It’s not time for the Lions to panic just yet

Written by :
Published on : September 24, 2016

 

 

Last Sunday’s loss to the Titans was a sloppy mess that was brutal for fans of the Lions to endure. There were many factors that contributed to the heartbreaking 16-15 score, and it might be easy for some to give up on the 2016 NFL season. As one of the more battered and abused fanbases in the league, the people can turn against the team on a dime. It’s a defense mechanism that helps fans stop the pain before it gets too bad.

 

I’m here to try and quell that urge and tell you that it’s too early to panic. Last week’s game was bad, but the NFL season is long and even the best team’s have games like the one the Lions had against Tennessee. In a 16 game season, 1-1 after two games isn’t the worst position to be in. There are reasons to be encouraged with this team, and reasons to believe that the team can move on from the loss and still compete. Here are a few of them.

 

This Sunday is a whole new game

The amount of penalties in last Sunday’s loss to the Tennessee Titans was enough to make a Lions’ fans head spin. Same goes for the injuries. It was so Lions that it hurt. Eventually the hurt got so bad that the team lost. They still should have won in spite of all the adversity, and had the chance to do so, but they couldn’t seal the deal, and all the penalties and injuries certainly weren’t helping.

 

 

These teams were playing some very sloppy football, but the refs in this game also had their heads up their own asses on a few occasions. Both teams benefited from some bad officiating at one point or another. The Titans got a gift when an Eric Ebron touchdown was called back on a make believe offensive pass interference call. The Lions got to keep the ball when the refs twice failed to notice Lions fumbles that were recovered by the Titans, instead calling the plays dead. The Lions need to clean their play up to be sure, but fans also need to realize that things like holding happen on every single NFL play. Officials will not normally call the game like this and there will be many crews that will be more apt to let the teams play and decide the game between themselves.

 

As for the injuries, it was a bad, bad day for the Detroit Lions. The worst thing to happen was the Ameer Abdullah injury. He was forced to have surgery on his foot this week and the team placed him on IR. He is eligible to return in time for the Jaguars game on November 20, but the team hasn’t indicated if they believe that is possible and it doesn’t seem likely. The team also lost Ziggy Ansah for an undetermined amount of time with a high ankle sprain, but the real hit was to the linebacking corps.

 

The team was already without DeAndre Levy who missed the game with another mystery injury (quadricep), then they began to drop like flies. By the time Kyle Van Noy and Antoine Williams had gone down with injuries, the only two linebackers left were Tahir Whitehead and a guy I’ve never heard of named Thurston Armbrister. The team was forced to move Brandon Copeland off the line and was obviously hampered by it.

 

 

The truth is that while these injuries are a concern, every team in the NFL has to deal with them and it’s better for some of these to happen now rather than in November or December. If the team can continue to play .500 ball while getting healthy, they can finish out the season and push for a spot in the playoffs. You never want to get injured but luckily it looks like none of them, except Abdullah’s will be too long term.

 

The offense is good enough to keep the team competitive

It was a sloppy game where the Lions left points on the field via penalties or poor play, but still, the offense has looked pretty solid this season. Especially the offensive line. Pro Football Focus has them graded out as the third best line in the league through the first two weeks. I know that doesn’t really mean anything but it sounds nice and I like saying it. But for real, this line has looked pretty good. There have been some shakey moments in pass protection from guys like rookie Taylor Decker, and I’m pretty sure Laken Tomlinson will never be all that good (certainly not good enough to justify a 1st round pick), but the early returns on this group are good overall.

 

 Taylor Decker has been solid in his first year.

 

The big boys up front are opening up holes and keep Matt Stafford upright for the most part (5 sacks given up). The fact that this group is gelling only means good things for the Lions and this offense. With Travis Swanson finally playing up to his potential and Larry Warford and Riley Reiff owning the right side of the line, the run game should continue to excel. Even in Ameer Abdullah’s absence.

 

Aside from the proficient play of the offensive line, another reason to be optomisitic about the offense is the emergence of Theo Riddick as a quality runner. He has always been a threat in the pass game, with his ability to get open and make defenders miss in the open field, but never before has he looked good rushing the ball. He’s seeing the holes that his line is opening up and making defenses pay with agility and speed. The fact that the Lions gave him a new contract on the eve of the season means they believe in his ability as a complete back. You don’t give a guy almost $13 million over three years if you think he is solely a pass-catching back. Theo Riddick will make the the loss of Ameer Abdullah a little easier to deal with and the run game should be decent at worst.

