We are nearing the end of June. Meaningful Detroit Lions football remains almost two months away. Preseason remains one month away. Practices remain a few weeks away. We are in a football drought (unless you’re a CFL fan).
With the offseason essentially finished, speculation can begin. Which teams improved? Which rookies will shine? Which free agent pickups will make an impact? However, that’s all that we can do—speculate. We have yet to see these players in pads. We have yet to see what sort of schemes the coaches are devising. As well, players will get hurt. It isn’t fair to try to make predictions on how teams will fare.
So let’s do it.
I have gone through week-by-week and predicted wins and losses. I like to think I’m not being biased with these results, but these are predictions, not facts, and I do not present these as such.
We’ll start off with our Lions:
Week 1: @ Arizona Cardinals - Win
Week 2: vs. Los Angeles Chargers - Loss
Week 3: @ Philadelphia Eagles - Loss
Week 4: vs. Kansas City Chiefs - Loss
Week 6: @ Green Bay Packers - Loss
Week 7: vs. Minnesota Vikings - Win
Week 8: vs. New York Giants - Win
Week 9: @ Oakland Raiders - Win
Week 10: @ Chicago Bears - Loss
Week 11: vs. Dallas Cowboys - Win
Week 12: @ Washington Redskins - Win
Week 13: vs. Chicago Bears - Win
Week 14: @ Minnesota Vikings - Loss
Week 15: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Win
Week 16: @ Denver Broncos - Loss
Week 17: vs. Green Bay Packers - Win
Final record: 9-7
Reasoning: For many years, I have maintained that the Lions can win any game and they can lose any game. This 2019 season is no different, as I think a stout defensive line will keep them in many games. It will be up to their offense to secure those victories, and despite a down year from Matthew Stafford, I believe he can orchestrate a winning record. I maintain that a lot of the Lions’ problems in 2018 were due to atrocious play calling, and while I’m not sold on Darrell Bevell, he should be an improvement.
Starting with inter-division games, I view all of these as toss-ups. It’s an easy prediction to make, but it’s one that I think is true. The Lions have gone toe-to-toe with the Bears, Packers, and Vikings in the past, and while every season is different, history has shown that these will likely be close affairs. Perhaps this is a bold statement, but I think all of the NFC North teams are quite similar in talent level. Splitting the season series is a probable outcome.
Elsewhere, the Lions benefit from a decent schedule, though it could be a tough opening week. I view the Cardinals as a wild card with Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury, but that roster is still pretty thin, especially at offensive line. After that, however, the Chargers, Eagles, and Chiefs are all expected to be tough matches, though I personally believe that the Eagles are overrated, and the Lions have a better chance than most expect. I predict the Giants, Raiders, and Redskins to be in the bottom-five teams in 2019.
The Cowboys are a good team, but their strength is their run game, which happens to be the Lions’ strength on defense. If they force Dak Prescott to beat them in the air, they have a good chance of winning. The Buccaneers are a huge question mark, with newly hired Bruce Arians and Jameis Winston in his “prove it” season. I expect it to be a close affair. Finally, the Denver Broncos and Joe Flacco aren’t a power-house team, but they boast a solid defense and will have the home field advantage at Mile High. That is enough to tip the scales in their favor.
Overall, the Lions are a difficult team to predict, and as I tweeted back in May, I could see them hitting double digit wins or double digit losses.
Week 1: vs. Atlanta Falcons - Loss
Week 2: @ Green Bay Packers - Win
Week 3: vs. Oakland Raiders - Win
Week 4: @ Chicago Bears - Win
Week 5: @ New York Giants - Win
Week 6: vs. Philadelphia Eagles - Loss
Week 7: @ Detroit Lions - Loss
Week 8: vs. Washington Redskins - Win
Week 9: @ Kansas City Chiefs - Loss
Week 10: @ Dallas Cowboys - Win
Week 11: vs. Denver Broncos - Win
Week 13: @ Seattle Seahawks - Loss
Week 14: vs. Detroit Lions - Win
Week 15: @ Los Angeles Chargers - Loss
Week 16: vs. Green Bay Packers - Win
Week 17: vs. Chicago Bears - Win
Final record: 10-6
Reasoning: Kirk Cousins got some flak for his performance last season, but I feel as though they were a far superior team than their 8-7-1 record indicated last season. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen continue to be excellent safety blankets for Cousins, and their defense remains a legitimate threat. Right off the bat, the Vikings are dealt a tough foe in the Falcons, a battle of two of the best receiving corps in the league. I give the Falcons the nod, but that Vikings front seven could overwhelm the Falcons’ rookie linemen.
In the NFC North, I give the Vikings the advantage in every game, though they will likely drop one or two—in this prediction, I gave the Lions the win in Week 7, since the Vikings will be coming off a tough foe in the Eagles and have the Redskins on the short week afterwards. They also benefit from playing Green Bay early in the season, avoiding a rough Lambeau winter. I will touch upon the Bears during their segment, illustrating why I think they’re primed for regression.
Much like the Lions, a lot of their games have similar results. The Eagles, Chiefs, and Chargers will be difficult matchups, as well as facing Seattle at home. I give them the nod over the Cowboys due to their defense, and I predict the Giants, Raiders, and Redskins to be winnable games. Additionally, they will benefit from playing the Broncos at home, avoiding playing at Denver’s higher elevation.
In my mind, the Vikings are the best team in the NFC North, as they feature a well-rounded offense and strong defense.
