This place is in serious need for some optimism after the Detroit Lions blew the game on Sunday night and followed it up with the opposite of a crowd-pleaser by holding onto the much-maligned Eric Ebron.
Fortunately, there are some legitimate reasons to remain positive about the 2017 Detroit Lions, and a few of those comes from the highly reliable analytics site Football Outsiders. The “innovative statistics” site focuses its analysis on play-by-play success and strength of opponent.
And according to the site, the Lions are still a pretty darn good team. Through eight weeks of the season, Football Outsiders ranks Detroit as the 13th best team according to their staple DVOA statistic (stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average). Specifically, Football Outsider ranks the Lions offense as 22nd in the league, their defense as seventh-best, and their special teams as the best in the NFL. By comparison, the 2016 Lions finished 27th in DVOA (15th on offense, 32nd on defense, sixth in special teams).
Those numbers currently put the Lions second in the division. The Vikings are well ahead of Detroit, ranking sixth overall (offense: 10th, defense: ninth, special teams: 16th). The Packers are 17th (offense: 15th, defense: 19th, special teams: 14th), and the Bears are all the way down at 27th (offense: 29th, defense: 14th, special teams: 28th).
But the biggest reason for optimism doesn’t come from how the website views the Lions, but rather their future schedule. Football Outsiders ranks every team’s future schedule not by their current record, but by their more specific DVOA statistic. According to that, the Lions have the third-easiest remaining schedule, while their division rivals, the Vikings and Packers, have the 11th and 12th toughest schedules remaining in the league (the Bears have the 20th toughest).
As a result, Football Outsiders gives Detroit a fairly good chance to make the postseason. According to their Week 8 playoff odds, the Lions still have a 32.8 percent chance at the postseason and 20.6 percent chance to win the division. While those aren’t outstanding numbers, they are better odds than any 3-4 team outside of the Texans and better chances than a few teams with better records (Dolphins, Falcons, Packers).
So while things are currently looking pretty down, Detroit’s season is far from over. That would change, obviously, if the Lions cannot beat the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers on Monday night, but, for now, there’s no reason to give up.