Each week, we’ll look at who or what might be rising or falling with the Detroit Lions.
WR Jeremy Ross: Not, though, as a wide receiver. But with the majority of the Lions healthy, they kept Ross and not Micheal Spurlock up for Sunday's game against Tampa Bay. He also handled himself well on returns, returning two kicks for 49 yards and two punts for 42 yards. He probably won’t see much action in the passing game -- he ran one route Sunday -- but he has value to Detroit as a returner who can also run routes if they want him there. He has more versatility.
CB Darius Slay: This isn’t necessarily due to anything he has shown on the field, but rather Chris Houston’s foot injury and a short turnaround. Houston would not have practiced if the Lions had practiced Monday and was one of three Detroit players not practicing Tuesday. So it doesn’t look like he will play Thursday, opening up an opportunity for the rookie from Mississippi State to have another chance to play.
WR Nate Burleson: He returned to action just like he had never left, making seven catches for 77 yards and scoring his first touchdown of the season. He looked a lot like the receiver he was before the pizza-related forearm crash. He’s going to be a key component for the Lions if they are going to make any push for the playoffs over the final month of the season.
CB Chris Houston: He gave up another long touchdown reception -- this time 85 yards to Tiquan Underwood -- and left the game after with a foot injury, an injury that might keep him out of Thursday’s game against Green Bay. Houston has been inconsistent most of the season but has been susceptible to giving up the long play, something the Lions have seen over and over again.
Detroit’s playoff chances: Yes, the Lions are still in first place and yes, the Lions have three of their final games at home. But Detroit’s mistake margin is minimal now when it comes to reaching the postseason. The chances of an NFC North team grabbing a wild-card berth are slim at best, so it is division-or-out for the Lions. Thursday has a massive role in which way Detroit heads in that conversation.
WR/Returner Micheal Spurlock: Yes, this corresponds to Ross moving up, but in at least a sign of a potential shift with Detroit’s return game, on a week where essentially every Lion was healthy, the Lions kept Ross up to be a returner and deactivated Spurlock. That Ross was effective in the role Sunday along with his receiving ability could mean less opportunities for Spurlock the rest of the season.