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Despite Lions’ slow start, Matthew Stafford was a top quarterback in 2015

Stafford’s strong 2015 finish gives hope for 2016.

There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic this time of the year, but everything begins and ends with Matthew Stafford.

So, just how good was Stafford at the end of last year?

Despite an awful start to the season, Stafford still managed to finish fifth in completion percentage (67.2), seventh in touchdowns (32) and ninth in QB rating (97.0).

He was even better over the final eight games last season, finishing with a 110.1 passer rating and a 70.0 completion percentage. Both stats set franchise records for the Lions.

It's clear that new offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter has had an effect on Stafford's play, especially down the stretch. What is still unknown, however, is how that will translate in 2016. We've already broken down how Cooter's offense will take advantage of his weapons, and now it really seems like Stafford is taking control of the Lions’ offense.

This season, look for the Lions to try — once again — to strike a balance between the run game and the pass game. The addition of Taylor Decker at left tackle should help both, although he will surely experience some growing pains as well.

But in the end, look for the Lions to continue to ride on the right arm of Matthew Stafford in 2016.

Check out the video above to get a quick look into how Stafford’s 2015 season was a tale of two stories, and why there's hope for a better 2016.

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.