Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer 12d

After successful start and rough October, Lions look to potential strong second half

Here's a look at the first half of the season for the Detroit Lions and a preview of what to expect the second half.

First-half snapshot w/grade: It's been a bit of an inconsistent first half for the Lions. The franchise started off better than expected, with two road wins in the first month of the season -- but stuttered throughout October with four losses in five games -- three to teams from the NFC South. Other than a failure against New Orleans, Detroit's defense has been much better than expected. The offense had been mediocre, but showed signs of promise against Pittsburgh and Green Bay with back-to-back 400-yard performances. The special teams have been one of the better units in the league even without punter Sam Martin, who returned against the Steelers. Grade: Average

Midseason MVP: Safety Glover Quin. The emotional center of Detroit's defense, Quin is on pace for one of the best seasons of his career at age 31. His 41 tackles, two forced fumbles, three interceptions and one returned for a touchdown are strong stats, but his consistent back-end play has made him one of the best pure free safeties in the league. He's equally strong against the run and the pass and a locker room leader, too. Want to understand his value? When Quin went down with a concussion against New Orleans, every player on the defense seemed to be at least a little bit shaken up. Through seven weeks, Quin was the No. 2 rated safety on Pro Football Focus, more proof of his exceedingly high play this season. He's a big reason the Lions are in playoff contention.

Best moment: In terms of the season, it would be the last few minutes against Minnesota, when the Lions held on for a 14-7 win that provided them with at least a small edge against the Vikings in the division. Of course, at the time Aaron Rodgers was still healthy. That he isn't now -- and that the Vikings seem to be the division's top team -- could loom large if Detroit can sweep Minnesota on Thanksgiving. But at this point, the win against the Vikings was a key moment for the Lions.

Worst moment: There are two here -- the half-yard that kept Detroit from a win at home against Atlanta and the complete failure at New Orleans. They tie for different reasons. The 10-second runoff loss against the Falcons was a downbeat because of what a win against Atlanta would have meant. It would have given the Lions instant legitimacy, and considering how they played the next week against Minnesota, it would have meant a 4-0 start. Instead, the franchise once again faced questions about a controversial play call and officiating decision at the end. From a complete on-field perspective, the entire game against the Saints was a mess. The Lions had a bunch of players (Quin, Golden Tate, Greg Robinson) injured and at one point had a third-string right tackle and right guard in the game. The score made it look better than the reality of what happened in Louisiana: The Lions were completely outclassed in a game on offense and defense for the first time since 2015. It also wiped out a lot of the early-season work Detroit had done, sending it into the bye at 3-3 in the middle of a mediocre NFC.

Second-half outlook: A playoff berth is still attainable. A sweep of the Vikings would go a long way toward helping Detroit win its first divisional championship since 1993. The second-half schedule is manageable, with games against Cleveland, Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Cincinnati and Chicago twice. All except one of the Chicago games and Cleveland are on the road, though, which could be trickier. And only the game against the Vikings is against a team over-.500. But the Lions need to do better than last season, when their division hopes were down to the last week of the season and a game against the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers is hurt for now, but if he's back by Week 17 and Detroit needs a win to reach the playoffs, the last thing the Lions want to see is Rodgers -- especially if the Packers also remain in playoff contention.

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