NFL Detroit Lions

5 Reasons Why Detroit Lions are Legit NFC Contenders

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5 Reasons Why Detroit Lions are Legit NFC Contenders

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Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Jim Schwartz is doing a heck of a job with a Detroit Lions team that brings good old memories of the 1991 and 1993 NFC Central Division champs coached by Wayne Fontes. Against the odds, the determination and desire to win have made the 2013 Lions into potential NFC contenders. Several weeks ago in an alumni roundtable hosted by former Lions' receiver Herman Moore, former teammate Lomas Brown put it best by saying: "The difference between the regular season and the playoffs is that the regular season is normally more relaxed and broken down into four segments, and in the playoffs the players have to give it all on every down in order to be competitive and survive."

I think heading into the playoffs, all teams are competitive offensively; it is in this category that the Lions have earned honors throughout the season. Matt Stafford has now started 40 games at quarterback and has taken command of the ship regardless of how the rest of the offense aligns. Stafford's execution has been impressive and he has led his team to victory twice this year without star running back Reggie Bush and with a hurt Calvin Johnson on the field. The absence of Nate Burleson, the Lions' second receiver, and Ryan Broyles is what sets Stafford apart from all quarterbacks in the league. A Pro Bowl performance, a winning record and a divisional lead are a few takeaways thus far.

Luck is definitely one of the things the Lions have on their side in 2013. The offense and defense are getting the job done, even in the close games that you would expect the Lions to lose. It is very exciting and painful to watch how the Lions play out the final seconds of many games thus far, but they are coming away with victories.

Luis Vilanova is a Detroit Lions writer for Follow him/her on Twitter, “Like” him/her on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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5. Defense

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Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 5 reason to believe the Detroit Lions are serious NFC contenders is Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh. They played exceptionally well against the Chicago Bears and their dominance combined for two sacks a tipped ball for an interception and shutting down the run. The duo looks more committed and ready to create more big plays.

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4. No. 2 Receiver

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Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 4 reason to believe the Lions are strong contenders for the NFC are their multiple receiving targets. Nate Burleson was a having a tremendous year when he injured his arm and Ryan Broyles stepped in as the number two receiver. Suddenly, things got ugly in Detroit when Broyles injured his Achilles tendon and was done for the season. Finally, it has been Kris Durham taking command as the No. 2 receiver and Kevin Ogletree and Jeremy Ross alternating on the slot position. All of the receivers have been solid targets for Matt Stafford.

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3. The Running Game

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Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 3 reason why the Lions are strong conference contenders is the running game and styles of Reggie Bush and Joique Bell. Bush's versatility allows him to find the holes for the big gains benefiting from a superb run blocking unit. He has also become a short receiving option for Stafford to find him and convert for long yardage. Bell has been a scoring machine all year and he makes the most out of a secondary role breaking the defense with bursts of power for good yardage.

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2. The Offensive Line

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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 2 reason is Detroit's offensive line. They have been impeccable all year and they are directly responsible for the effectiveness of the entire offense. A younger more solid offensive line is holding defenses to zero sacks and allowing Stafford plenty of time to throw accurately. Larry Warford and Riley Reiff are the new generation but veteran leader Dominic Raiola is showing signs of rejuvenation.

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1. Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson

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Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The top reason why the Lions are strong NFC candidates is the Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson duo. Is it possible to even think of another quarterback and receiver tandem in the NFL as effective and lethal as Detroit's.