NFL Detroit Lions

10 Players Who Will Lead Detroit Lions to Playoffs

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10 Players Who Will Lead the Detroit Lions to the Playoffs

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

For the Detroit Lions, things couldn't get much worse than they did last season. After starting the year off at 4-4, they lost their last eight games to finish the schedule off with a final record of 4-12. After enjoying success the previous year, the Lions were picked by some to compete with the Green Bay Packers for the division title. Instead, they not only missed out on the playoffs but finished last in the NFC North.

Going into this upcoming season, the Lions have improved on one side of the ball in hopes that they can consistently put more points on the board. The addition of Reggie Bush will give them a huge boost, but who else will need to step up offensively? Of course, the Lions have one of the best receivers in the NFL in Calvin Johnson, but which Matthew Stafford will show up? After the controversy surrounding ex-wide receiver Titus Young, the Lions have a void at the number two spot that needs to be filled as well.

Defensively, they lost one of their leaders in Cliff Avril who was signed as a free agent by the Seattle Seahawks. The Lions defense has been talked up over the past two or three years, but based on what evidence? They are known to be a tough and gritty defense, but also get their fair share of penalties called on them for being too rough. Will they be able to harness their aggression into successful play on the field? A couple of leaders need to emerge on that side of the ball for Detroit as Avril is now gone and they have failed to find their identity.

If the Lions are to make it back to the playoffs in 2013, here are 10 guys who will need to get them there.

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10. Nick Fairley

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Nick Fairley played better than he did in his rookie season and wasn't as much of a disappointment. But he still has work to do. Working next to another solid defensive tackle in Ndamukong Suh, Fairley has everything he needs to be successful. Without Cliff Avril, there will be even more pressure on Fairley to get to the quarterback and make plays for the Lions in 2013.

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9. DeAndre Levy

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Another guy that needs to step up in Avril's absence is linebacker DeAndre Levy. He will be one of the go-to guys for the Lions in respect to being counted on to make plays all over the field. Levy is still young and can continue his development into one of the better linebackers in the league. For Detroit, they need him to be one of their field generals that can lead them back into the playoffs.

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8. Ndamukong Suh

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This year, it will be time for Ndamukong Suh to prove he is the elite defensive tackle that many say he is. To others, it is just his antics and aggression that make him stand out in the NFL. For the Lions to get back to the playoffs, Suh will need to make plays and perform efficiently; turning his aggression from poor lack of judgement into solid football plays.

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7. Brandon Pettigrew

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Last season, I had a colleague of mine that picked both Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson in his fantasy football draft. Later on in the draft, he chose Brandon Pettigrew to be his tight end. Little did he know, two of those players would be a huge disappointment in 2012. Pettigrew has the potential to be a dynamic tight end in this league, and he will have to work closely with Stafford to put points on the board in 2013.

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6. Chris Houston

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Not only will the Lions need to put points on the board through the air, but they will need to defend such a thing in which they failed to do last year. A big part of that task will be the play from cornerback Chris Houston. If Houston can keep with his man and continue to nab interceptions like he did two years ago, the Lions will be much better off on defense.

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5. Louis Delmas

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Re-signing the hard-hitting Louis Delmas was a solid and safe move for the Lions heading into next year. Delmas is one of the better defenders on the Lions and will need to be next year without a doubt. He will be responsible for not allowing as many big plays down the field. Having less of those is imperative for the Lions as they try and get back into the playoffs.

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4. Ryan Broyles

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After the whole Titus Young fiasco last season, Ryan Broyles stepped in and played very well before going down with an injury. If Broyles can stay healthy this year, he will be a huge factor in the offense for the Lions. He showed speed, great moves, and fairly dependable hands in his few games in which he shined. Next to Calvin Johnson, Broyles will be one of the most important players in the passing game.

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3. Reggie Bush

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By signing Reggie Bush, the Lions gave themselves a much-needed boost on offense. Bush will be the perfect compliment to Stafford and the passing game. Being a guy that can take a screen a mile, the Lions will be able to enjoy yet another weapon who can catch passes and take them all the way.

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2. Calvin Johnson

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Calvin Johnson may go down as arguably the greatest receiver to ever play the game if he plays long enough. His athletic build and ability are second to none. The NFL has never seen such a big-bodied, quick, fast, sure-handed receivers that can go up and get the ball if it's thrown within what seems like a 10 yard radius sometimes. A lot of the times, as usual, Stafford will find himself launching the ball downfield in hopes that Johnson will just make a play. 2013 will be no different. Johnson is going to be a giant reason for the Lions getting back to the postseason.

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1. Matthew Stafford

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While all of these past players are vital to the team's success in 2013, nobody is more important than quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford had a down year compared to his career season in 2011, and will need to revert back to form in the upcoming months for the Lions to make some noise in the NFC. It is crucial that Stafford can again be confident in his abilities and stay healthy, for his team depends on it.