Nobody expected the San Francisco 49ers to have a 4-1 record at this point in the season. Only a crazy few even picked them to win the lowly NFC West this year with a rookie head coach and Alex Smith at quarterback for one more year and with one more set of coaches. Yet, Jim Harbaugh has infused the team with whatever it was they lacked under Mike Singletary. A defense loaded with talent in its front seven is finally playing like that, making it hard for opposing offenses to score points. This week, they face their toughest test yet against a 5-0 Detroit Lions team that just now seems to be hitting its stride.
Calvin Johnson is on pace for an NFL record 28 receiving touchdowns. He and QB Matt Stafford just can't miss anymore. Not even the arbitrary touchdown rules can stop Megatron this year. They also have a pretty tough defense, identified by one of the most talented pass rushers the league has seen. Ndamukong Suh has become the face of these Lions with a smile that belies his tenacity.
Peter Schrager picks the Lions with considerable homefield advantage.
Sure enough, the 4-1 49ers and the 5-0 Lions will square off in a game that could have serious playoff implications. So you're aware, San Francisco hasn't played in a postseason game since 2002; Detroit hasn't since 1999. After seeing the way that crowd lifted the Lions in the second half on Monday night, I can't pick against the Lions at home.