Edson: Lions, Pistons Heading Toward Playoffs

Don’t look now, but with the onset of winter chilling our bones, there is a warm feeling starting to set in that both the Detroit Lions and Detroit Pistons could make the playoffs.
The Lions didn’t look interested in being a playoff team during the first half of Sunday’s eventual 38-24 victory over the winless Cleveland Browns. But they found enough of a spark in the second half to eventually pull through.
What happened? I’ll blame the slow start on the Lions coaching staff. The Lions looked like they were only going through the motions early, taking a win over the Browns for granted. And that’s what scares most Lions fan.
This is a football team that can beat anybody… and lose to anybody.
But with the win Sunday and a favorable schedule the rest of the way, I think the Lions will win either 10 or 11 games and make the playoffs. The rest of their schedule includes: At Chicago; Home to Minnesota; At Baltimore; At Tampa; Home to Chicago; At Cincinnati and Home to Green Bay. I see at least five wins and maybe six in that group.
Besides Matt Stafford, the offense finally looked like it could run the ball. Granted, it was against the Browns, but Cleveland’s front four is one of its strengths.
But what will determine the success or failure of Detroit’s season will be its defense. How well that unit plays down the stretch will determine how far this team goes.
THE PISTONS: If you’ve watched any of the early Detroit Pistons games this season, you’ve noticed one big change: They play with more fire this season. The reason? Well, there is more than one, but the biggest one I’ve seen is new guard Avery Bradley. He plays hard on both ends of the court and ignites the Pistons.
Tobias Harris has become their “go to” scorer down the stretch and Andre Drummond is finally playing up to his potential. But make no mistake – Bradley is the one who has helped changed the mindset of this team. Getting him from the Boston Celtics was a steal, one that will help the Pistons make the playoffs.
They are 10-3 after beating the Miami Heat 112-103 on Sunday.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Another wild weekend in the college ranks. After the smoke has cleared, it looks like Alabama, Miami, Oklahoma, Clemson and Auburn are the top five.
We’ll know a lot more about how good unbeaten Wisconsin is in the next couple of weeks. The Badgers host Michigan this Saturday. The Wolverines, who are 8-2, finish against the Badgers and Ohio State. They will be the underdogs in both games and could finish 8-4.
Michigan State, which was crushed by Ohio State on Saturday, finishes with a home game against Maryland this week and a road game at Rutgers. They should finish at 9-3, quite a reversal from their 3-9 record a year ago.
One of the most interesting college football developments over the weekend was the firing of Tennessee coach Butch Jones. Jones is a former Central Michigan head coach. He was 27-13 with the Chippewas, then 23-14 with Cincinnati before going 34-27 with the Volunteeers. He had led the Vols to three straight bowl victories before getting fired after a sub-par four-win season. Jones’ successor? Former Michigan coach Brady Hoke, his defensive coordinator at Tennessee.

Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.