Having the best WR in football makes any pretender into a contender.
At No. 17 in the fanatix NFL power ranking are the Detroit Lions, who collapsed late in the 2013 season and fired head coach Jim Schwartz. While the Lions have only winning season in the last 5 years, having arguably the best passing combination in the NFL along with a very formidable defensive line can make them a force to be reckoned with in 2014.
Recap of 2013
The Lions began 2013 in rather impressive fashion, going 6-3 and scoring 30 points or more 4 times. With QB Matthew Stafford airing it out to All-Pro WR Calvin Johnson – who once again displayed why he is the best WR in football with numerous record breaking games and receptions in double- or triple-coverage – the Lions offense finished 6th in yards and 3rd in passing.
But then the team struggled in the second half of the season against some very average opponents, finishing 1-6 and ending the season 7-9 – their 4th losing season in 5 years with head coach Jim Scwartz. As a result, Schwartz was fired.
Recap of 2014 Offseason
The Lions hired former Colts head coach Jim Caldwell to replace Schwartz. Caldwell, won two AFC South division titles in his first two seasons (going 24-8 in the process) and narrowly lost Superbowl XLIV. However, a 2-14 season following Peyton Manning’s missed 2011 season ended his tenure. Caldwell revived his coaching career by taking the reins on Joe Flacco in 2012 and helping him reach the Superbowl, setting career highs in productivity in the process.
The Lions lost some quality depth in free agency: veterans like WR Nate Burleson and K David Akers, as well as star Safety Louis Delmas and backup QB Shaun Hill. The team picked up WR Golden Tate from Seattle as well as Safety James Ihedigbo and QB Dan Orlovsky to replace them.
The Lions draft was a mixed bag – TE Eric Ebron might have been the most NFL-ready receiver available and OLB Kyle Van Noy complements the pass rushing front the team already has, but the middle and late round picks had a lot of head scratchers.
Position of Strength: Receiving Corps
Any unit that has the best player at the position in it makes it an automatic strength. Calvin Johnson, aka Megatron, is capable of catching the ball over the heads of two, sometimes three defenders. He also has the speed to outrun most defenders once the ball is in his hands and the brute strength to mow down any tacklers standing in his way. WR Golden Tate along with TEs Brandon Pettigrew and rookie Eric Ebron make the receiving corps extremely formidable, and RBs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell were 2nd and 3rd on the team in receiving yards respectively.
Position of Weakness: Secondary
After losing safety Louis Delmas, the Lions find themselves with a somewhat weaker Secondary unit than the one that let the team rank 23rd in passing yards in 2013. CBs Chris Houston, Rashean Mathis and Darius Slay have struggled lately and safeties Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo can’t be counted on. The Liosn have 8 games against Pro Bowl QBs or top 10 offenses and will need all of the secondary help they can get to avoid getting blown out.
Best Case Scenario
The Lions have 9 games against teams that were either a bottom 8 offense or a bottom 8 defense in 2013, so the team has a great chance to get some easy wins in 2014. Additionally, the last 5 games against the Bears (twice), Tampa Bay, Minnesota and the Packers will not exactly a daunting task if the Lions offense can play to its potential – each of those teams were in the bottom third of NFL defenses. A strong finish could allow the Lions to back into the playoffs.
Worst Case Scenario
The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers are duking it out for the NFC North title and will likely beat up on the Lions as they enter the home stretch for a chance to win the title. With a total of 3 games against the Lions in the last 5 weeks, they could knock the Lions out of the playoffs in the final few games of the season.
Prediction: 3rd place in NFC North, no playoffs