good position.
S Don Carey: Mostly a special-teams player this season, Carey played well in relief of the injured Bill Bentley and then the struggling Darius Slay in nickel packages against Chicago. He had two tackles and was able to hang with the Bears’ receivers. If Bentley returns this week, he’ll likely return to just special teams, but he emerged as a potential defensive back option if necessary.
TE Brandon Pettigrew: He hasn’t been reaching the end zone, but Pettigrew has continued to be a consistent -- and now, fairly open -- target for quarterback Matthew Stafford. Pettigrew caught all five passes thrown his way Sunday for 70 yards, the sixth straight game Pettigrew has had at least three catches. He has had three drops in nine games this season and that appears to no longer be an issue.
The underdog role: Long a way of life in Detroit, that type of mantra can no longer really work with the Lions, who have been in or around first place in the division for most of the season. Detroit has proven itself as a good team this year and with each win, believing the underdog mentality will be less and less believable. At least until the playoffs, depending on the matchup.
RT Corey Hilliard: This is through no fault of Hilliard, but his knee injury gave undrafted rookie LaAdrian Waddle an opportunity to start and Waddle has been fantastic the past two games for the Lions. Playing next to fellow rookie Larry Warford, the duo has left Stafford not worry about what will happen on the right side of his offensive line -- impressive for two players with less than a full season of starts combined between them.
WR Kevin Ogletree: The receiver, who started the season with Tampa Bay, has seen less and less action since a big catch against Cincinnati in Week 7. He hasn’t seen a target since the game against the Bengals and has only run a total of 14 routes the past two weeks. He has seen 16 or fewer snaps in each of the past three games.
CB Darius Slay: He had a big opportunity Sunday against Chicago to solidify a name for himself in his rookie season. Instead, he was picked on by quarterback Jay Cutler when he was on the field and the Lions eventually went with a nickel package featuring Carey instead of the rookie on the outside and Rashean Mathis in the slot.