Will the real Detroit Lions please stand up?

By Rob Parker - Sports Columnist
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In honor of the late, great Joe Falls, it's a Fish Fry Friday. ...

If only the preseason counted.

If it were the case, the Lions would be champions. We saw a championship-type effort on Thursday night at Ford Field as the Lions trashed Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, 40-9, before a sellout crowd. For sure, fans are feeling a lot better about their team after this one. It was just a week ago that fans were bummed out after the Lions looked dreadful in a loss to the Cleveland Browns.

Despite the feel-good performance against the sloppy Pats, who committed four turnovers in the first half, you know the preseason means little.

In fact, in 2008, the Lions were 4-0 in the preseason and wound up setting an NFL record for losses in a single season, losing all 16 games.

Here, there are still questions. The Lions' offense didn't take advantage of the turnovers forced by the defense.

Sure, stud receiver Calvin Johnson didn't play in his second straight preseason game. Still, you would have believed that QB Matthew Stafford would have been able to do more offensively. "We were opportunistic, especially early in the game," Lions coach Jim Schwartz told the media after the game. "We need to get more points off them." Stafford was 12-for-25 for 166 yards. He had a TD and no INTs.

And defensively, the Lions' secondary, a sore spot for seemingly a decade now, gave up big yardage play downfield by Brady.

The Lions are still an undisciplined team. Last week, they had three personal fouls. On Thursday, Willie Young had a dumb personal foul. He was flagged for taunting Brady. Young was benched the rest of the game after the foul.

This is a big year for the Lions. After falling to 4-12 last season after their 10-6 record in 2011, the Lions have to get back to winning.

If not, there could be changes in the front office and coaching staff, starting with Schwartz.

Word is that the Fords want more than just a playoff performance. They want a playoff win. Can't blame them really. After all, Lions have just one playoff win since 1957.

And it must sting that one-time laughingstocks Tampa Bay and Arizona both have made it to a Super Bowl, with Bucs winning it. The Lions, meanwhile, haven't come close to competing for a championship.

JV Bad Again

For sure, it's been a disappointing season for Justin Verlander. Two years ago, JV was so good that he won Cy Young and MVP. This year, Verlander is just ordinary. He's 12-9 with a chubby 3.68 ERA, by his standards. Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Verlander didn't have his good stuff in the Tigers' 7-6 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Thursday afternoon. JV allowed six runs on 10 hits in getting a no-decision. The Tigers are just 13-14 in JV's 27 starts. "It's not like he's having a brutal year," Leyland said about his ace. "It's just that he's not having the type of year we've come to know. "But he's still an outstanding pitcher" Fast forward to the postseason.

The big storyline on sports-talk radio is who will be the Tigers' Game 1 starter in the postseason. Many, of course, think it will be Max Scherzer and his impressive Cy Young-season he has going.

The gut here, though, is that it will still be JV. He's the team's ace, has plenty of postseason experience and the team is married to him with that huge contract that still has many years to go. Last thing you want is to make him have a bad taste in his mouth for the organization after all he's done. All that said, it hasn't been a good season for JV, by any stretch. "I wouldn't call it good," Verlander said. "I would call it frustrating."


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