THIS WEEK’S STORYLINE: The Detroit Lions’ struggling offense could get a boost from the return of All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson against the Miami Dolphins

The Lions managed to win all three of their games with Calvin Johnson sidelined this season, but there’s little question Detroit will receive a major boost with their star receiver back on the field.

And it can’t come soon enough. Despite being 6-2 and in first place in the NFC North, the Lions have struggled on offense this season. They currently rank 24th with 20.3 points per game and sit 20th in total yards. Johnson, who has 348 receiving yards this season, will cure those woes.

Obviously, adding Johnson to the mix will make this offense more explosive, but his time away provided Golden Tate the opportunity to showcase his talents. The former second-round pick out of Notre Dame caught 17 passes in Detroit’s past two games for 305 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged 82 yards per game in all other contests this season.

If Detroit can find a way to keep Tate involved and Johnson returns to his previous form in short order, the Lions’ 20th-rated offense could soon be one of the more formidable attacks in the league — assuming quarterback Matthew Stafford finds a way to minimize his mistakes.

There’s a lot of football to be played, but if those things happen, this team could be in the mix for a wild-card spot at season’s end.

Nick Underhill

NICK’S PICKS: Underhill’s top five teams in the NFL (this week)

1. PATRIOTS (7-2)

No one has played better over the past month. The win over the Broncos was the exclamation point.

2. CARDINALS (7-1)

They’re for real. For now. No more denying this team of their ranking. They keep finding a way to win.

3. BRONCOS (6-2)

Loss to the Patriots slides them down. The thinking is the loss was only a minor setback.

4. STEELERS (6-3)

It’s almost impossible to think someone can pass for 12 TDs in two games, but Ben Roethlisberger did it.

5. EAGLES (6-2)

If Mark Sanchez fails to guide them while Nick Foles is on the mend, Philadelphia could fall out of rankings.

This Week’s Games

ATLANTA (2-6) AT TAMPA BAY (1-7)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

LINE: FALCONS BY 2½

BRIEFLY: Atlanta has won two of past three in series between NFC South rivals. Since division formed in 2002, Falcons lead 13-12. They built 56-0 advantage in September meeting. Bucs scored late on Danny Lansanah interception return and Vincent Jackson TD reception. ... Falcons have not won since, dropping five straight. ... First game since blowing 21-0 lead in 22-21 loss to Detroit in London. ... Atlanta QB Matt Ryan is 9-4 vs. Bucs. ... Ryan on pace to top 4,500 yards passing for third time. He has 15 TD passes, spread among nine receivers... Falcons WR Julio Jones third in NFC with 53 receptions, has 734 yards, three TDs. ... Bucs QB Josh McCown hasn’t played since injuring right thumb at Atlanta, but returns to lineup after missing five starts.

NICK’S PICK: FALCONS 24, BUCCANEERS 23

DALLAS (6-3) VS. JACKSONVILLE (1-8) AT LONDON

WHEN: Noon Sunday

LINE: COWBOYS BY 7

BRIEFLY: BOTH TEAMS TRYING TO SNAP TWO-GAME LOSING STREAKS. ... BIGGEST CONCERN FOR COWBOYS IS HEALTH OF QB TONY ROMO, WHO MISSED LAST WEEK’S GAME AGAINST ARIZONA WITH BACK INJURY. ROMO MADE THE TRIP TO LONDON, GOT BACK TO PRACTICING THURSDAY. ... RB DEMARCO MURRAY LEADS NFL WITH 1,133 YARDS RUSHING AND SEVEN TOUCHDOWNS. HE WAS HELD UNDER 100 YARDS LAST WEEK AGAINST ARIZONA FOR FIRST TIME THIS SEASON. ... COWBOYS PLAYING THEIR FIRST GAME IN LONDON. ... JAGUARS RB DENARD ROBINSON HAS 329 YARDS RUSHING IN LAST THREE GAMES, SECOND ONLY TO MURRAY’S 348 DURING THAT STRETCH.

