clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

On Paper: On Paper Edition (Part 1)

New, comments
TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 11:  Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions scrambles during the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on September 11, 2011 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 11: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions scrambles during the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on September 11, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Before I start previewing games for the 2012 season, I'd like to take one last look back at the unforgettable 2011 Detroit Lions regular season. One reader suggested looking back at my previews and picking them apart like I did each game of last season. I figured it was only fair to put myself on trial for once. And with that, I give you the first part of "On Paper: On Paper Edition."

Week 1: Lions at Buccaneers

"On Paper" got off to a rousing start for 2011. Using only preseason statistics from first-team starters, I predicted that the Lions would have a big advantage in the passing game, leading them to a predicted 27-20 victory. The result: Matthew Stafford put up 305 yards and three touchdowns en route to a 27-20 victory (!!!). This marked the first (and only) time "On Paper" has correctly predicted the exact final score. My ego was bigger than Lions optimism at this point.

Where I nailed it:

But Detroit has too many [passing] weapons for 90% of the league to contain. This matchup might be in the Lions favor every game this season.

Where I got nailed:

But, statistics aside, it was clear the Lions still had much to improve on in stopping the run. Often there were clear lanes for backs, and while the linebacking crew has been improved, this is still an area of concern.

The Bucs ended up running for a measly 56 yards on 16 rushes (3.5 a carry).

"On Paper" record: 1-0

Week 2: Lions vs. Chiefs

"On Paper" continued to look pretty impressive in Week 2. One of the hardest things to do in the NFL is to predict a blowout. They are far too uncommon and the talent gap between teams in the NFL is arguably smaller than any other professional sport. And while I didn't foresee anything to the tone of a 48-3 spanking, my final prediction of 34-20 clearly expressed my feelings of a big day for the Lions.

Where I nailed it:

The Chiefs, despite their unimpressive opener, have a great running game. This will be a tougher challenge for the Lions than Tampa offered last week.

Despite losing Jamaal Charles early and falling way behind in the game, the Chiefs still managed 151 yards on the ground at 5.1 a carry.

Where I got nailed:

I expect them to stick with the running game as long as they can, and they'll have the Lions sweating in a similar fashion to last week.

Uh, yeah. No sweating that week.

"On Paper" record: 2-0

Week 3: Lions at Vikings

Coming into this game, the Vikings had just blown another big lead against the Bucs and the Lions were riding high. Most were predicting another big win by the Lions. Not "On Paper." The Lions only came out with a +1 advantage, concluding in a 24-20 prediction. In reality, I nailed it again. The Lions escaped the Metrodome with an amazing comeback 26-23 overtime victory. My chest was thoroughly puffed out once again.

Where I nailed it:

In the heated comment section, I claimed the following:

Although, I have to say I’d be shocked if the Lions got the run game going on Sunday.

20 rushes and 19 yards later, yeah, score one for the good guy.

Where I got nailed:

Despite the fact that they lost to the Bucs last week, I believe the Vikings will be the best overall team the Lions have faced this year.

This comment drew the most ire in the comment section. Most people claimed I was crazy for saying the Vikings were better than the Bucs only a week after Tampa Bay had beaten Minnesota. While I am not completely ceding that argument, the Bucs did finish 4-12 to the Vikings' 3-13.

"On Paper" record: 3-0

Week 4: Lions at Cowboys

Week 4 was a week I'll take credit for but don't truly deserve. While my final prediction of 30-27 Lions was again strikingly close to the final score of 34-30, the statistical analysis rendered this matchup a draw. My final conclusion was admittedly based on my "Lions-biased brain." Still, it was hard not to begin to believe I had magic powers at this point.

Where I nailed it:

While Detroit's run defense is less than stellar, Dallas doesn't exactly bring a strong running offense to the table.

Tashard Choice and Felix Jones combined for 96 yards on 22 carries. Decent, but not great numbers.

Where I got nailed:

[Jay] Ratliff only has one sack on the year, but watch out for him on Sunday.

Ratliff finished with one tackle and no sacks. Swing and a miss.

"On Paper" record: 4-0

Week 5: Lions vs. Chicago

After four weeks of excellent predictions, I was not only riding my high horse, but I hanging ten on the wave of Lions optimism. The Lions came out of this preview with a huge +3.5 advantage, leading to a 34-17 prediction. And while the final score of 24-13 makes that prediction look pretty good, the game was much closer than I had predicted. Did I care at that point? Absolutely not.

