Four games into 2019 the Detroit Lions stand in good position to make a playoff run.
In order to make the playoffs, they've got to build on the good things they've done while shedding the things that have held them back.
Here are six things the Lions need to do, or continue doing, to take the next step:
Run the ball effectively: So far, Detroit averages 120.5 rushing yards per game, good for 13th in the league. The run game broke through in Week 4's against the Kansas City Chiefs, where Kerryon Johnson had 26 carries and went over 100 yards, and the Lions had 186 rushing yards total.
Consistently finding success on the ground will be a huge part of the Lions' success the rest of the season, especially in road games and late in the season.
That's because keeping a focus on running the ball helps the Lions' defense stay fresh, it helps the Lions control the flow of the game and it helps Matthew Stafford in the passing game. Which brings us to our next point.
Keep Stafford efficient: Matthew Stafford is having one of the better seasons he's had in recent memory – certainly much better than last year. A big reason for his success is how efficient he's been. He's thrown nine touchdowns to two interceptions and looks very comfortable in the Lions' offense.
If the Lions want to make the playoffs, they need Stafford to stay on the pace he's started out on – and maybe play the most well-rounded season of his career.
Continue spreading the ball around: Another great part of Stafford's game this year has been spreading the ball around to different targets. Kenny Golladay has gotten more targets than the other receivers, but the Lions have had four different guys with 100 yards and one touchdown.
And when the Lions have been shorthanded, guys like Marvin Hall and Logan Thomas saw the ball come their way and make plays. Those second or third options making plays will be huge for the Lions down the stretch.
Keep creating turnovers: It seems like with each week the Lions' defense is getting better. One thing they've done well is create turnovers. Justin Coleman and Trey Flowers both forced fumbles against Kansas City, and when it seems like they really need a turnover the Lions have been able to get the ball.
Be average on special teams: An area where the Lions have been very inconsistent is special teams. They've had a kick return touchdown and made 7 of 9 field goals but they've also had a fumble on punt return and a field goal and punt blocked.
The rest of the season all the Lions' specials teams need to do is be average. Cut down on the penalties, hold on to the ball and kick and cover well.
Finish games: This is another area where the Lions have been inconsistent. It's not easy to put teams away but the opportunities have been there, including against the Chiefs.
When the Lions have opportunities against teams they should beat (like Arizona) they must win.
And when they get an opportunity to beat a good team like Kansas City, they'll have to make the improvements we talked about to win.
Beating the good teams left on the schedule (like Green Bay and Dallas) could be the difference to if the Lions make the playoffs or not.
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