Updated: Oct 7
When it came to making our preseason predictions for the Detroit Lions, my prediction was 14-3 with losses coming against Baltimore, Denver, and Dallas. We lost against Seattle so there's an extra loss, however, we can swap that out for the result against Denver later on, who look like one of the worst teams in the NFL. I thought we would struggle against their defence which should be performing much better than it is. So, I feel confident that we are on track to meet my prediction, and I’ll discuss the schedule coming up shortly.
The reason that I'm so confident in this team is, that coming into this season it was clear that the Lions had lots of momentum from the end of last season, but could that translate into the new season? The answer simply is yes, and more. This Detroit Lions team has elevated itself from last year’s team where it won eight out of their last ten games. The offence has mainly picked up from where it left off last year with 15145 yards in four games which is good for 8th in the NFL. The offence is also 3rd in PFF grade, and 4th in DVOA. Aside from the advanced metrics you can see it with your eyes, Goff has thrown a couple of interceptions but has really been on fire since the season started, David Montgomery has added something to this rushing attack we haven't seen in some time, the offensive line playing sufficiently but there’s still room for improvement there and the receiving game has been a threat all year with Sam LaPorta being a transformational figure. However, it's on defence where we've seen the biggest change full stop the lines down the stretch in those last 10 games, they were around the 10th best defence in the NFL, however since the start of this season they are fourth in yards allowed total, first against the run, and 19th against the pass. PFF is graded them as 10th in defence, and they are 5th in defensive DVOA. Again using the eye test, this defence is far friskier they're able to do more complex things which are providing an additional wrinkle for the quarterback, the defensive line is playing with much more pressure and more stunts, and the addition of Brian Branch has allowed this defence to do all of this. Alex Anzalone has also played terrifically well and Derrick Barnes has come on leaps and bounds. This linebacker core going from bargain basement, to one of the strengths of this defence, has been transformative. In total this team is ranked 5th by PFF, and third in DVOA. For once, the stats aren't lying.
Looking at the rest of the schedule we have vs Panthers, and at Buccaneers. These should both be relatively comfortable wins against inferior opponents. Then we are at the Baltimore Ravens, and I still feel that this is going to be a tough matchup for the Lions. Moving on we are versus the Raiders into the bye, and then away against the LA Chargers. The Chargers game is really important for the Detroit Lions coming out of the bye, and it's going to define the momentum for the rest of the season, a win away against one of the most difficult opponents in this stretch will set the stage for a late-season push. After this come five divisional matchups ups and the other games are; at Saints, vs Denver and at Dallas. So, with a win against the Chargers, I still think that 14 and three is eminently achievable.
The rest of the Lions’ schedule looks fairly weak, and two games against Minnesota at the end look like they will define things. This Vikings team is playing much better than their record and that could define where the Lions end up in the NFC playoff picture.
The main teams which should rival Detroit for the number one overall seed are the Eagles, the Cowboys, and the 49ers. Since the Eagles and the Cowboys play in the same division in some fashion they may cannibalise themselves and both teams have difficult schedules.
The Eagles are still yet to play vs Dolphins, vs Cowboys, at Chiefs, vs Bills, vs 49ers, and at Cowboys. They may be a 4-0 team right now but they haven't played particularly well with close wins against the Commanders, the Patriots and the Vikings. Playing this difficult remaining stretch should be a significant challenge for this team considering what's happened so far and I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least 4 losses (MIA, KC, BUF, 49ers), even without giving them a home/home split against Dallas.
Being in the same division as the Eagles, the Cowboys also have a difficult schedule, although they're playing the second place of the NFC teams. So, their remaining difficult games look like this, at 49ers, at Chargers, at Eagles, vs Eagles, at Bills, at Dolphins and vs Lions. Against this stretch, I would expect the Cowboys to be underdogs in at least four games (49ers, PHIx1, BUF, MIA).
The 49ers are the team at the top with the easiest schedule, their hardest remaining games are as follows, vs Cowboys, at Browns, at Jaguars, at Seahawks, at Eagles, vs Ravens. Given this schedule, I would expect the 49ers to lose between two and three games.
For the Lions to threaten the number one seed they're going to have to play their asses off, but they cannot believe in their own hype, or we'll see another Seahawks game on our hands. Hiccups will happen; however, this team has shown it is worthy of belief in the last 14 games. With a slight hiccup from the 49ers, this team might be regarded as worthy of the No. 1 seed and a bye in the NFC playoff picture.
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