NICK’S PICK: COWBOYS 28, JAGUARS 20

PITTSBURGH (6-3) AT NEW YORK JETS (1-8)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

LINE: STEELERS BY 4

BRIEFLY: STEELERS HAVE WON THREE IN ROW AND LOOK FOR FIRST FOUR-GAME STREAK SINCE 2012. JETS HAVE LOST EIGHT STRAIGHT AND WOULD SET DUBIOUS FRANCHISE RECORD WITH LOSS. ... STEELERS QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER THREW FOR 340 YARDS WITH SIX TDS AGAINST RAVENS LAST SUNDAY TO BECOME FIRST PLAYER IN NFL HISTORY WITH SIX TD PASSES IN BACK-TO-BACK GAMES. HE ALSO JOINED Y.A. TITTLE (1962) AS ONLY PLAYERS IN LEAGUE HISTORY WITH TWO SIX-TD GAMES IN SAME SEASON. HE NEEDS THREE TD PASSES TO REACH 25 FOR THIRD STRAIGHT SEASON, AND 280 YARDS PASSING TO GET TO 3,000 FOR NINTH CONSECUTIVE YEAR.

NICK’S PICK: STEELERS 27, JETS 21

TENNESSEE (2-6) AT BALTIMORE (5-4)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

LINE: RAVENS BY 10

BRIEFLY: TEAMS HAVE SPLIT LAST FOUR MEETINGS, INCLUDING TITANS’ 13-10 WIN IN 2009 POSTSEASON. ... TENNESSEE OT MICHAEL OHER PLAYED FIVE SEASONS IN BALTIMORE BEFORE LEAVING AFTER LAST YEAR. ... TITANS COACH KEN WHISENHUNT BEGAN NFL COACHING CAREER IN BALTIMORE AS TE COACH IN 1997. ... RAVENS QB JOE FLACCO IS 0-2 VS. TITANS, WITH ONE TD PASS AND FOUR INTS. ... TENNESSEE LOST FIVE OF SIX BEFORE LAST WEEK’S BYE. ... TITANS QB ZACH METTENBERGER, A FORMER LSU STANDOUT, WILL MAKE SECOND NFL START. HE WENT 27 OF 41 FOR 299 YARDS AND TWO TDS VS. HOUSTON.

NICK’S PICK: RAVENS 30, TITANS 21

MIAMI (5-3) AT DETROIT (6-2)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

LINE: LIONS BY 21/2

BRIEFLY: Dolphins are 15-1 when QB Ryan Tannehill has passer rating of at least 90. ... Miami DE Cameron Wake has 4 1/2 sacks in last four games. He has 58 sacks and needs two to surpass Jeff Cross for second on team’s career list. ... Dolphins S Louis Delmas played five seasons with Detroit.

NICK’S PICK: LIONS 23, DOLPHINS 20

KANSAS CITY (5-3) AT BUFFALO (5-3)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

LINE: Chiefs by 1

BRIEFLY: Through a quirk in scheduling, non-division rivals meet for seventh straight season and 11th time since 2000. Buffalo is 4-2 in past six and 6-4 past 10 against Kansas City. ... Chiefs are NFL’s only team to not allow touchdown rushing this season. Bills had not allowed any through seven games until surrendering three in win at Jets.

NICK’S PICK: Bills 24, Chiefs 20

DENVER (6-2) AT OAKLAND (0-8)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

LINE: BRONCOS BY 11

BRIEFLY: BRONCOS HAVE WON FIVE STRAIGHT IN SERIES BY AVERAGE OF 18.8 POINTS PER GAME. ... OAKLAND’S LAST HOME WIN VS. DENVER CAME IN THEN-BRONCOS QB TIM TEBOW’S FIRST CAREER START IN 2010. ... BRONCOS QB PEYTON MANNING AND RAIDERS CB CHARLES WOODSON ARE TWO OF THREE PLAYERS LEFT FROM 1998 DRAFT CLASS. COLTS QB MATT HASSELBECK IS OTHER. ...MANNING COMPLETED 81.3 PERCENT OF PASSES FOR 1,288 YARDS, 11 TDS, ONE INT AND 128.7 PASSER RATING IN FOUR STARTS VS. RAIDERS SINCE JOINING DENVER.

