You know who likes to argue? Our own Ryan Mathews and myself. You’ll frequently find us on social media or in the Pride of Detroit Slack room arguing about something. We’ve probably had a like two to three non-argumentative discussions in the last two years.
So with that in mind, let’s have another one this week. You see kids, our faithful leader Jeremy Reisman is on the road to Michigan. He’s likely stopping at sushi places all over the country and listening to The Smiths just as loud as he can. For the record, Jeremy may not be a super artistic and emotional Berkeley student circa 1985, but you can’t prove that he’s not. Basically what I’m getting at is that the inmates are running the asylum now.
So let’s break this thing off. Here’s the plan. Today I’m going to lay out five reasons why the Lions will make the playoffs. Then later this week, Ryan will fire back with why they won’t. And I think he’ll be wrong. So in the words of the great Mary J, Blige, let’s get it percolatin.
The skill positions
I brought this up a couple weeks ago when I wrote that the Lions have to fix two issues to be Super Bowl Contenders. Right now, while history will show me otherwise, I believe the Lions have done their very best over the course of the summer to fix both of those issues.
To refresh you, those two issues were the run game and the offensive line. I can’t make any bold statements just yet. I won’t say the run game is fixed and everything is all good now. But I will say that this is quite the diverse group of running backs. If LeGarrette Blount can be a presence in the short game and Kerryon Johnson can be the breakout rookie so many believe he can be, then the Lions offensive becomes incredibly dangerous.
The reason they would be dangerous is because you’re also coupling a run game with one of the best—if not the best—receiving duo in the NFL. We’re talking about the only duo to go over 1,000 yards each in 2017. Not to belabor the point, this team was ranked seventh in the league in points per game with the 32nd ranked run game. Imagine what they could do with all skill positions producing at a high level.
The offensive line
The offensive line was a big time weakness last season. Matthew Stafford got sacked 47 times. That was second most in the NFL. But I think that the offensive line that you saw last year is not going to be the offensive line that you see this year. Like at all.
The first reason is because, per Kyle Meinke, the Lions ran 980 snaps in 2017 and only had their best line for 95 of them. They also went through 10 different combinations. The chances of this happening again are pretty slim. Just not having Greg Robinson is already a major improvement.
The Lions went out and signed Kenny Wiggins and Wesley Johnson and also drafted Tyrell Crosby to bring some actual depth to protect from injury. That’s something the Lions didn’t have last year when Taylor Decker went down early in the offseason.
Oh, and there’s first-round draft pick Frank Ragnow, a guy who hasn’t allowed a sack since high school.
Opening holes for the run games and protecting Matthew Stafford with their top line could really make a huge difference.
There’s a lot of teams in the NFL that have the question of will they or won’t they make the playoffs attached to them. One thing the Lions have that most of the others don’t is an elite quarterback.
Matthew Stafford is in his prime right now. The last three seasons have been unbelievable for quarterback who, by the way, just turned 30. The only question we have to ask is has Matthew played his best football yet?
I tend to think not. Former Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry believed that 30 was when the game began to really slow down for quarterbacks, and their game really begins to shine. That makes sense. Is there an elite quarterback below the age of 30 that’s been great for years? Not really.
With Stafford manning the offense, the Lions always have a chance to win. If the rest of the team rises to his level like they frequently did in 2017, you’re looking at a team that can not only make the playoffs, but win a postseason game.
The coaching and the office
I’ve tried to spin it in different ways for years, but you really have to understand that previous to 2015, the Lions have been run like a car dealership that only sells skateboards. It was really that bad.
With Bob Quinn at the helm, the Lions have scouted better, drafted better and signed smarter. They have the roster and two consecutive years of winning records to show for that. It may not be the winning records everyone wanted but winning records none the less.
You really have to admire Quinn’s damn near obsession with fixing problems. Look at the offseason and tell me that Bob wasn’t pacing through the house every night talking to his family about he was going to fix this run game.
But the biggest move Bob made this summer was bringing in Matt Patricia to coach this squad. It’s the perfect job for a guy like Matt, because what do we know about the team that he just came from? They’re a team with a high-powered offense and a defense that, besides for a few great players, is lacking talent. This team still wins.
Let’s just say that there are a lot of smart guys in the room right now and that’s very rarely, if ever, a bad thing.
This team isn’t nearly as far off as you think
This isn’t 2012 or 2013 anymore. This is a Lions team that was one bad game and a 10-second runoff away from making the playoffs just last season. Can anyone think of a way they got worse this offseason? I tried, but I couldn’t do it.
They didn’t really lose anyone. They cut Eric Ebron, who may be on the rise, but had a lot of issues in Detroit. Haloti Ngata and Tahir Whitehead both left in free agency. Those may seem like blows, but Ngata missed nearly the entire season and the Lions still did what they did without him. As for Whitehead, the Lions got an upgrade in Devon Kennard.
Sure there are going to be some concerns like the defensive line and the tight end group. But the Lions only got better in just about every other category. Maybe all of that can hide those glaring weaknesses. Maybe those weaknesses don’t turn out to be weaknesses at all. After all, we’re definitely judging things as if the Lions defense is going to be ran the same exact way as it was in 2017.
Only time will tell on whether or not I’ll be the one that is right or if Ryan will win this round. But as I see it, the Lions are in pretty good shape to make some noise in the playoffs in 2018.