The first season under Jim Caldwell would have to be considered a success. He led the Lions to an 11-5 season and a wild-card berth in the playoffs. The 11 wins were the most in Detroit since 1991, and the team chemistry was the best it has been in as long as I can remember.

The Lions did lose to the Cowboys 24-20 after blowing a fourth-quarter lead, which only happened after the refs picked up a flag on a controversial play. Caldwell was supposed to improve the offense, but that was hardly the case as the defense carried this team to the playoffs.

Now, the best defensive player on the team in Ndamukong Suh has taken his talents to South Beach. The Lions certainly lose more than they gain in personnel this offseason, so it’s obviously going to be tough to match last year’s surprising 11-win campaign. Let’s see if Caldwell can get them back to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in 20 years in 2015.

Last Season
NFC North
ATS Record
Home ATS
Road ATS
Offense Rank
Defense Rank
Turnover Margin
Points For
Points Against
2015 Roster Changes
Draft Picks
Laken Tomlinson (OG), Ameer Abdullah (RB), Alex Carter (CB), Gabe Wright (DT), Michael Burton (FB), Quandre Diggs (CB), Corey Robinson (OT)
Haloti Ngata (DT), Tyrunn Walker (DT), Josh Wilson (CB), Manuel Ramirez (C), Lance Moore (WR), Greg Salas (WR), Phillip Hunt (DE), Chris Owens (CB)
Ndamukong Suh (DT), Nick Fairley (DT), Reggie Bush (RB), Dominic Raiola (C), C.J. Mosley (DT), Ashlee Palmer (OLB), Cassius Vaughn (CB), Rob Sims (OG), Jed Collins (FB), George Johnson (DE), Andre Fluellen (DT), Corey Hilliard (OT)
2015 Detroit Lions Schedule
Week Opponent Spread Win Chance
1 @ Chargers +1.5 0.47
2 @ Vikings PK 0.50
3 Broncos PK 0.50
4 @ Seahawks +6 0.29
5 Cardinals -1.5 0.53
6 Bears -5 0.68
7 Vikings -5 0.68
8 @ Chiefs -1 0.51
10 @ Packers +5 0.32
11 Raiders -8.5 0.80
12 Eagles -2 0.53
13 Packers PK 0.50
14 @ Rams +1.5 0.47
15 @ Saints PK 0.50
16 49ers -1.5 0.53
17 @ Bears PK 0.50
Estimated Wins: 8.31

Matthew Stafford is coming off one of his most efficient seasons as a starting quarterback in the NFL. He improved his footwork and completion percentage, cut his interceptions nearly in half from 19 to 12, and he led five game-winning drives in the fourth quarter, which was tied for the most in the NFL last year. But the offense as a whole only ranked 19th in yards per game (340.8) and 22nd in scoring (20.1).

The reason the Lions’ offense hasn’t met expectations in recent years is because of the line. Only left tackle Riley Reiff and right guard Larry Warford were capable starters last year. Reiff only allowed two sacks last season, while Warford played well despite missing four games last year, including the playoff loss to Dallas.

To help improve the blocking around Warford and Reiff, the Lions used their first-round pick on Duke guard Laken Tomlinson. While he was considered a reach, Tomlinson dominated Senior Bowl practices, just like Warford did before him. Travis Swanson takes over for the retired Dominic Raiola at center. Swanson struggled at guard as a rookie in limited action last year, but should be a better fit at center. LaAdrian Waddle is back at right tackle, but he’s coming off a torn ACL and may not be ready by Week 1.

The Lions could have looked for more offensive line help in the second round, but they instead selected Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah. He can go the distance every time he touches the ball and is coming off a huge season in Husker land. He’ll be a nice compliment to Joique Bell, who has been battling nagging injuries for years. They are hoping that Abdullah becomes the back that the Lions thought they were getting when they signed Reggie Bush a few years ago. Bush is now in San Francisco.

