Thursday, August 16, 2012
2012 NFL Season Preview: Detroit Lions
As far as personnel goes, the Lions have become a talented bunch. By making the most of their draft picks over the last several years, Detroit has been able to stockpile a handful of young players who can serve as difference makers. Quarterback Matt Stafford is heading into his fourth season, and he’s proven himself to be a very productive player when able to stay healthy. Although Stafford played in just 13 of a potential 32 games over his first two seasons, 2011 saw him stay healthy and put up marvelous numbers: Stafford finished with the fifth-highest QB rating in the league with a 97.2, and he was one of three players to throw for an eye-popping 5,000-plus yards, finishing with 5,038. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he has one of the most dynamic young receivers in the league to throw to in Calvin Johnson.
Aside from Stafford and Johnson, the Lions have young talent at other positions. Everyone knows about their ace defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, but other players are also making a name for themselves with the organization. Corey Williams and Nick Fairley will also serve as productive members of the defense, and guys like Brandon Pettigrew and Jahvid Best help take the pressure off of Calvin Johnson when it comes to gaining yards. All in all, the 2012 Lions have a consistent talent base with several very major weapons, and any team that’s built like that has the potential to go very deep in the playoffs.
The Lions’ schedule is also going to play a significant role in how the team fares in 2012. In terms of the opponents that they face, the Lions would seem to have caught a bit of a break. Their schedule is ranked 20th in the NFL in terms of how difficult their opponents are, as Detroit will face a combination of opponents that finished 126-130 last season. Only six of their games will come against teams that won nine or more games last year.
With that in mind, much of the Lions success looks like it will hinge on how well they can measure up to their division foes. Minnesota is still a team that is very much all over the place and is unlikely to compete, but Green Bay has been a monster in the division for the last several years. The Chicago Bears will be another division opponent that’s going to give the Lions a good challenge. It’s easy to overlook that the Bears’ record last season was skewed by the Jay Cutler injury. They’ve also made several big additions in Brandon Marshall and Michael Bush. Detroit has a quality team this year, but they’re going to have to prove it within their division before they can even think about competing against the rest of the league in the playoffs.
With all of that said, the upcoming 2012 season looks like it might be a very productive one for the Lions. They’re saddled with the unfortunate burden of having to play within an NFC North division that has two very tough opponents in it, but the Lions are a team that’s accustomed to being the underdog. If their players can stay healthy and fight through the difficult stretches of the season, they have more than enough talent this season to establish themselves as a legitimate threat in the NFC.
View my NFC North Preview for 2012.
Posted by Don Phan at 12:15 PM