The 2017 season saw the end of the Jim Caldwell ear in Detroit. Winning three of their last four games down the stretch to finish 9-7 still wasn’t enough for the Lions to secure a playoff birth. The powers that be decided that after four years of never winning the NFC North or advancing past the Wild Card round of the playoffs, it was time to move on from Caldwell.
In his place, the Lions hired longtime Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. Despite being a first-time head coach, Patricia knows he has to win right away. With quarterback Matthew Stafford in his prime, the Lions expect Patricia and his pedigree as a Bill Belichick disciple to make an immediate difference and take the Lions deep into the playoffs this season.
The oddsmakers are pumping the brakes on Patricia being a miracle worker. The Lions are +6500 to win the Super Bowl. Even with the promise of a huge payoff, it’s not worth taking that bet on Detroit. The Lions are still projected to win eight games in 2018. However, they will have to far exceed that projection to reach the playoffs. With Patricia having no track record as a head coach, it’s tough to assume the Lions will even reach eight wins this year.
Offensively, things will continue to revolve around Stafford, who had an impressive season a year ago, tossing 29 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. The Lions will return Golden Tate and Marvin Jones to give Stafford a pair of reliable wide receivers. There’s also hope that Kenny Golladay can take another step forward and give Detroit’s offense three quality wide-outs, not to mention Theo Riddick an option coming out of the backfield.
It’s in the running game where Stafford needs help. The Lions were the worst rushing team in the NFL last season. Their solution was to draft Kerryon Johnson in the second round and bring in LeGarrette Blount to help in short-yardage situations. That duo will surely be an upgrade over Ameer Abdullah. However, the Lions also need more from their offensive line. A healthy Taylor Decker and first-round pick Frank Ragnow should help the left side immensely after Stafford was sacked a career-high 47 times last season. However, Detroit’s line may still not be much better than average this year.
On the defensive side of the ball, Patricia will be tasked with turning around one of the worst units in the NFL last season. It starts up front where A’Shawn Robinson and new signing Sylvester Williams will be tasked with freeing up Ziggy Ansah and Anthony Zettel to rush the passer. Detroit also made wholesale changes at linebacker with the additions of Devon Kennard, Christian Jones, and Jonathan Freeny. Those three and second-year player Jarrad Davis should help to improve the team’s run defense.
Meanwhile, a strong secondary a year ago should be in good shape again in 2018. Daris Slay has become a star and leads a strong contingent of cornerbacks that includes Nevin Lawson and second-year player Jalen Tabor. The safety trio of Quandre Diggs, Glover Quin, and Tavon Wilson should be solid if unspectacular.
On paper, the Lions should be better than they were a year ago. Simply improving their running game should make a huge difference. The jury is still out on the defense, although Patricia should be able to figure things out on that side of the ball. That being said, the Lions face an uphill battle with regard to catching up to the top teams in the NFC, especially with all the questions that remain unanswered heading into the season.
|Sep 10||New York Jets||7:10 PM|
|Sep 16||@ San Francisco 49ers||4:05 PM|
|Sep 23||New England Patriots||8:20 PM|
|Sep 30||@ Dallas Cowboys||1:00 PM|
|Oct 7||Green Bay Packers||1:00 PM|
|Oct 21||@ Miami Dolphins||1:00 PM|
|Oct 28||Seattle Seahawks||1:00 PM|
|Nov 4||@ Minnesota Vikings||1:00 PM|
|Nov 11||@ Chicago Bears||1:00 PM|
|Nov 18||Carolina Panthers||1:00 PM|
|Nov 22||Chicago Bears||12:30 PM|
|Dec 2||Los Angeles Rams||1:00 PM|
|Dec 9||@ Arizona Cardinals||4:25 PM|
|Dec 16||@ Buffalo Bills||1:00 PM|
|Dec 23||Minnesota Vikings||1:00 PM|
|Dec 30||@ Green Bay Packers||1:00 PM|
At first glance, the Lions have a rather manageable schedule, especially during the first half of the season. However, the NFC North is better than it was last year, so Detroit’s schedule may not turn out to be as easy as it looks at first glance.
Week 1: vs Jets – Win
The Lions have the privilege of opening the season on Monday night at home. They also have the fortune of facing the Jets. No matter who the Jets start at quarterback, the Detroit defense should be able to handle it.
Week 2: at 49ers – Win
Patricia should have a good idea of how to attack former New England quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo defensively. That little edge will help the Lions steal a win on the road.
Week 3: vs Patriots – Loss
Patricia probably isn’t ready to out-smart his old boss in New England. Also, the Detroit defense probably doesn’t have the personnel to slow down Tom Brady for four quarters.
Week 4: at Cowboys – Loss
If there are problems with the Detroit front-7, they could be exposed by the Dallas running game. This is a winnable game for the Lions, but they figure to come up just a little short on the road.
Week 5: vs Packers – Win
The Packers may actually have more questions on defense than the Lions do. Aaron Rodgers will make some plays, but Stafford will make a few more, giving the Lions a huge division win right before their bye.
Week 6: Bye
Week 7: at Dolphins – Loss
This game figures to be a tossup, so the edge has to go to the home team. By this point in the season, Ryan Tannehill should have been able to shake off some rust and put forth a good performance against the Detroit defense.
Week 8: vs Seahawks – Loss
The Seahawks had an extra week to prepare for this game. With the extra time, they find a way to confuse Stafford and force him into a couple costly turnovers.
Week 9: at Vikings – Loss
The Vikings are too tough defensively at home. Last year, Stafford and company only managed seven points in this matchup. It’s a game the Lions need to win, but they just don’t have the horses to pull it off.
Week 10: at Bears – Loss
This is not the same Bears team as last season. On the road, this will be a tough game for the Lions. At a rowdy Soldier Field, Stafford can’t make the plays he needs to late in the game, as Detroit’s starts to spiral out of control.
Week 11: vs Panthers – Loss
The Lions will run into a stout Carolina defense that still manages to play well on the road. Meanwhile, Cam Newton proves to be too much to handle as both a runner and a passer, causing the Lions to drop another game at home.
Week 12: vs Bears – Win
Prior to last season’s loss to the Vikings, the Lions had won their last four games on Thanksgiving. They will quickly learn from the mistakes they made losing to the Bears two weeks ago and get a much-needed win.
Week 13: vs Rams – Loss
The Rams will be coming off a bye week, so they should be rested and refreshed despite the long trip. The Lions may prove to be solid defensively this year, but they’ll struggle to contain Todd Gurley.
Week 14: at Cardinals – Loss
The Lions struggle to contain Arizona’s running game. Stafford has a good game, but the Cardinals are able to stop a 4th quarter comeback attempt.
Week 15: at Bills – Loss
The Lions may call a cold-weather city home, but they play in a dome so they are not a cold-weather team. You never know what it’s going to be like in Buffalo in the middle of December. If the weather has an impact on Stafford’s ability to throw the ball, the Lions will struggle to win this game.
Week 16: vs Vikings – Win
The season is lost, but the Lions still bring a strong effort to a rivalry game. The Vikings overlook the Lions, who end up shocking them with a convincing win.
Week 17: at Packers – Loss
The Packers aren’t happy about losing to the Lions earlier in the season. They also have the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in late December working in their favor. The Lions are once again doomed by weather as they finish the season with a loss.