Detroit Lions 2017 NFL Update

NFL Update: Detroit Lions in Playoff Contention


 

The 2017-2018 Detroit Lions were supposed to finish third or fourth in the NFC North Division. So far, the Lions are easily the second best team in the division after the Minnesota Vikings. Check out an update of where the Lions are after their traditional Thanksgiving Day game.

Detroit Lions 2017 NFL Update

Although Detroit lost 23 to 30 to the rival Minnesota Vikings on Thanksgiving Day, the Lions are well within striking range of a postseason berth. Detroit could garner a wildcard spot. In this update, I first go over some of the statements and questions I wrote in my Detroit Lions 2017 Preview. Then, I attempt to answer what might happen to the Detroit Lions from now until the end of the NFL Season.

Is QB Matthew Stafford Elite?

Answer:  Yes

This was the first question I asked. The Detroit Lions paid Matthew Stafford as if he were elite. Based on this August 29 article on ESPN.com, Matthew Stafford signed the most historic contract in NFL history. He’s getting paid a guaranteed $92 million dollars. The previous record for guaranteed money had been to Andrew Luck. Luck got paid $87 million in guaranteed dollars.

The numbers are staggering. Stafford is getting paid $27 million per year for his 5-year deal. That makes him the richest player in NFL history.

Unlike other rich quarterbacks, Luck has trouble making the field while Derek Carr hasn’t come close to paying for his exorbitant contract, Matthew Stafford has proven to be worth every penny. I don’t write that lightly.

Based on stats, it makes no sense why I would write that. Matthew Stafford has a 97.3 QB rating. He’s thrown for 3,010 yards. He’s thrown 21 TD passes to 6 interceptions. He’s only completing 62.5% of his passes.

Stats don’t tell the whole story, though. They never do. The fact is that there isn’t a single Lions’ win this season that didn’t have to do with Matt Stafford being an elite quarterback. The Lions’ first win of the season was in Week 1. Down 9 to 17 with about 5 minutes and 30 second left in the third quarter, Stafford rallied Detroit to an unimaginable 35 to 23 win. He threw 4 TD passes in that game.

In Week 10, with 5 minutes left in the game, the Bears tied the Lions 24 to 24. Stafford rallied Detroit to a big 27 to 24 division win.  Even this past Thanksgiving, Stafford almost got the Detroit Lions a huge upset victory over arguably the best team in the NFC, the Minnesota Vikings.

With no running game and a mediocre defense, the Detroit Lions are at 6 and 5. They’re in the thick of it for a wildcard berth. One of the reasons is because their quarterback is Matthew Stafford.

How’s Detroit’s Running Back Situation Looking?

Answer:  Detroit’s rushing game is still a mess

Speaking of Detroit’s running back situation, yeah, it’s terrible…again. The Detroit Lions average a horrible 78.3 rushing yards per game. Only Arizona and Cincinnati are worse at rushing the football than the Detroit Lions.

Ameer Abdullah starts at running back. Abdullah has rushed for 505 yards from 150 attempts. His per rush average is 3.4. He’s scored 3 rushing TDs. Abdullah has caught 20 passes this season for 133 yards. His yards per catch is 6.7. He’s caught 1 TD pass.

When Abdullah isn’t in the game, the Lions will often use RB Theo Riddick. Riddick averages 3.6 yards per carry. He only has 161 yards from 45 attempts, though. Riddick has caught 34 passes for 292 yards this season. That’s an 8.6 per catch average. Riddick’s also caught 2 TD passes.

Riddick’s production hasn’t been close to what it should be, either. One of the problems is that Detroit’s offensive line still isn’t what it should be. It’s not as if Detroit hasn’t tried to fix the offensive line. Second-year starting left tackle Taylor Decker was on IR until Week 10. He’s finally starting in games.

That’s a great sign for Detroit. If Decker can continue to become comfortable after not having played for the first 10 weeks of the season, Detroit’s rushing attack could improve.

Does Coach Jim Caldwell Finally Have His Defense?

Answer:  Not really

Detroit’s defense is one of the worst in the NFL based on total yards allowed. The Lions rank 24th in yards allowed per game. Detroit’s D allows 359.4 total yards per. The Lions aren’t great at stopping either the pass, or the rush.

Opponents average 116.2 rushing yards per versus the Detroit Lions. Opposing quarterbacks throw for 243.2 yards per. How many points does the Lions’ D give up per game? Try 24 points per. That ranks 19th in the NFL

It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact problem. But, like many defensive units in the NFL, the Lions are built to rush the quarterback. What happens when a team is built to rush the quarterback is that, like the Arizona Cardinals, it ends up relying too much on one or two players in the secondary.

The Cardinals rely heavily on cornerback Patrick Peterson. Peterson’s job is to shadow the opposing team’s best wide-receiver. Sometimes it works. Most of the time it doesn’t. By shadowing the team’s best wide receiver, the belief is that the Cardinals’ defensive line can get to the QB.

Again, sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. For the Detroit Lions, their Patrick Peterson is Darius Slay. The problem is when Slay (or Peterson for the Cardinals) does his job. If Slay can shut down the opposing team’s best wide receiver. That’s great.

Unfortunately, that leaves a linebacker on the tight-end because when Slay is on-on-one with a WR, the Lions are likely blitzing the strong safety. Minnesota tight-end Kyle Rudolph caught 4 of 4 targets for 63 yards and 2 TD catches on Thanksgiving Day. Without a safety covering him, Rudolph went wilde.

Bottom Line:  2017 Detroit Lions

One thing I must write about the Detroit Lions is that the players have tons of heart. The Lions never quit. That has a lot to do with Coach Caldwell and the highest paid player in the NFL, QB Matthew Stafford.

Both are leaders, which is why even though the Lions have the 24th ranked defense in the NFL, they’re at 6 and 5 and well within striking distance of a wildcard playoff spot. The Lions are currently in 8th place, a game behind the Seattle Seahawks. They’re also a game behind the Atlanta Falcons, who would be in the playoffs should the season end today.

What are Detroit’s chances compared to Seattle and Atlanta? The Seahawks are at San Francisco, vs Philadelphia, at Jacksonville, vs the L.A.  Rams, at Dallas, and vs Arizona. That’s a ridiculously tough schedule. Even if Seattle upsets Philly at home, a decent possibility, the Seahawks must beat both Jacksonville and the Dallas Cowboys on the road. The L.A. Rams won’t be an easy out. Neither will Arizona, who always plays Seattle tough.

The Atlanta Falcons’ road to the playoffs is even tougher. The Falcons must battle Minnesota, New Orleans, and Carolina at home. Atlanta must also battle New Orleans on the road. The Falcons could lose all 4 of those games to finish the season at 8 and 8. Atlanta might only lose 3 of those games to finish at 9 and 7.

How does Detroit’s road to the postseason look? Not as bad as Seattle’s and Atlanta’s, that’s for sure. Detroit is at Baltimore, at Tampa, vs Chicago, at Cincinnati, and versus Green Bay. The Lions only have 5 losses. As crazy as it sounds, the Detroit Lions could win all of their remaining 5 games. That would put the Lions at 11 and 5.

Based on their schedule, Detroit has a great shot of making the postseason. The rest of their games are all winnable. If you’re a Detroit fan, you should be bullish on the Lions’ playoff chances.