NFL Preview: Can Detroit Roar Past the Packers and Vikings?

The Detroit Lions won enough games in the 2016-2017 NFL Season to make it to the postseason. The Lions didn’t embarrass themselves versus the Seattle Seahawks during NFL Wildcard Weekend. Detroit didn’t cover the spread, but they hung with Seattle.

Detroit Lions 2017 Preview

The Lions were only down by 4 points, 10 to 6, going into the fourth quarter. 2 touchdowns along with a a field goal led to the final 26 to 6 score. Detroit had a lot of things to feel good about after ending last season in the playoffs.

Can Detroit make it 2 years in a row to the postseason? How will quarterback Matthew Stafford play knowing that he’s going to be a free agent after this season? Is this the year Detroit’s defense, which always plays hard, finally transitions into one of the best units in the NFL?

There are many questions surrounding the Detroit Lions. Below, I attempt to answer some of those questions on this Detroit Lions 2017 preview.

Is QB Matthew Stafford Elite?

The simple answer? Yes, he’s definitely elite. The best thing that could have happened to Stafford was for Calvin Johnson to retire. Since Johnson’s retirement, Stafford has had to become a more complete quarterback for the Lions to win football games. Sounds crazy, but it’s the truth.

Too many times during his career, Stafford simply relied on throwing the ball to Megatron. He can’t do that anymore. Nobody on the receiving corps is close to being the wide receiver that Johnson was. For Stafford, that’s a good thing.

Towards the end of last season, he displayed Big Ben type toughness playing with his middle finger on his throwing hand in a cast. It was impressive. Stafford threw 24 touchdowns to only 10 interceptions. He completed an excellent 65.3% of his passes. He threw for 4,327 yards.

Some believe Matthew Stafford becomes the highest paid player in the NFL once he becomes a free agent. Although that’s certainly difficult to determine, based on his stats from last season, it’s a good bet the Lions do whatever it takes to keep him in the fold.

Stafford will play behind a revamped offensive line. New GM Bob Quinn signed T.J. Lang away from rival Green Bay to play right guard. Lang had been the Packers’ right guard for a long time. Quinn also landed Rick Wagner, one of the top right tackles in the market this past offseason, to play right tackle.

Both dramatically upgrade the Lions’ offensive line. What’s going to hurt is last season’s Round 1 pick, Taylor Decker, missing at least the start of the season. Decker had surgery on his shoulder this past June.

How’s Detroit’s Running Back Situation Looking?

This is the glass half full, glass half empty, question for the Detroit Lions. Those who believe the RB situation looks good are going to jump all over the fact that, when healthy, running back Ameer Abdullah is as electrifying as any in the NFL. Those who see the RB situation as looking dire will note that Abdullah is almost never healthy.

Since entering the league in the 2015-2016 season, Abdullah has never started more than 9 games. He started those 9 games in his rookie season. He only started, and played, in 2 games last season. If he’s back at 100%, there are few running backs that can catch the football out of the backfield, or have the breakaway speed, that Ameer Abdullah possesses.

Theo Reddick is Abdullah’s backfield mate. Reddick can provide a change of pace. He’s also got fantastic rushing skills that makes him a handful…when he’s healthy. Like Abdullah, Reddick isn’t always healthy. Reddick missed 6 games last season. He only played in 10 while starting 8.

Zach Zenner should again provide depth at the RB position. Zenner came on towards the end of the season. He scored 2 TDs in Week 16. He scored a TD versus Green Bay in Week 17.

After Abdullah, Reddick, and Zenner, the rest of the running backs fail to inspire much confidence. It’s going to be difficult for the rushing attack to help Stafford if Abdullah, or Reddick, go down. It’s impossible to say whether Zenner can carry the load for more than a few games.

Does Caldwell Finally Have His Defense?

Jim Caldwell is one of the most respected head coaches in the NFL. With that being written, Caldwell does go into this season in a contract year. If the Lions play well, if they make the playoffs again, Caldwell should get a sweet, long-term, extension.

Owner Martha Firestone Ford wants to give Caldwell an extension. When Ford cleaned house early last season, she kept Caldwell specifically because the coach has a great rapport with Detroit’s players.

But, the Lions haven’t won a playoff game since 1991. They haven’t won the NFC North since 1993. Ford wants results.

Luckily for Jim Caldwell, new GM Bob Quinn wants results as well.  Quinn spent heavily on defense this past offseason. Round 1 pick Jarrad Davis from Florida is a beast of a linebacker. He alone should help bolster a defense that, although always played hard last season, came up way short in the second half of the season.

In addition to Davis, Quinn signed D.J. Hayden, a former Round 1 cornerback pick of the Oakland Raiders. Hayden has suffered injuries throughout his career. Still, the 27-year-old should push for a starting spot opposite the terrific Darius Slay.

Free safety Glover Quinn is as good as you’re going to find in the NFL. He’s got he maturity and leadership skills to run Caldwell’s defense. In fact, he’s Caldwell’s quarterback on the D. Expect Quinn to get everyone else to play together.

The Lions D ended up ranked 18th in total yards allowed on average per game. The Lions gave up a total of 354.8 yards on average per. The rush defense wasn’t bad, 106.3 per. The passing D wasn’t horrible, 248.5 per. On average, Detroit allowed a bit more than 22 points per game.

The average is slightly skewed because the Lions had no depth on defense last season. After so many starters got hurt, the Lions yielded 41 points to Dallas in Week 16. In Week 17, the Lions yielded 31 points to rival Green Bay.

Detroit lost both games. If the Lions had beaten Green Bay, they’d have won the NFC North.

2017-2018 Detroit Lions Schedule

Detroit’s got a tough schedule. There’s no doubt about it. Before their bye in Week 7, Detroit takes on Arizona, at the New York Giants, Atlanta, at Minnesota, Carolina, and at New Orleans. I believe Detroit beats Arizona, Minnesota, Carolina, and New Orleans.

The Lions should lose to the Giants in Week 2. They should also lose to the Atlanta Falcons. If Detroit can get through to their bye week with a 4 and 2 record, they might be in good shape.

What happens after the Lions’ bye? The Lions should lose at least 5 to 6 more games. Detroit faces Green Bay twice after their bye. I believe they lose both games. We’re at 4 and 4. Detroit is at Pittsburgh in Week 8. That’s another loss. Now, we’re at 4-5. The Lions should also lose to Tampa Bay and Cincinnati in road games on Dec. 10, and Dec. 24.

That’s a 4 and 7 record. I believe Detroit beats Chicago twice, Cleveland on Nov. 12, Minnesota on Nov. 23, and Baltimore on the road on Dec. 3. I believe the Lions finish with a 9 and 7 record.

Detroit Lions Super Bowl 52 Odds

The Lions’ current odds to win Super Bowl 52 are at +6600. That’s 66 to 1. Are the Lions worth a bet at those odds? I believe they might be. Detroit has one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. Lions’ GM Bob Quinn put a concerted effort into strengthening depth on the defense.

The offense is going to miss Taylor Decker for who knows how long, but the rest of the offensive line is set. I like Detroit to possibly upset Green Bay and Minnesota for the NFC North Division title this season.

If Detroit is able to get to the playoffs, 66 to 1 looks like a bargain. If you’re a Detroit fan, or if you believe the Lions could possibly upset Green Bay and Minnesota, putting a few bucks on the Kings of the Jungle at +6600 isn’t a bad idea.

What do you think?

Written by D.S. Williamson

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