 


With a competent run game and Matthew Stafford continuing to have thrive in Jim Bob Cooter’s system, this offense will keep the team competitive. Eric Ebron has looked great, and was the team’s best receiver last week. Golden Tate and Marvin Jones won’t continue to drop the football and the passing offense should be one of the better ones in the league this year. If the defense can hold it together and be decent, this team will be in every game this year. And if you can get that far, there’s always a chance in the NFL.

 

Especially when you consider my next point.

 

The NFC North is up for grabs

 

As we talked about early, the NFL season is still very young. Nothing is getting set in stone after week 2 and the NFC North is still wide open. The Bears were never really a threat, and with the loss of Jay Cutler that’s even more true. But the two teams that everyone picked to be playing for the division title, the Packers and Vikings, have got some serious issues of their own. Because of those issues, if the Lions can manage to avoid a total implosion, they have a chance to be playing for the division come December.

 

 Did the Vikings season go down with AP?

 

On August 29, the Minnesota Vikings were the favorite pick to win the NFC North. Then things began to seriously unravel. Teddy Bridgewater was lost for the year and the team quickly made a move to acquire Sam Bradford. He may not be the best quarterback but he certainly isn’t terrible and has looked okay through two games. But the injuries have continued to pile up and now running back Adrian Peterson and starting left tackle Matt Kalil are likely done for the year. The defense is great but it’s unclear if the offense can weather the storm of injuries it has faced. Because of that, the Vikings are no longer a lock to take the division.

 

As for the Green Bay Packers, they too have some issues to deal with. In week 1, they almost fell to the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars and in week 2 they lost to the aforementioned Vikings. The offense doesn’t look great. Receivers aren’t getting much separation and Jordy Nelson doesn’t look like he has quite returned to pre-injury form yet. Another person who hasn’t looked quite like their old self is QB Aaron Rodgers. Stretching back to last season, there looks to be something wrong with him. He hasn’t surpassed 300 passing yards in 11 games and has gone 14 straight contests with a sub-100 passer rating. Long story short, this team is flawed, just like the rest of the teams in the NFC North.

 

 If Aaron is on tilt, the Lions have a chance.

 

Tomorrow’s game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau field will be an important one. Both the Lions and the Packers are still getting their acts together. If the Lions can pull out a win on the road in Green Bay for the second year in a row, then they will be in a very good position to contend for the division. If they lose, see above. It won’t be the end of the world and there will still be a chance to contend for the division. It’s early in the season and there’s a long way to go.

 

 


Detroit Lions 2016 Win/Loss Predictions

Written by :
Published on : June 20, 2016

 

 

Last season was a disappointing one for the Detroit Lions. The team came out of the gates firing on all cylinders in the first half of their week 1 matchup against the Chargers, and then promptly fell flat on their faces. They started off 1-7, but managed to finish 7-9 by overhauling their offense midseason. They could have easily had two more wins and possibly made the playoffs, but last second insanity against the Seahawks and Packers killed those hopes.

 

This season the team is looking to build off of the second half of last year and keep improving. A full offseason in Jim Bob Cooter’s offense, improvements along the offensive line, and the return of DeAndre Levy should have the Lions looking better than many people in the national media are giving them credit for. Here is my 2016 Win/Loss Predictions for the Detroit Lions.

 

Week 1 @ Colts

The Colts were pretty awful last year, especially on defense. In my opinion, they didn’t really do enough to fix that. They do still have Andrew Luck, but they also have an aged Frank Gore slated to start in the backfield. Luck keeps the game interesting but I think the Lions have an advantage in defense, which gives them the edge. The Colts offense will have a good day, but the Lions will get just enough stops to come out on top. The Colts defense on the other hand will have huge problems containing the Lions offense. Lions win, 37-31.

 

Week 2 vs Titans

There are some folks out there who are pretty high on the Titans. They have some nice pieces on offense but with Mike Mularkey as head coach this team is going nowhere. They will fold under the pressure of that home opener Ford Field crowd. The defense will come up big and DeAndre Levy will have a pick 6. Lions win, 45-28.

 

 Look out for Levy in this one.

 

Week 3 @ Packers

The Lions are lucky to once again get to travel to Green Bay before winter has had a chance to wrap its freezing cold hands around the neck of that godforsaken wasteland of cheese. While that definitely helps their chances, I’m not sure the team will get as lucky this year as they did last year. It will be a hard fought battle, but I think Green Bay gets this in a close one. Lions lose, 27-24.