The receiving corps remains the same. Golden Tate was a pleasant surprise last year in leading the team in receiving with 99 grabs for 1,331 yards and four touchdowns in his first season in Detroit. Calvin Johnson (71, 1,077, 8 TD) remains an injury risk, but when healthy, he is still arguably the best receiver in the NFL. Stafford needs help from tight end Eric Ebron, who caught just 25 balls despite being selected in the first round last year. Stafford’s passing yardage totals have regressed each of the past four seasons, so having Ebron make a big leap in his sophomore campaign would go a long way in reversing that trend.


Detroit came out of nowhere to finish 2nd in the NFL in total defense (300.9) and 3rd in scoring defense (17.6) last year. The defense carried this team into the playoffs, but that is unlikely to happen again with a couple of key members gone. The two biggest losses are Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley along the defensive line. Fairley’s departure doesn’t hurt as much because he was out toward the end of last season. But his replacement, C.J. Mosley, played well in his absence. Now Mosley is gone as well.

The front office tried to fill the void by trading for Haloti Ngata. While he was still a dominant player last year in Baltimore, Ngata just turned 31 this offseason and his best years are behind him. The projected starter next to Ngata is Tyrunn Walker, who was signed form New Orleans. He did play well for the Saints, but he also only play a third of the snaps. He may never become a full-time player, but he needs to because the Lions lack depth at the position.

The defensive end position is in good hands with Ziggy Ansah and Jason Jones. Ansah had 7.5 sacks last year and played much better than that number would indicate. Jones thrives against the run and can get after the quarterback on occasion. The top reserve last year was George Johnson, but he was dealt to the Buccaneers this offseason.

The good news for the Lions is that the other seven starters all return. DeAndre Levy, one of the top linebackers in the NFL, just recently signed a four-year contract extension. He was Detroit’s only three-down linebacker last season and couldn’t have played much better. Stephen Tulloch only played three games last year due to a knee injury, which allowed Tahir Whitehead to prove that he could be an adequate replacement. Tulloch returns healthy, and Whitehead has made his case to start at strongside linebacker, though 2014 second-rounder Kyle Van Noy will push him.

The entire secondary returns intact. Rashean Mathis, the team’s top corner last year, was re-signed, though he does turn 35 in August. Darius Slay made huge improvements last year after struggling as a rookie. These two need to stay healthy because depth is an issue at corner, unless sixth-round rookie Quandre Diggs surprised. The safety positions are in good hands with Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo. Quin is one of the top players at his positions as opposing quarterbacks struggled throwing the ball his way in 2014.

Odds (Courtesy of 5Dimes)
Season Win Total
to Make Playoffs
to Win NFC North
to Win the NFC
to Win Super Bowl 50
Season Predictions

The Lions won 11 games and probably should have beaten the Cowboys in the playoffs last year if not for a blown call by the referees. Nobody could have expected more from the Lions in Caldwell’s first season. This was easily one of the top teams in the NFL and one that could get right back to the playoffs again.

But the defense isn’t going to be nearly as good without Suh, Fairley and Mosley in the middle. Ngata is a solid replacement, but the Lions aren’t going to finish #1 in the league against the run again. The offense was surprisingly below-average last season, and the front office did little to upgrade it.

Detroit could open 1-4 this year as it will only be favored in one game, which comes at home against the Cardinals (-1.5). It has three road games at San Diego, Minnesota and Seattle, as well as home date with Denver in its first five games. I actually have the Lions opening 1-4 and not being able to recover to make the playoffs. I’ll call for a 7-9 season and a third-place finish in the tough NFC North.

2015 Projections
NFC North Finish
Division Record
Overall Record
Win Total Prediction
Under 8.5
Lions 10-Year Results
Year W L Playoffs Coach Win Total
2014 11 5 Lost WC Caldwell 8.5
2013 7 9 Schwartz 8
2012 4 12 Schwartz 9
2011 10 6 Lost WC Schwartz 8
2010 6 10 Schwartz 5
2009 2 14 Schwartz 4.5
2008 0 16 Marinelli 6.5
2007 7 9 Marinelli 6
2006 3 13 Marinelli 7
2005 5 11 Mariucci/Jauron 8

More NFL Predictions