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Lions Mailbag: What to do without Dominic Raiola?

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions are in an unfamiliar position -- win Sunday at the Green Bay Packers and the Lions will win a divisional title for the first time since 1993.

So what will it take to do that? And how does the team go on without center Dominic Raiola? That and more are covered in this week's Lions Mailbag, filled with your questions. To ask a question for the mailbag, tweet with the hashtag #LionsMailbag, email me at michael.rothstein@espn.com or pop on over to Facebook and ask away there (and follow me, too). Now, to your questions:


@mikerothstein: Well, Daniel, I think the Lions would thrilled if Matthew Stafford developed "Peyton Manning disease" if that came with his numbers, playoff wins and, oh yeah, that Lombardi Trophy he hoisted a few years back. I wouldn't say Stafford has that type of issue -- he's won in Chicago the past two years, won in Minnesota this season, etc. He has not had much success against good teams on the road, though. He is 0-15 in his career against teams who finished a season with a winning record on the road. Considering who Detroit might have to play the rest of the way and where those games might be, he'll have to break that streak in order for Detroit to have a playoff run.



@mikerothstein: Yeah, it probably is and that includes myself. I did not think this was a particularly good hire when Detroit made it in January. Looking back, that was an error on my part. Personally, I felt Lovie Smith would have been the best hire for this club and who the Lions should have gone after, but in retrospect Detroit made its best possible hire considering all the circumstances involved. The Lions needed a calming presence in the locker room and Caldwell has provided that. He's a big reason why Detroit is 11-4 and playing for a divisional title Sunday.



@mikerothstein: The Lions need to force turnovers to win -- particularly at least one interception of Aaron Rodgers. That's the first key to a Detroit victory Sunday. If the Lions can't force turnovers and can't score early, they will have a long day. I wouldn't be surprised if Detroit runs a lot of two-back early on to help Travis Swanson with any potential interior rush, but the Lions will have to have a good blocking day to win. As I predicted Friday, I don't think Detroit wins this game.



@mikerothstein: So far, no player on the Detroit Lions has said anything negative about Dominic Raiola publicly or privately to me. They've all been pretty supportive of him and that isn't surprising considering he is the longest-tenured Detroit player and is generally well-liked in the locker room. Some players have used the term "unfortunate" to describe Raiola's current situation, but none have said anything more than that.



@mikerothstein: That's an interesting question and one that has been discussed in the media room this week. Both Dominic Raiola and Rob Sims are free agents after the season. Travis Swanson is probably taking one of those spots and then the Lions could have a decision to make on the other. Which one that ends up being is a big question right now and I'm not sure I know the answer to that. Initially, I would have said the Lions would bring back Raiola for one more year and have Swanson play guard, but I'm not convinced of that anymore. I realize this is a giant non-answer, but I think it's going to be one of the bigger non-Ndamukong Suh questions for Detroit from the end of the season until March.



@mikerothstein: I'll make this easy. The Lions have to force at least two turnovers -- and one must come in the first half. The second one is being tied or in the lead midway through the second quarter. Green Bay has scored 198 points in the first halves of games this season so surviving an early Packers onslaught will be critical.



Ray from Monroe, Michigan asks: Many people are writing the Lions off in the pivotal Week 17 game in Green Bay. "Green Bay will dominate Detroit as it has at Lambeau Field." "Detroit has no shot of winning this game." Things like that. But if I remember correctly, Detroit beat a healthy and near perfect Green Bay team 19-7 back in Week 3. What is different now, and what are the chances of Detroit making it to the NFC Championship game or further?



Rothstein: The difference is playing on the road. As I mentioned above, Stafford has never beat a team with a winning record at the end of a season on the road. Also, the Packers are a different team now. They were much more focused on being a running team in Week 3 where now, they are passing it more. So those are the differences. As far as Detroit's NFC title game chances, if the Lions win Sunday then I'd say they have a great shot. I've said this on radio, TV and written it -- I believe Detroit can beat any team in the NFL when playing at Ford Field. It's on the road where it'll be tricky. Having to go to Green Bay or Seattle in the playoffs would probably end the Lions' season.