Sometimes a topic just hits you in the mouth. It hits you so hard that you have to hit back, and you have to do it quick. I was on my way home from the store and I was listening to my friends Drew and Jim on ESPN 96.1. They were discussing a Bleacher Report article that dropped Wednesday about Chris Simms saying that the Lions could be a Super Bowl team.
Normally I would laugh at such a thing. I would laugh for about three minutes and 24 seconds, curl into a ball, cry, take a shower to wash off the shame and then cry again. But I didn’t do that this time. I, instead, started wondering if Chris Simms was onto something here.
Could this guy be ahead of the curve? Is he crazy? Or are we crazy Lions fans that are hell bent on having negative opinions and feelings because that’s just how we are? Think about that. Talk to your dad today. Ask him how he thinks the Lions will do in 2017. I’d bet a Buffalo nickel he will tell they’ll lose and give you some 1993 reason as to why.
I don’t even know why I felt compelled to write this article. Something came over me. I want so bad to feel the way I usually do. Just say, “Yeah, they could be a playoff team, but who knows?” Even Drew told me not to.
But I say screw it. I’m already down the rabbit hole. What harm could digging my way to China be? Let’s look into Simms point here and see how crazy it really is to think something like this.
Here’s Chris’s full comment on the subject:
The Lions were a playoff team in 2016. They could become a Super Bowl team this year. They've taken steps to improve the offensive line, and if Ameer Abdullah can stay healthy, they could have a strong running game as well.
Oh, and Detroit has Matthew Stafford, who is one of the three best quarterbacks in football. He's almost entirely the reason why the Lions have reached the playoffs in two of the last three years.
For starters, the Lions did improve their offensive line. Not just by a little bit, but a lotta bit. They went out and stole T.J. Lang from the Packers. Lang, of course, was a Pro Bowl guard in 2016. They also got Rick Wagner who was the best right tackle available.
They did lose Taylor Decker for a little bit, but then replaced him with Cyrus Kouandjio—who Pro Football Focus graded as the best backup tackle in the league—and Greg Robinson—the second overall pick of the 2014 draft. Robinson may turn out to still be a bust, but that’s still a pretty good risk the Lions are taking there.
All this signals the further improvement of an offensive line that was already an improving line in 2016. It’s not crazy to think this line could be better than that and open up some holes for the running backs.
Speaking of running the ball, the Lions were really bad at it last year. But that doesn’t mean they will be really bad at it in 2017. I think as Lions fans, and even as analysts, we try too hard to generalize with the Lions. We always look at the what, and never at the why or how.
The Lions running game was god awful in 2016. We know that. But why do we ignore why it happened? Why must we ignore that Ameer Abdullah got hurt in Week 2, Theo Riddick got hurt in Week 5, and then again in Week 13. The Lions then had Joique Bell, Justin Forsett, Dwayne Washington and Zach Zenner. The first two guys on this list barely played. People outside of Detroit don’t know who the other two guy are. No wonder it was bad.
Now with a healthy group and the addition of Matt Asiata, why is the assumption that this team will still finish last in rushing? And why is there the assumption that they have to finish first? Look at the rankings of the last ten Super Bowl winning teams.
Offensive rush rankings for Super Bowl winners
|Year||Team||Rank in yards||Rank in Touchdowns|
|Year||Team||Rank in yards||Rank in Touchdowns|
I’ll never say the Lions run game will be one of the best in the league. It won’t. But clearly doesn’t have to be either. Somewhere between 15th and 20th would be really nice. We’ll see.
They still have Matthew Stafford
That’s right. They do still have this guy, and this yet another reason this isn’t all that crazy. You have to forget everything you think you know about football here and go back to basics. Quarterback wins wasn’t a real thing when you were in high school, and it’s not a real thing now.
The Lions have one of the best quarterbacks in the game today. A decent receiving corps, a healthy run game and an improved offensive line. It’s not crazy to think this could be one dangerous offense.
Defensively there’s an issue
That issue seems to be that there are no superstars. At least that’s what you hear on TV a lot. The Lions defense looked bad on the whole in 2016. In reality, the Lions defense kept the Detroit in the hunt when it counted in 2016. Our own Alex Reno called the Lions fourth-quarter defense the unsung hero of 2016.
They were one of the league’s better defense down the stretch of the Lions win streak last season. They fell to good teams and played poorly early in the season. This leads to the perception of them being horrible.
They aren’t great by any means, but horrible is a long way off. The Lions improved depth in both the linebacking corps and the defensive line. They also devoted the bulk of their draft to improving the defense.
This defense is nowhere near as good as the 2014 defense, but it’s better than last year.
Let me make it clear: I am in no way declaring that the Lions win the Super Bowl in 2017. I’m not crazy, and I’m not able to see the future anymore. But what I am saying is that it’s not crazy to think that the Lions could be that good in 2017. This is a team that has shown major improvement in the front office and on the field. They are being ran like a successful organization for the first time ever.
They have one of the best quarterbacks in the game, a young nucleus surrounding him and the right attitude. Who knows what can happen in 2017? Perhaps Chris Simms and Pete Schrager are right about the Lions. Perhaps they are dead wrong. I look forward to finding out.