 

Week 4 @ Bears

Big thanks to the NFL for sending my favorite team to play their two biggest rivals consecutively on the road. The Bears are much improved, but luckily the Lions have their number in the last handful of years. The streak continues. Lions win, 17-16.

 

Week 5 vs Eagles

The Lions obliterated the Philadelphia Eagles last year on Thanksgiving. By that time of year, Detroit was starting to put it together on offense, and the Eagles meltdown was in full effect. Philly will still be recovering from what Chip Kelly has done to them. Lions win, 21-6.

 

Week 6 vs Rams

I’m not sure what the Rams plan on doing at quarterback just yet, but they could present some problems for the Lions. Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald are beasts and could very well both be in the running for OPOY and DPOY. I think they give the Lions enough trouble to hand them their second loss of the year. Lions lose, 24-17.

 

Week 7 vs Washington

I know Washington was a playoff team, and have some good pieces all over the field. But I find it hard to believe that Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins are going to have sustained success. The Lions will be sharp after getting worked extra hard in practice following their loss at home to the Rams. They come out on fire and win handily. Lions win, 28-10.

 

 Look for a win against Washington.

 

Week 8 @ Texans

The Texans always have a scary defense with JJ Watt out there. They will be the big difference here and will give the Lions trouble all game. The Lions offensive line will be much improved but there aren’t many answers for JJ Watt, who will have 2 sacks. Lions lose, 24-14.

 

Week 9 @ Vikings

The Vikings are definitely the darlings of the division this season. Most people seem to think that they will challenge the Packers for the NFC North title. I think they are pretty good too, and they are definitely going to be a tough test for the Detroit Lions in Minnesota for this matchup. Lions lose, 28-27.

 

Week 10 BYE

 

Week 11 vs Jaguars

The Jaguars should be pretty solid this year, but on the road in Detroit, a win won’t be likely. Ameer Abdullah goes off in this one for 120 yds rushing and 2 TDs, while adding 60 yds receiving. Blake Bortles will also throw interceptions to both DeAndre Levy and Glover Quin. Lions win, 34-13.

 

 Look for Ameer Abdullah in the end zone in this one

 

Week 12 vs Vikings

Watching the Lions on Thanksgiving is a long tradition. I’ve seen many Turkey Day loses through the years, but as of late they have really shown up. I’ll be damned if I call them to lose this year, even if it is against the infallible Vikings. Lions win, 14-12.

 

Week 13 @ Saints

The Saints had an AWFUL defense last year, and Drew Brees started showing signs that he might be past his prime. I’m flying across the country to go to this game so my boys better show up, and get some vengeance for that 2011 playoff loss! Lions win,  21-9.

 

Week 14 vs Bears

Lions rule, Bears drool. Jay Cutler throws three interceptions. The streak continues for another year. Suck it, Chicago. Lions win, 45-6.

 

Week 15 @ Giants

The Giants are the first of two consecutive road games against the NFC East, a division that was truly awful last season. In typical Lions bad luck fashion, I believe the NFC East will be much improved in 2016. The Giants threw around some serious money in free agency and I think that by this time it will start to pay dividends, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Coming off of a big win over the hated Chicago Bears, I think the team is in for a big letdown. The offense has trouble and Eli Manning frustrates the defense all day. Lion lose, 31-17.

 

 Eli will rule the day in week 15

 

Week 16 @ Cowboys

The Detroit Lions return to the “House that Jerry Built” for the first time since getting worked over by the refs in the 2014 Wild Card game. The team is going to come out hot and I see early touchdowns from Marvin Jones and Eric Ebron. Then things will slow down as the Cowboys adjust. In the second half things will get a little hairy for Detroit and the ‘Boys will take the lead. Dez Bryant catches a late touchdown. Lion lose, 28-24.

 

Week 17 vs Green Bay

This will be a game that decides whether or not Detroit heads to the playoffs as a wild card team. Teryl Austin is going to have the Lions defense totally fired up and I envision Ezekiel Ansah having a monster game. Ziggy will get to the quarterback three times, including a late one that seals the game for Detroit on 4th down. Lions win, 17-14.

 

The Lions will be the #6 seed in the NFC at 10-6.

 

 

This is my prediction for the Detroit Lions. It’s quite a bit more positive than most of the win/loss predictions I’ve seen for the team, but I think it’s totally realistic. Most people seem to underestimate the amount of talent on the team. This is a solid squad that has improved both lines and should be able to control the trenches. Playoffs here we come!

 

 


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