Monday Musings: Lions look like legit Super Bowl contenders; Chiefs are dangerous

Are the Detroit Lions legitimate Super Bowl contenders?

After Sunday, you have to say yes. Do you believe it?

I know the New Orleans Saints aren't a good team, but their dynamic offense is tough to slow down, let alone stop -- especially at home. Yet the Lions were more than up to that challenge this week as they went into the Superdome, rendered Drew Brees ordinary and left with a victory that has them at 8-4 and still in first place in the NFC North.

The Lions picked off Brees three times and held him to a passer rating of 63.3 as the defense proved that it might be ready to make a real playoff push. This is a Lions team that came into the game ranked 15th in both total defense and scoring defense, but also had questions about whether it was a unit good enough to win big in the postseason.

It is a unit that has been slowed by injuries this season, especially to top pass rusher Ezekiel Ansah, who has yet to get a sack this season after getting 14.5 last season. So as he gets healthier and back playing like he did a year ago, the defense will be even better. They have also had others miss time, including DeAndre Levy, their best linebacker. Give defensive coordinator Teryl Austin credit for keeping that unit together.

While we're talking about coaching, how about giving Jim Caldwell some credit. There was some talk that he would be fired after this season since new general manager Bob Quinn took over last spring and didn't hire him. Now that's far from the case and Caldwell actually could be in the conversation for Coach of the Year.

Caldwell took the Indianapolis Colts to the Super Bowl and did a nice job when he was a college coach at Wake Forest. Is it time to say he's just a good coach?

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The Lions' Jim Caldwell should be in the conversation for Coach of the Year. USATSI

We do know Matthew Stafford is a good quarterback and the doubters can't deny that anymore. I always thought he was underrated -- you can look it up -- and now he's playing good football without Calvin Johnson to show that he can do it with others.

Stafford threw for 341 yards and two touchdowns against the Saints as the Lions won their fourth straight game. They had previously trailed in the fourth quarter of all their games, but they didn't in this game, which is another sign of progress.

The Lions have won four straight but the closing four games will tell us a lot. After a home game with the Bears, which they should win, they play at the Giants, at the Cowboys and close with a home game against the Packers.

If they go 2-2, they should be division champs. If they do, they are Super Bowl contenders. Yes, the Lions.

More musings from around the NFL:

Kansas City Chiefs

It's time to give Chiefs coach Andy Reid credit for having the Chiefs at 9-3 as they ready for a big division game against the Raiders on Thursday night. The Chiefs looked to be floundering two weeks ago when they lost at home to Tampa Bay. But a fourth-quarter comeback last Sunday night against the Broncos to win in overtime followed by a dramatic victory at Atlanta on Sunday has them in a spot where they can take over first place with a victory over Oakland this week.

The Chiefs won this week thanks to a great fake punt call by Reid that resulted in a touchdown and a return of a two-point pass on an interception by Eric Berry that resulted in two points for the Chiefs. That put them up 29-28 and they killed the clock to hold on.

If not for that play, they would have trailed late and needed another late-game drive.

With Justin Houston back to go with Dee Ford, who played Sunday after missing the Week 12 game, the Chiefs have two elite edge rushers and another good one in Tamba Hali. That will make them a playoff challenge for all comers in January.


Atlanta Falcons

While we are on the topic of the Chiefs-Falcons game, I would like to get on Falcons coach Dan Quinn for poor situational coaching that ended up perhaps costing him a game.

Trailing 27-16 and facing a fourth-and-1 at the Chiefs' 10 with nine minutes left in the third quarter, Quinn passed on the field goal to go for it. Matt Ryan's pass fell incomplete, and the Falcons got nothing.

So when they scored early in the fourth quarter to make it 27-22, they went for two and failed. When they scored with 4:37 left in the game to lead 28-27, they had to go for two to try and make it a three-point game. Ryan's errant pass was picked off by Berry and taken back for two points and a 29-27 Chiefs lead.

That's what happens when you don't stick by the book. Quinn should have taken the field goal to make it an eight-point game in the third. He will learn from it. We think.


Los Angeles Rams

Did the Rams really give Jeff Fisher a two-year extension? I don't get it. What has he done?

His record with the Rams is 31-44-1 and his team is 4-8 after going 7-9 last season. He hasn't had a winning season in his five with the team. Yet he's getting a two-year extension, which could reportedly void to one.

I am surprised he's coming back. Fisher's career record is 173-164-1. He has six seasons of double-digit victories in 22. That's not good enough.

It makes no sense.


Jacksonville Jaguars

Should the Jaguars hire Tom Coughlin in a role to oversee football operations? There is no doubt it makes sense, but would that hinder the chance to land a desired coach?

Let's be honest, Coughlin is a detail freak. I just can't imagine he would stand by and watch practice without offering advice and being coach-like. Would a Josh McDaniels or a Kyle Shanahan want that above them?

Coughlin would be a smart add to an organization, but it could make it tough to land a desired coach for the Jaguars. A guy like McDaniels can wait for the right job and stay with the Patriots. It's not like Tom Brady won't be back next season.

So Coughlin would add to the organization, but it might hurt landing the coach of choice.


Baltimore Ravens

It's time to start taking the Baltimore Ravens seriously. They looked impressive in blowing out Miami on Sunday. The organization has always done a good job of replenishing lost players with good, young ones and that is showing up now.

Drafted players like Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan are a big part of the revamped defense and the offensive line has a lot of draft picks as well. If Joe Flacco can play like he did against Miami, the Ravens will be a tough out for anybody come playoff time -- if they make it. They face a tough challenge, and a real barometer next week with a road game at New England on Monday night.

The way they dominated the Dolphins on Sunday, Baltimore might be ready for that challenge.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an... Full Bio

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