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Let's talk about the playoffs, but, please, don't tell Jim Caldwell. He has enough on his plate trying to prepare his team for Tuesday, the day that comes after Monday, because his postseason-bound team is still taking things one day at a time.

Not me, though. I'm here to warn nervous Lions fans about what the future might hold.

Unlike the Lions of 2011, the only other team to reach the postseason the past 15 years, this group has a chance to win a game because of its stout defense. And whether the Lions play one playoff game or multiple, I can guarantee a four-hour, stress-filled viewing experience.

For all the people who turned off their TV when the Lions trailed the Saints by 13 in the fourth quarter or the Falcons by 21 points at halftime, resist that urge. To those who joked that those games nearly gave them a heart attack, skip the bacon and eggs and go with oatmeal the morning before the playoff games.

The Lions are 11-4, but with one week left in the regular season, there are only a few things we know for sure about this team. First, Ndamukong Suh is a monster, and with him leading the defense, the Lions can compete against just about any team. Second, Glover Quin will intercept nearly any pass he can touch.

Third, the Lions will frustrate in innumerable ways every time they take the field, whether with outrageous offensive play-calling or substitutions, special teams blunders or the worst-timed penalties. That's why, despite having the No. 2 defense and one of the three best receiver duos in the NFL, they've won only three games by more than 14 points. The teams they beat in those games — the Giants, Buccaneers and Bears are a combined 13-32.

The Lions offense doesn't have an on-off switch. The players and coaches simply let the lights flicker each game — bright one drive, pitch black the next — and then claim they're saving money on the electric bill.

When the Lions travel to Green Bay next week with the NFC North on the line, I expect the Packers to win. The Lions scored just 20 points against a Bears defense that had allowed 31-plus points in seven games this year.

Caldwell likes to say he won't apologize for wins, so I'll say sorry on his behalf to everyone who had to watch four quarters of a game that should've lasted five minutes.

The perceived weakness with Green Bay is its defense, but that unit is better in just about every way than Chicago's. The Packers rank 13th in total defense and points allowed, but they're incredibly opportunistic with 26 turnovers — tied for seventh — and 39 sacks — tied for eighth.

Considering the Lions likely will have two rookies starting on the offensive line, Cornelius Lucas at right tackle and Travis Swanson at center with Dominic Raiola suspended, the battle for the NFC North isn't exactly a get-right game for a Lions team averaging just 20.1 points per game, 23rd in the NFL. Remember, the Lions scored just one offensive touchdown in their 19-7 home win over the Packers in Week 3.

So even though the Lions will have a chance to win because of Suh, Quin, DeAndre Levy and the other players on defense, they'll likely be the No. 6 seed as of next Sunday. And if history is any indication, any playoff run the Lions make will include games that pack more pressure than a 310-pound Hawaiian man stomping on your ankle. Too soon?

Let's look at a couple of the wild-card teams that won the Super Bowl in recent years. In 2007, the fifth-seeded Giants won their first game over Tampa Bay by 10 points, but their next three — including the Super Bowl — by a total of 10 points.

In the 2005 playoffs, the sixth-seeded Steelers overcame a 10-point deficit to beat Cincinnati in the wild-card round. The following week they had a 21-3 lead in the fourth quarter in Indianapolis before the Colts cut it to 21-18. With a little more than a minute left Jerome Bettis lost a fumble at the 2-yard line, and the Steelers needed a game-saving tackle from Ben Roethlisberger and a missed 46-yard field goal by Mike Vanderjagt to avoid a loss or overtime.

Both the Steelers and Giants had strong defenses and middling offenses, similar to the Lions.

Of course, I'm not saying the Lions will follow in the footsteps of these two teams, but rather illustrating that everyone's nails will be shorter in Michigan if they make a run in January. When the playoffs begin next week, the faint of heart should be sure to stock up on aspirin.

Until then, don't tell Caldwell we were talking about the playoffs.

Around the NFC North

The Packers (11-4) won, of course, with a 20-3 win in Tampa Bay. With seven sacks on Josh McCown, the Green Bay defense appears to be hitting its stride at the right time — or wrong time for the Lions.

The Vikings (6-9) lost a tough one to the Dolphins, 37-35, after giving up nine points in the final 71 seconds, including a safety. On the bright side, Teddy Bridgewater has completed at least 70 percent of his passes in each of the last four games.

The Bears (5-10) are awful, and with Jimmy Clausen suffering a concussion on the final drive against the Lions — though it wasn't diagnosed on the field — Jay Cutler is somehow the starting quarterback again.

Around the NFL

The Seahawks (11-4) might be better than last year's Super Bowl team. They lead the NFL in yards allowed and points allowed. They also have an unstoppable running back and an electrifying quarterback. Every other playoff team will be cheering for the Rams next Sunday.

Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has 1,014 receiving yards the past eight games. Think about that, and remember, he missed training camp and the first four games. And he's a rookie.

Leave it to the Bills (8-7) to follow an upset win over the Packers with a loss to the Raiders.

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/jkatzenstein

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