Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 12/16/11

When I sit down and begin typing each article, I set a goal to try and write in a way that makes the reader want to finish the entire piece.  That said, this article was one of the more challenging ones to do so.

Chris Houston will return to the Lions lineup Sunday

The reason wasn’t because this game is not important, because it certainly is.  This weekend marks a must win for both the Detroit Lions and the Oakland Raiders.  Detroit, at 8-5, holds a one game lead in the NFC wild card race while Oakland is one game out of the AFC West lead at 7-6.

Nor was the reason a lack of exciting players since both teams possess significant playmaking ability.  The Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson provide excitement each and every game, while rookie wideout Titus Young has emerged as another key playmaker for Detroit’s offense.

Oakland also has a plethora of talent and speed.  Wide receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore have big play written all over them, while bruising running back Michael Bush provides power between the tackles.

Ndamukong Suh will make his return to the Lions on Sunday afternoon in Oakland, providing a much needed healthy body on defense.  Suh’s presence will no doubt help the Lions’ pass rush which has struggled without him.

Suh won’t be the only Lion to return to action Sunday, as corner Chris Houston will return from a knee injury as well.  The Lions desperately need to get healthy in the secondary and Houston’s return will help, but hold the phone.  The Lions’ official website lists corner Aaron Berry as doubtful, safety Louis Delmas as questionable, and corner Eric Wright as questionable.

The main reason I struggled to write this article is because of the feeling I have about this game.  I picked the Raiders to win this game three weeks ago, and I’m afraid I have to stick with that pick.  The injuries the Lions have sustained on defense are too much to overcome in my mind, and it showed last week against Minnesota.

With core players missing from practice this week like Delmas, linebacker Justin Durant, defensive end Lawrence Jackson, and Berry, the Lions face an uphill battle this weekend.  The only saving grace for Detroit fans is the fact that the Raiders are a bit banged up as well.  Oakland has lost two straight, and injuries to star running back Darren McFadden and safety Michael Huff have played a part in that.

Both of these teams are fighting for their postseason lives with just three weeks left in the season, so injured or not, expect both sides to battle.

The key for the Lions, after health, will be stopping Oakland’s rushing attack that ranks 6th in the NFL.  If the Lions can stop Bush and the running game effectively, I don’t hate their chances against quarterback Carson Palmer.  Palmer has shown inconsistencies this year, and his receiving corps is fast, but also prone to drop balls.

I’m not telling you to give up on the Lions and bet the house on Oakland this week, but injuries have certainly dimmed the Lions’ hopes.  However, with the offensive talent that the Lions have, anything can happen.

And I hope it does so my next 500 words are easier to write.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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