Not many would have thought that the Detroit Lions would be 1-3 at this juncture of the season.

Competiting for an NFC-North title was expected as the Lions looked like a legitimate force that could overthrow Green Bay or Chicago for the honor -- if, of course, the Lions played like they did in 2011, when they went 10-6.

This year, though, is a different story. The offense doesn't have the punch it had last year. However, Matt Stafford is the NFL's fifth-leading paser with 1,182 yards. ESPN's Ron Jaworski rates Stafford as the league's 15th-best signal-caller.

Stafford being ranked so high in passing yards isn't a shocker, but it is a somewhat baffling stat considering the fact that this year's Lions offense looks like a cheap imposter of the 2011 version.

Despite scoring at least 27 points three times this year, the Lions just can't get into rhythm.

The lack of a running game has hurt Detroit. And the Lions' historically bad two-game special teams performances against Minnesota and Tennessee made them look like a laughing stock. When teams score without going on offense, that's, well, offensive.

Are the 1-3 Lions capable of winning the North?

Maybe. But don't tell the Vikings that. As of now, it looks like a three-horse race involving the Packers, Bears and Vikings.

Consistency is an often-used word in sports; well, it's used in just about anything competitive, for that matter. A model of steadiness is what is missing in Detroit.

Lions coach Jim Schwartz seems to believe in the slow-and-steady approach. Instead of getting gadget-like and borrowing from the Boise State playbook in order to fuel offense and put points on the board, Schwartz wants the offense to be comfortable and logical.

"We're trying to be effective," Schwartz said via MLive.com. "We're trying to score points and limit scoring. Our goal is not to be imaginative. 

"Our goal is to put the ball in the end zone, our goal is to limit scoring and those are the only things that matter to us. We're going to do what's best with the personnel that we have and what fits us the best, not try to do a clinic or write a paper."

The Lions have to find a "fit." If not, hopes of winning at least 10 games this season and making a playoff run go out the window. They'll be the "same old" Lions that their followers have grown accustomed to seeing.

Last year wasn't a fluke. This season is a fluke. Detroit is a few plays away from being 3-1. But that can't be the mentality, whether from fans or the players. Detroit is what its record says it is: A good team that hasn't quite played up to par.

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