2011 NFL Power Rankings: Detroit Lions Ready to Roar in NFC North

The Detroit Lions' decade-long rebuilding project is finally starting to show promising signs, and with all the good, young talent that is on the roster, this team is ready to make a playoff push in 2011.

The injury to Nick Fairley had some people concerned, and the season-ending Achilles injury to Mikel Leshoure had fans believing that the team was cursed.

But Fairley will be back at some point in September, and lining him up alongside Ndamukong Suh will give them one of the best defensive tackle duos in all of football.

The team was able to replace Leshoure with Jerome Harrison and Mike Bell. Bell is practically a non-factor, but Harrison has been one of the more underutilized running backs in football over the last three years and should make for a more than capable fill-in.

Matthew Stafford has all the talent in the world, as he showed in the three games that he played last year, but he has to show that he can stay healthy for 16 games. The Lions have been trying to build a running game this offseason in order to take pressure off Stafford.

Calvin Johnson is a star already at wide receiver and he will only get better as he enters his prime years. Brandon Pettigrew is a really good tight end and his numbers will improve when teams line up to stop Johnson.

The big question for this team is in the secondary, but that unit improved as the season went on last year. If they can be slightly better than league average this year, they should be able to win 10 games.

The offense, as long as Stafford is healthy, will be dangerous because of all the weapons they have. The defense has some holes, but is getting better each year, and when you have Ndamukong Suh in the middle of your line, you are a lot better off than most teams.

I can't say definitively that the Lions will be a playoff team in 2011 because I don't know how many games Stafford is going to play. I can say that there is no reason to think that this team won't win at least nine games and be in playoff contention.

-Adam Wells