Matthew Stafford and the Lions can overcome the finger injury

Written by :
Published on : December 13, 2016

 

The Detroit Lions are 9-4. This isn’t something football fans are accustomed to. The team currently sits in the 2nd seed in the NFC with a chance to have a first-round bye in the playoffs and host a home playoff game for the first time since 1993. It would be the first ever playoff game at Ford Field.

 

Hopes are high in the Motor City and while some of the team’s wins seemed like a fluke two months ago, the fact that they keep winning means that this team is legit. These wins are coming on the back of some amazing play from the team’s quarterback, Matthew Stafford. He has been playing at an elite, MVP level recently. Leading his team to wins in eight of their last nine games and with eight 4th quarter comebacks on the season. That’s the most since 1950.

 

 Could it be a magic glove?

 

With Matthew Stafford playing at this level, the Lions have been competitive in every single game. But during the Lions 20-17 win over the Chicago Bears last Sunday, fans were given cause for concern in regards to their young gunslinger. During the game, Stafford injured his throwing hand and was forced to wear a glove for the rest of the game. He went on to throw two ugly interceptions but ultimately brought his team back from the brink with a late rushing touchdown to take the lead.

 

After the game, news got considerably worse for the Lions. It is now known that he dislocated his middle finger and that there is ligament damage in the hand. Matthew Stafford will have to wear a glove on his throwing hand for the rest of the season in order to deal with the injury, and will almost certainly need surgery in the offseason. The first reaction is to think that the Lions are now doomed. After all, last time Stafford was forced to wear a glove on his throwing hand was in 2011, and he threw 9 interceptions over the course of 3 games. But I say the Detroit Lions will still be successful for the rest of the season and will be hosting a playoff game in January. Here are a few reason why.

 

The Defense

 Teryl Austin has his defense playing great recently.

 

With all of the well-deserved praise being heaped upon Matthew Stafford for his leadership and big play ability this season, the defense hasn’t gotten the credit that they deserve. It has now been seven straight weeks that they have held opposing offenses under 20 points, something the Lions haven’t done since 1961. They seem to come up with huge plays just when the team needs them most.

 

While big names guys like DeAndre Levy and Ziggy Ansah have struggled with injuries, the unit as a whole has performed very well. The secondary has been especially clutch and have sealed games late with big interceptions on multiple occasions. This defense even went to the Superdome and held Drew Brees without a touchdown, while forcing him into three interceptions.

 

Teryl Austin, the Lions defensive coordinator deserves a ton of credit for how the defense has performed. After a poor start to the season, he has his guys buying into the scheme and though they do allow a fair amount of yards, they do not let opposing offenses into the end zone. After interviewing for multiple head coaching gigs over the last two offseasons, it seems very likely that he will land a top job this year. But before he departs, he will help this team host a playoff game by keeping his opportunistic defense one step ahead of the opposition.

 

Special teams

 He may look like Nick Swardson but there’s nothing funny about Matt Prater’s skills.

 

This is always an underrated unit on any football team, but the Lions have been exceptional all season. Returner, Andre Roberts has not only made several clutch catches with the offense this year but also has two punts returned for touchdowns on the year. He routinely puts the offense in good position to succeed and has cemented his role as the team’s returner. As important as Roberts has been to the offense in the field position game, punter Sam Martin has been very important to the defense. He is a former 5th round pick who has consistently ranked among the best at his position since entering the league in 2013. He only has two punts that have gone for a touchback this year, meaning that more often than not he leaves opposing offenses backed up against their own end zone.

 

The real star of the Detroit Lions special teams is kicker, Matt Prater. All this guy does is make big kicks. In the last month he has been named NFC Special Teams Player of the week three times. They should just name the award after him at this point. Prater has hit the game-winning kick in four of the Lions nine wins this season and he accounted for 16 points in the Lions 28-13 win over the Saints a few weeks ago. Along with Stafford, Prater is proving that sometimes two Matts equal a win.

 

Stafford is still the man

 One little finger injury can’t keep this guy out of the end zone.

