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Detroit — The music was loud and thumping, the burgers were grilling and the tailgating Detroit Lions fans were fired up for Sunday night’s nationally televised game.

Were they ready for some football? Without a doubt.

Thomas Ball of Westland wore his No. 81 Detroit Lions jersey in honor of Calvin Johnson. Johnson, a former wide receiver was drafted by the Lions, second overall in the 2008 NFL draft, and played for the Lions for all of his professional career before retiring in 2015.

So does Ball wish Johnson were still with the team?

“Well yes, I bought this expensive jersey a few years back and now he’s gone,” he said, chuckling while noshing on refreshments with friends at a parking lot on Fort Street, where the parking was easy and the food hot.

And of course, the must-ask question: Will the Lions will make the playoffs?

“With their schedules, I think they will make the playoffs, especially with Aaron Rodgers gone for most of the season,” said Ball. “If we get a home game, I think we’d have a good chance.”

Gary Winston of Detroit, with friends in another part of the parking lot, equivocated about whether the Lions might make the playoffs. Sounding like an old pro at gauging the odds, he concluded: “That depends.”

“The next couple of games will be crucial. Teams that usually go far in the playoffs do very well in the second half of the season — the last eight games. We’ve got one more game to get to the half-way point.”

As for the best player on the team so far this year, he couldn’t say, but he was sure he didn’t want Calvin Johnson back on the team.

“Not after what he said after he left the team,” said Winston. “He said the Lions were not winners, and before he said that, he was one of my favorite players, but he fell down on my list after he talked about the team like that.”

Al Branch of Southgate, wearing a furry lion’s hat with a tail, was counting on Matthew Stafford this season.

And despite losing the last two games, Branch is optimistic.

“The schedule gets easier and they’re already 90 percent through the tough part, and there’s Aaron Rodgers on the bench.”

SLewis@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2296

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