Where I nailed it:

If there's a week for the Lions' running game to break out, this may be it.

181 rushing yards, 9.1 a carry. Boom. Direct hit. You sunk my battleship.

Where I got nailed:

If the Lions can contain Peppers like they mostly did with DeMarcus Ware last week, expect big numbers.

The Lions pretty much contained Peppers (three tackles and no sacks) but failed to put up big numbers (219 passing yards and two TDs).

"On Paper" record: 5-0

Week 6: Lions vs. 49ers

Alas. All good things must come to an end. After a thrilling 5-0 start to the season, the Lions finally dropped a heart-breaker to San Francisco. At the height of all this Lions optimism, there's no way "On Paper" could have seen it coming, right? Wrong. "On Paper" kept its perfect season going, predicting a 20-17 defeat for the Lions. The Lions ended up dropping the contest 25-19 on a last-minute touchdown to the 49ers. Devastating, no doubt, but I secretly carried a sense of pride for continuing my streak of accurate predictions.

Where I nailed it:

The Niners bolster one of the best rush defenses in the league by almost any measurable you look at.

Not exactly a bold statement on my behalf, but the Lions were stuck in neutral after dominating against Chicago.

Where I got nailed:

Overall, however, the Lions have given up plenty of yards, and with a run-heavy offense coming to town, this will clearly be an important matchup. The Niners have the advantage, but not large enough to sway the outcome of the game by much.

The Niners had the advantage, and it DID sway the outcome of the game. Frank Gore's 141 yards (9.1 a carry) and rushing touchdown were tantamount in bringing home the win for San Francisco.

"On Paper" record: 6-0

Week 7: Lions vs. Falcons

For the second time this season, the statistics pointed to another draw. Once again, I let my subjective brain take over and pick the Lions in a squeaker. This time, things didn't work out as well, as the Lions dropped their second straight, 23-16. And just like that, the perfect season for "On Paper" was no more.

Where I nailed it:

I expect Turner to at the very least hit the century mark and reach the end zone once. Atlanta +1.5.

Turner gained 122 on the ground, and while he didn't reach the end zone, Atlanta did have a rushing touchdown in the game (a Matt Ryan one-yard rush).

Where I got nailed:

All signs point to Stafford having an above average day. Since Stafford is averaging 288 yards and over two touchdowns a game, you can expect a great performance on Sunday. Lions +2.5.

I missed badly on this one. Stafford only had 183 yards passing and one touchdown. This was definitely where the game was lost.

"On Paper" record: 6-1

Week 8: Lions at Broncos

Not going to take much credit for this one. This was a team the Lions should have, and did, beat thoroughly. I was a little safe with my 27-10 prediction. But it takes a lot of guts to predict anything close to the actual results of 45-10. Guts I admittedly do not have.

Where I nailed it:

The Lions should have their hands all over Tebow on Sunday, and anything more than 200 yards passing and a 70.0 passer rating would be surprising and disappointing. Lions +2.

This was likely my best prediction of the year. The Lions sacked Tebow seven times, held him to 172 yards and a 56.8 passer rating. Check, check and check.

Where I got nailed:

There are only a few things that worry me in this matchup: playing at Mile High Stadium, Stafford's inconsistencies and the Lions special teams coverage.

Not a huge gaffe by me, but my worries of Stafford's inconsistencies were unfounded. He finished with 267 yards, three touchdowns and a 130.8 passer rating.

"On Paper" record: 7-1

And with that, "On Paper" (and the Lions) rounded out a pretty impressive first half of the season. But the point of this article isn't just to give myself a big pat on the back. Instead, I'd like to extend this opportunity to you guys to give your input. Is there anything you think my previews are lacking? I've previously spent time on special teams, penalties and turnovers but eventually decided to remove them because they didn't seem to help too much with predicting a final outcome. But I am open to ideas. As much as I enjoy writing these things, I ultimately do it for you guys, and I want it to be a two-way street. So, please, add your comment and suggestions for this year of "On Paper."

(Part 2 of this look back at "On Paper," where things get considerably worse, to come next week.)

Reminder: You can follow Pride of Detroit on Twitter and like us on Facebook.