Wednesday, I gave you five reasons to be excited for the 2015 Detroit Lions. I absolutely meant every single one of those points, and you should be excited for this year's team. If you want to stay in that wonderful bubble, I wouldn't blame you. Just re-read the optimistic piece and exit out of this article immediately. I'll wait.
Okay, now that it is just us brave souls that don't mind staring into the abyss (and the few, like me, who get some sort of weird pleasure out of it), let's talk. There are some issues with this team. They may or may not be serious, but they're real issues. We've all tried to ignore them, but deep down you feel them weighing you down from offseason utopia. Let us not try to supress them any longer, that gives them too much strength. Let's exorcise those demons so we can discuss them and defeat them. Here are five reasons why you should be pessimistic about the 2015 Detroit Lions.
1. The schedule
Yes, I know it's a fool's errand to look at the schedule and feel confident you know how things will play out. Green Bay and Denver could be completely different teams than most expect them to be. The Eagles could either be the best or worst team in their division. Hell, even the Bears may be decent this year (okay, probably not that). Still, there are some things we definitely do know. We know that Seattle is an amazingly difficult place to win a football game. We know that Lambeau Field is a place where the Lions haven't won in over twenty years. We know finishing the season at Soldier Field in January is not ideal.
Every team deals with them, and unfortunately, Detroit has a few significant ones right off the bat. DeAndre Levy is dealing with a mysterious ___ injury. Caraun Reid and Larry Warford have lingering injuries at the team's least-deep positions. With many of the Lions' most difficult games front-loaded in the schedule, this is a poor time for Detroit to come out hobbling.
3. Line depth
Detroit did a good job bolstering a starting lineup on the offensive and defensive lines, especially considering the high amount of turnover this offseason. However, beyond the starters, both sides of the line are woefully thin. Detroit is already dealing with injuries to LaAdrian Waddle and Warford, and while they brought in Manny Ramirez just for that reason, there is little behind him.
On the defensive side, things are even worse. Detroit did a good job by bringing in Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker to fill the Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley/C.J. Mosley voids. But for a team that relies on a lot of rotating parts, the Lions are going to have a tough time when Ngata is off the field. Things are even worse at the defensive end position, where the Lions don't really have two proven starters. Ezekiel Ansah should be a good talent, but he's yet to prove it for a full season. Jason Jones, while tallying seven sacks in 2014, was actually a sub-par pass rusher according to Pro Football Focus. Beyond those two are the unproven Devin Taylor and the aging Darryl Tapp. Not exactly inspiring.
4. The NFC North
If the Green Bay Packers have a healthy Aaron Rodgers, they're always going to be a tough challenge. Then there's the Minnesota Vikings, who very nearly beat the Lions at home last season. The Vikings flaunt an extremely talented defense, and their offense should see a fair amount of improvement with Adrian Peterson back and Teddy Bridgewater in his second year. Even the Bears could be better this year with an entirely new coaching staff (again, probably not. I was just seeing if you were still paying attention, or if you were rushing to the comment section to yell at me).
5. Regression to the mean
Last year, by nearly every advanced statistic, the Lions were a lucky team. They were 6-1 in close games (decided by seven points or fewer), they had a sixth-best turnover margin and they won more games than their point differential would suggest. In general, these stats tend to even out for all teams year-to-year. In other words, don't expect the Lions to do as well in close games or in the turnover department over a long period of time. This doesn't mean that Detroit is "due" to have bad luck this year. This simply means that the Lions were a lucky team to be 11-5 in 2014, and they shouldn't expect the same luck in 2015.