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Black and Blue all over: Lions fever

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Could it be? Yes, it sure seems that way. There appears to be some actual, genuine optimism emanating from Detroit in the wake of the Lions' 2-0 start in the preseason. (Yes, Lions fans, you take your good news any time you can get it).

Quarterback Jon Kitna (9-for-10, 182 yards, two touchdowns) has had two flawless performances. Receiver Calvin Johnson (7 receptions, 154 yards, one touchdown in four series) appears ready to emerge as an elite player. The defense is playing with abandon.

Even the local media is getting in on the act. In one of his final bylines after 31 years covering the Lions, Detroit News beat writer Mike O'Hara is predicting nine victories. At minimum. Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press hedges his optimism slightly, noting it's difficult to project the significance of preseason progress.

Yes, there is a long way to go. And we were amused by the Lions fan who called into a radio station last week while we were in Detroit. The fan said something like: "I don't care how good they look. They're the Lions." But we're sticking by our belief that the Lions aren't the worst team in the NFC North.

Continuing around the division:

  • Second-year quarterback Drew Stanton, who had a rough start to training camp, is starting to raise some eyebrows -- in a good way -- according to Mlive.com's Tom Kowalski.

  • Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times came up with this statistic: The Bears have had the same opening-day quarterback in consecutive seasons only once in the past 10 years. Add Kyle Orton's name to that list. He was named the starter Monday.

  • Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune writes that Orton has tailored his game noticeably since playing at Purdue, where he had a gunslinger mentality. "Now it looks as if he has been neutered by his offense and the circumstances surrounding the team," Pompei writes. But "there is no reason he cannot become a bolder passer." Except for the fact that it's the last thing the Bears want.

  • Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy still considers Brian Brohm his No. 2 quarterback, although the gap has closed considerably with fellow rookie Matt Flynn.

  • In a radio interview on KFAN-1130, Minnesota Vikings receiver Bernard Berrian acknowledged he is bothered by an injury similar to turf toe. It plagued him last season while with the Bears and "is very painful," Berrian said. Consider that an "uh-oh" for Vikings fans.