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2017 NFL power rankings: Lions jump 12 spots in Sporting News

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Sporting News must have really liked the Lions’ offseason.

Chicago Bears v Detroit Lions Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions’ offseason has been met with mixed reviews. While Sports Ilustrated gave Detroit an A for their offseason moves and ESPN believes the Lions made the biggest jump in the NFC North, others met their offseason, especially their draft, with skepticism; Pete Prisco of CBS gave the Lions draft a D grade.

But one publication apparently loves the moves the Lions made. Sporting News released their latest power rankings earlier in the week and the Detroit Lions were near the very top of the list. The Lions placed eighth overall, just a single spot behind their NFC North rivals, the Green Bay Packers. Here’s Vinnie Iyer’s explanation for the high ranking:

Jim Caldwell continues to be one of the most underrated and understated coaches in the league. A changed Matthew Stafford means another playoff berth won't be out of the Honolulu Blue.

While the high ranking is surprising enough in just how rare it is to see the Lions get some respect this offseason, it’s even more shocking considering Iyer’s rankings earlier in the year. Back on the day of Super Bowl LI, Iyer released his “way-too-early preseason rankings” and the Lions placed just 21st on the list. “Matthew Stafford and the passing game is fine. Pass defense remains the worry,” Iyer wrote back in February.

Since then, the Lions have heavily invested in the pass defense. Not only did the team bring in D.J. Hayden and draft Teez Tabor in the second round, but they also placed an emphasis on improving an extremely vulnerable linebacker corps. The additions of Jarrad Davis and Paul Worrilow, along with Tahir Whitehead’s move to the weakside, should pay off dividends for Detroit in 2017 and beyond.

That isn’t to say the Lions have fixed that problem completely. One issue with Detroit’s pass defense last season was the lack of a consistent pass rush. While the Lions swapped out a lot of names along the defensive line, they failed to add any real playmakers. That remains one of the biggest concerns for Detroit in 2017.

Still, there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic about the Lions this season, and Iyer clearly agrees.