 

It’s clear that Matthew Stafford was at least somewhat limited by his finger injury during Sunday’s win over the Bears. He even admitted as much to his teammates in the huddle by telling them that they were going to have to bear with him, as some of his throws might not be as spot on as they are accustomed to. While it’s true that he will have to play with a glove for the rest of the year and will almost certainly lose a bit of velocity and accuracy, that doesn’t change the fact that Stafford is playing some of the best football of his life.

 

It didn’t always show in the win over the Bears, but Matthew has improved his decision making greatly this season and because of that the Lions should continue to be a solid team. After throwing an ugly pick-6 he led his team down the field and got them into the end zone to take the lead late. As is the characteristic of any good quarterback, he brushed off his mistake and did what he needed to do. He is the leader of this team and without him they would have very few, if any, wins. He is the man in Detroit and the only one who can lead this team to a playoff birth and a home game.

 

9-4 is nice but this team’s work is not yet done. They travel to play the Giants on the road this Sunday, followed by a Monday Night Football game in Dallas before they close the season out at home against the red hot Packers. Winning one of these games all but guarantees a playoff birth, while two wins gives them the division and a home playoff game. The real prize is a first round bye and the chance to give Matthew Stafford’s finger a little extra rest. Head Coach Jim Caldwell has gone from offseason hot seat to a potential coach of the year candidate. It seems like everyone else is starting to believe in these Lions but they have always believed in themselves. Especially Matthew Stafford, who seems to have this team on a path with destiny. Messed up finger and all.

 

 


The Detroit Lions offense will be fine without Calvin Johnson

Written by :
Published on : July 24, 2016

 

 

We gon’ be alright.

 

 

After many months, I have stopped mourning the loss of another Hall of Fame (fuck you if you don’t agree) Lions player who retired far too early. Now that I have had time to process the loss of Calvin Johnson, I’m here to tell all my fellow Lions fans that things will be okay, and despite popular opinion, the Detroit Lions offense is going to be alright.

 

I don’t aim to diminish everything that the man known as Megatron meant to the team and the city of Detroit, but in the game of football you need to deal with these kind of things. If you don’t adapt, you die. And I think that the Lions are very much alive right now. Before you jump all over me and say that the Lions are a five win team, just hear me out…

 

The Offensive Line

Last year the Lions offensive line was a mess. They haven’t had a decent right tackle since Gosder Cherilus, and that’s debatable. We’ve signed a succession of veritable turnstiles at the position, who aren’t worth naming, ever since. The center position has also been bad for a few years now, because of the lack of development by Travis Swanson. When two of your five starters in the unit are liabilities it means that you aren’t going to run the ball very well and, more importantly, your quarterback is going to get destroyed. The only thing that could make it worse would be having a system of blocking that is ill-suited for your personnel group. The Lions had that too. It was a mess.

 

 Seems like just yesterday Taylor was on the podium with Goodell, now he’s getting work at LT.

 

This offseason, the Lions finally got serious about adding some talent along the offensive line. It started by adding Geoff Schwartz, who has had a nice career, when healthy, and has the versatility to fill in at multiple spots. After that, they addressed the tackle position, much to the joy of the fanbase, by adding Ohio State tackle, Taylor Decker in the first round of the draft. The team also added a little fire under the ass of Travis Swanson by drafting Graham Glasgow out of Michigan in the third round. Both of these young monsters of the Big 10 will be on the team for years to come but it is Decker who will have an immediate impact.

 

I figured he would earn his bones at right tackle and eventually supplant Riley Reiff on the left side, but it seems as though the team might try him out at left tackle from the jump. People have been saying for a long time that Reiff is more suited to play on the right side, so if Decker really is good enough to play on the left side from the start, the Lions could be looking very good along the offensive line. He is an absolute mauler in the run game that will open up some big holes for Ameer Abdulah from day one.

 

But perhaps even more significant than the solid additions to the roster is the continued development of….

 

Cooter-ball!

