Get ready for disappointment Lions fans
If there’s any NFL fanbase that’s used to disappointment, it’s the Detroit Lions.
Zero Super Bowl appearances, zero NFC North Division titles since the division was created in 2002, and only one NFC playoff victory since 1957. Yeah, it’s hard to find a team with a more depressing history.
Well, sorry Lions fans, but it’s probably going to be more of the same this season, but things are looking up.
Last year, Detroit went 6-10 in a season filled with remarkable highs and lows. The Lions started off the season by picking off Jets quarterback Sam Darnold’s first NFL pass and returning it for a touchdown. It was all downhill in the game after that moment and Detroit got lost in the Jets’ vapor trails, losing 48-17. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a team take that much of a colossal nosedive in a matter of minutes in a game, but that’s what makes the Lions who they are. The Jets also claimed that they knew what plays Detroit was going to run thanks to some coaching ineptitude from head coach Matt Patricia and then-offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. That right there should’ve shown us that this was going to be a forgettable season.
However, two weeks later, Detroit somehow managed to defy logic and take down New England, Patricia’s former team. They held the eventual Super Bowl champion Patriots to just 10 points and Kerryon Johnson became the first Lions rusher to run for 100 yards in a game since 2013. Even a year later, I’m surprised that they played so well against a team that probably should’ve thrashed them as thoroughly as the Jets did in Week 1. The Lions also managed to avoid collapsing during the second half against the Packers in Week 5 to get another upset victory and ended up sweeping both games against Green Bay for the second year in a row. Even when you take into account those wins, it was still a mess of a year for Detroit. It finished with its first losing season since 2015 and finished last in the North for the first time since 2012.
Patricia also didn’t endear himself to anyone in his first year. He forced his team to practice in the snow even though the Lions weren’t going to play an outdoor game for four weeks and not surprisingly, star cornerback Darius Slay wasn’t a fan of it. Patricia then decided to make matters worse by opening the following day’s press conference with a grumpy rant trying to justify the outdoor practice. However, that wasn’t the dumbest thing Patricia did in a press conference –a couple weeks earlier, he lectured a reporter for slouching in front of him. A man who looks like your unhygienic college roommate who just got back from a stint in the drunk tank the night before shouldn’t be lecturing anybody on posture.
But enough about last year. Cooter is gone now (appropriately to the Jets since they already knew his playbook) and has been hilariously replaced by Darrell Bevell. Remember him? The guy who wouldn’t give the ball to Marshawn Lynch at the goal line for the Seahawks in the Super Bowl XLIX? Well now he runs the Lions offense, so get ready for some questionable play calls this season. Oh, before I forget, in a move that’s potentially funnier, former Central Michigan head coach John Bonamego is the new special teams coach. After signing an extension in 2017, Bonamego then led the Chippewas to their worst record in program history (1-11) and was handed his walking papers. If there’s one thing that sports repeatedly shows us, a coach can get canned after a historically bad season and yet somehow, land a higher-level job.
The coaching staff may look like a mess. However, for the most part, the players aren’t. Matthew Stafford is back again at quarterback and that gives the Lions a fighting chance in each game. They’ve got a solid backfield with Johnson and new pickup C.J. Anderson and the receiving corps looks good. Golden Tate is gone, but Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay return and the Lions added veterans Jermaine Kearse (who also played under Bevell in Seattle) and Danny Amendola. Detroit also added Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson in the draft, so Stafford should have multiple weapons to throw to if the offensive line can give him time to throw.
On defense, the line looks strong with the addition of former Packer Mike Daniels. A’Shawn Robinson is back and former college teammate Da’Shawn Hand and end rusher Trey Flowers give the Lions a very deep defensive front. The linebacker corps isn’t as deep, but if they can stay healthy, Detroit should be fine there. Jarrad Davis took a good step forward from 2017 last year, so he’ll be a bright spot there. Slay highlights the secondary with journeyman Rashaan Melvin on the other corner, while Quandre Diggs (who made that pick-six against Darnold in Week 1 last year) and Tracy Walker will start as the safeties. All in all, it looks like a good group on the opposite side of the ball.
The big problem for the Lions is their schedule. They should win their season opener, but then the Lions get three straight games against 2018 playoff teams to close out September.
They then get back-to-back games against the Packers and Vikings to start October. It’s not an easy stretch, but if Detroit can manage to come out of it at 3-3, it could be in good shape for the rest of the year. The games against North Division foes are always a toss-up, but there’s six for sure winnable games down the stretch.
The main reason I think the Lions will have a disappointing year (other than their coaching staff) is that two of its division rivals, Chicago and Minnesota, are just better teams. It’s not necessarily that Detroit is a bad team, it’s that it’s in a tough division. The Lions have the potential for a Wild Card playoff berth, but it’s going to require them to outduel both the Bears and Vikings in the final five games to get into the postseason. All of that potential goes out the window too if Detroit gets pummeled through those first six games.
It’ll take a lot to go right for the Lions to edge out Chicago and Minnesota for a playoff spot and seeing how it’s Detroit, it probably won’t.
So Lions fans, you’ll get a good show from Detroit this year, but you’ll probably be disappointed with the ending, which I’m sure you’re used to at this point.
Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.