NICK’S PICK: BRONCOS 31, RAIDERS 21

RAMS (3-5) AT CARDINALS (7-1)

WHEN: 3:25 p.m. Sunday

LINE: CARDINALS BY 61/2

BRIEFLY: RAMS ARE 2-1 AGAINST NFC WEST FOES, WITH VICTORIES OVER SEATTLE AND SAN FRANCISCO. ... ST. LOUIS HAD SIX SACKS ALL SEASON BEFORE GETTING EIGHT AGAINST 49ERS LAST SUNDAY. ... RAMS HELD 49ERS TO SEASON-LOW 263 YARDS. ... ST. LOUIS STARTED FIVE ROOKIES AGAINST SAN FRANCISCO, INCLUDING BOTH CORNERBACKS (E.J. GAINES AND MARCUS ROBERSON).

NICK’S PICK: CARDINALS 21, RAMS 17

NEW YORK GIANTS (3-5) AT SEATTLE (5-3)

WHEN: 3:25 p.m. Sunday

LINE: SEAHAWKS BY 81/2

BRIEFLY: FOURTH TIME IN FIVE SEASONS GIANTS AND SEAHAWKS PLAYING. SEAHAWKS HAVE WON LAST TWO, BOTH ON ROAD. ... SEAHAWKS HAD FIVE INTERCEPTIONS OF QB ELI MANNING — TWO EACH BY RICHARD SHERMAN AND BYRON MAXWELL — IN LAST SEASON’S VICTORY. MANNING HAS THROWN EIGHT INTERCEPTIONS IN PAST TWO GAMES VS. SEAHAWKS. ... MANNING HAS STARTED 159 CONSECUTIVE GAMES, LONGEST ACTIVE STREAK IN NFL FOR QBS. ... MANNING WILL PASS PHIL SIMMS FOR MOST STARTS BY A QB IN GIANTS HISTORY.

NICK’S PICK: SEAHAWKS 28, GIANTS 21

CHICAGO (3-5) AT GREEN BAY (5-3)

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Sunday

LINE: PACKERS BY 7

BRIEFLY: GAME NO. 190 IN NFL’S OLDEST RIVALRY. ... BEARS HAVE LOST 10 OF LAST 12 AGAINST PACKERS, INCLUDING PLAYOFFS. ... CHICAGO WON LAST MEETING AT LAMBEAU FIELD 27-20 ON NOV. 4, 2013, GAME IN WHICH PACKERS QB AARON RODGERS WAS KNOCKED OUT WITH LEFT COLLARBONE INJURY FOLLOWING SACK BY DE SHEA MCCLELLIN. ... QB JAY CUTLER IS FRANCHISE LEADER IN CAREER PASSER RATING (84.7), YARDS PASSING PER GAME (226.7) AND 300-YARD PASSING GAMES (11). ... WITH 38 CAREER TDS RUSHING, FORMER TULANE STANDOUT MATT FORTE IS ONE SCORE SHY OF TYING GALE SAYERS FOR FOURTH PLACE IN FRANCHISE HISTORY.

NICK’S PICK: PACKERS 30, BEARS 24

CAROLINA (3-5-1) AT PHILADELPHIA (6-2)

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Monday

Line: Eagles by 61/2

BRIEFLY: Teams have split two previous Monday night meetings. ... Panthers head coach Ron Rivera spent five seasons as linebackers coach with Eagles from 1999-2003. ... Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott was on Philadelphia’s staff from 1998-2010, including last two years as defensive coordinator.

NICK’S PICK: Panthers 24, Eagles 20

LAST WEEK: 9-3

SEASON: 69-41