When Jim Caldwell was hired and brought in football legacy Joe Lombardi as offensive coordinator, hopes were high in Motown. It became clear very early on that something was not working, and in my opinion, Lombardi should have been shown the door prior to that second season, regardless of the playoff appearance. After that terrible start last year, he was finally given his walking papers mid-season. The team promoted QB coach, Jim Bob Cooter, to fill the play-calling void and the team very quickly started to turn things around. Gone was the slow developing, precision passing game from New Orleans and in its place was something more tailored to our QB, a man who is definitely not Drew Brees and should not be forced to try to become him.

 

 The man himself.

 

More important than any change in play-calling was the fact that Jim Bob Cooter wisely scraped the entire offensive blocking scheme. It was very apparent that our group of big guys could not run Joe Lomardi’s complex, zone blocking system. There were too many times early on last season when guys were left blocking no one, while three defensive linemen were busy making Stafford eat the turf. The change to a power-blocking system, where our guys were allowed to hit the guys in front of them, greatly benefited the offense.

 

After the Lions week 9 bye last year, the offense, and especially Matt Stafford, really started to take off. Interceptions were down, and completion percentage and yards per carry were up. In the second half of the season, Stafford was a top QB in the league and the team wasn’t turning the ball over. And it’s because of these things that Jim Bob Cooter, the man with the best name in football, was asked to return and bring the Detroit Lions’ offense to the next level. With a full offseason under his belt, I believe Cooter-ball is going to be a household name very soon.

 

The Other Weapons

The Detroit Lions aren’t strangers to making due without Calvin Johnson. For the last handful of seasons, he has been injured quite often. There were times when he would be used merely as a decoy or miss games altogether. The team has been forced to adapt in those situations, and most of the time they have done a pretty good job. A recent successful situation that comes to mind is the 2014 season. For much of the season Johnson was obviously hurt and probably should have missed more games than he actually did. The thing is that Matt Stafford might have been a better quarterback with Megatron missing or limited. It forced him to go through his progressions completely and spread the ball around. He wasn’t able to automatically revert to throwing up jump balls to the best receiver in the game and instead had to find the best option on the field among one of his other weapons. And he didn’t have very many.

 

 Look for Golden Tate in an end zone nearest you this year.

 

One weapon that he did have, and leaned on heavily, was Golden Tate and this year he will be a main focal point once again. Tate is as sure-handed as they come and is a big play waiting to happen once he has the ball in his hands. We’ve seen what he can do and we know he is capable of great things when the offense is clicking, but he isn’t the only one on the roster who can make big plays. The Lions also added Marvin Jones, formerly of the Bengals, to take the spot opposite Tate and (try) to fill the void left by Calvin. He is a complete receiver coming off of his best season and is only 26 years old. While some people think that the Lions overpaid for him, he was the consensus-number one at his position in free agency, and the Lions had a need. I applaud the decisiveness of new GM Bob Quinn. Jones is more of a deep threat than people give him credit for and has some of the surest hands in the league, along with Golden Tate, which is good when you consider the Lions’ other two big weapons on offense.

 

The team has some other hopefuls at wide receiver in TJ Jones, Jeremy Kerley and Andre Roberts but much of the season depends on if running back Ameer Abdullah and tight end Eric Ebron can step up their game. As Ameer Abdullah showed on his very first touch in the NFL, he is an explosive runner who can find the end zone on any given play. He should have a huge season behind that revamped offensive line as long as he can overcome his fumbling problem from last year. Eric Ebron has all the physical tools to be a monster of a tight end, but he needs to continue to develop and stop making mental mistakes (like dropping the ball). I personally think that both of these guys will come into their own this year and help the Lions’ offense be among the best in football.

 

 With the holes created by the Lions this coming season, Abdullah will get a chance to work his magic.

 

Have no fear, Lions fans, Calvin Johnson’s retirement may be sad, but it is most certainly not the end of the world. In similar fashion to Barry Sanders, who retired in 1999 following a 5-11 season, we were all blindsided by the departure of an offensive juggernaut. But the Lions followed up the Sanders retirement with a trip to the playoffs, and I think the team can do it again. Along with a defense that is welcoming back DeAndre Levy and still has mastermind Teryl Austin calling the shots, this offense is going to continue to develop. And once they hit their stride, Cooter-ball will reign supreme in the National Football League.

 

 


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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