- 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.
WR Calvin Johnson: It’s odd for Johnson to ever be on this list barring injury, but this could be a really strong matchup for the top receiver in the game. Philadelphia allows the most passing yards per game in the NFL this season at 296.75, just in front of Dallas’ 294.92. And most people remember what Johnson did to the Cowboys, when he caught 14 passes for 329 yards.
A home playoff game: Detroit now has sole possession of first place in the NFC North and if the Lions can hold on to that, they’ll end up hosting their first playoff game in 20 years. Considering how the Lions have played at home at points this season -- notably against Chicago in September and against Green Bay on Thanksgiving -- that is a positive.
DE Ziggy Ansah: Since returning from his ankle injury, Ansah has four sacks in two games and has established himself as one of the top rookie defensive players in the league. He has seven sacks this season and having to watch for two weeks appears to have really helped him.
RG Larry Warford: The rookie from Kentucky has now played three-quarters of his first season, participated in every meaningful offensive snap and has been extremely, extremely efficient. If anything, at a time when rookies could tire out, he appears to be improving. According to Pro Football Focus, Warford has not allowed a sack this season, has only allowed Matthew Stafford to be hit four times and has only allowed more than one quarterback hurry in a game once this season.
Returner Micheal Spurlock: He was inactive for the second straight game and appears to have lost his returner role to Jeremy Ross, who can contribute on both offense and in special teams. Ross’ emergence as a returner specifically pushed him past Spurlock, who is almost strictly a return specialist.
Turnovers: Detroit continued to struggle holding on to the ball even in a 40-10 win over Green Bay. The Lions committed four turnovers on Thursday, the fourth time in five games the Lions have committed three or more turnovers. Detroit hasn’t been positive in the turnover margin since Oct. 13.
K David Akers: The veteran appears to have hung on to his job this week, but certainly the confidence in him is waning a little bit as Detroit brought in kickers on both Monday and Tuesday to work out for the team. Unlike other positions, if a team is bringing in kickers to try out this late in the season, that probably means the situation is at least somewhat tenuous for the guy on the team, barring injury. Akers has a ton of experience, but this is worth paying attention to.