Green Bay Packers
Week 1: @ Chicago Bears - Loss
Week 2: vs. Minnesota Vikings - Loss
Week 3: vs. Denver Broncos - Win
Week 4: vs. Philadelphia Eagles - Loss
Week 5: @ Dallas Cowboys - Loss
Week 6: vs. Detroit Lions - Win
Week 7: vs. Oakland Raiders - Win
Week 8: @ Kansas City Chiefs - Loss
Week 9: @ Los Angeles Chargers - Loss
Week 10: @ Carolina Panthers - Win
Week 12: @ San Francisco 49ers - Win
Week 13: @ New York Giants - Win
Week 14: vs. Washington Redskins - Win
Week 15: vs. Chicago Bears - Win
Week 16: @ Minnesota Vikings - Loss
Week 17: @ Detroit Lions - Loss
Final record: 8-8
Reasoning: The Packers will always ride-or-die by Aaron Rodgers, and 2019 is no different. I hate the stat “Quarterback Wins,” but there is no doubt that Rodgers is a pivotal player capable of changing the outcome of a game. Nonetheless, the Packers feature a solid supporting cast, from a very talented offensive line to an elite receiver in Davante Adams. Coupled with solid defensive additions of Adrian Amos, Preston Smith, Za’Darius Smith, Rashan Gary, and Darnell Savage, there’s a reason to fear Green Bay this season.
However, it still feels as though they’re lacking something to make them an elite team. Their young corners Jaire Alexander and Joshua Jackson are still growing, so there might be some inconsistency from their secondary. Elsewhere on offense, their running back situation is cloudy. Aaron Jones has been excellent, but he has yet to play a full season due to injury and suspension; backup Jamaal Williams hasn’t proven to be a lead back either. Outside of Adams, they are lacking targets for Rodgers as well. Jimmy Graham isn’t the tight end he used to be, nor have Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown (jeez, what a name duo) shown enough as receivers quite yet.
A lot of these wins and losses are for similar reasons, so I won’t repeat myself—Chiefs good, Giants bad, and so on. Much like the Vikings, the Packers benefit from playing Denver at home. Unlike the Lions and Vikings, I have them losing to the Cowboys due to a weaker run defense.
Of their unique games, they luck out by facing the Panthers and 49ers, two teams that I believe to be overrated. The Panthers rely a lot on Christian McCaffrey and their offensive line remains a question mark. The 49ers have hype surrounding Jimmy Garoppolo, but I’m not sold on him as a starter. I like what they did in the draft with Nick Bosa and Deebo Samuel, but their defense is still a huge weakness.
The Packers have a lot of potential this season, but it remains to be seen if they will develop into a championship-caliber team.
Week 1: vs. Green Bay Packers - Win
Week 2: @ Denver Broncos - Loss
Week 3: @ Washington Redskins - Win
Week 4: vs. Minnesota Vikings - Loss
Week 5: @ Oakland Raiders (London) - Win
Week 7: vs. New Orleans Saints - Loss
Week 8: vs. Los Angeles Chargers - Loss
Week 9: @ Philadelphia Eagles - Loss
Week 10: vs. Detroit Lions - Win
Week 11: @ Los Angeles Rams - Loss
Week 12: vs. New York Giants - Win
Week 13: @ Detroit Lions - Loss
Week 14: vs. Dallas Cowboys - Win
Week 15: @ Green Bay Packers - Loss
Week 16: vs. Kansas City Chiefs - Loss
Week 17: @ Minnesota Vikings - Loss
Final record: 6-10
Reasoning: Oh boy, I can’t wait for Bears fans to ‘roast’ me for this prediction. “But we were 12-4!” they will say. “Trubisky is improving!” they will say. “Another year in Nagy’s offense!” they will say.
I, for one, say otherwise. This is a team primed for regression, and serious regression at that. The 2018 Chicago Bears were a good team, I won’t deny that. However, I doubt that this success will continue in 2019. Their defense was beyond outstanding last season, and a lot of their wins are primarily due to them smothering opposing offenses. As seen with Jacksonville the year before, repeating such an impressive defensive campaign is extremely unlikely. They led the league with 27 interceptions, five of which were returned for touchdown—for reference, the last time a team had more than 27 interceptions in a season was Seattle in 2013. Despite all of those picks, Chicago had a turnover ratio of just +12 last season—still good for third in the league, but well below what it could have been. Teams that win the turnover battle tend to win games, which the Bears benefited from last season. However, turnovers are an extremely volatile and unpredictable stat, and there is little chance they replicate their 2018 totals.
Fumbles and interceptions were a huge problem for Mitchell Trubisky last season, along with being an actual NFL quarterback. I will give him credit for his rushing ability, and it remains his best trait. However, decision making continues to plague Trubisky, and he was fortunate not to have a higher interception total. He was one of PFF’s lowest ranked quarterbacks, and for good reason: the Bears won games despite him, not because of him. It still floors me that he made the Pro Bowl over Matt Ryan.
The Bears did not improve over the course of the offseason either. They lost Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan, opting to replace them with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Buster Skrine, both of whom are significant downgrades. Coupled with the departure of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, I doubt that the Bears defense will reach their 2018 heights.
Their offense is also lacking. They feature essentially no running game, jettisoning Jordan Howard (whom I believe to be underrated) and replacing him with their first pick in the draft, third rounder David Montgomery, whom I was not a fan of as a prospect. Tarik Cohen remains an excellent change-of-pace running back, but his strength is receiving, not rushing. Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel, and Trey Burton are good receiving options, but they lack the quarterback to exploit them.
In terms of schedule, I expect the Bears to finally get punished for Trubisky’s lackluster play and mistakes. I do not expect their defense to bail them out as many times as they did last season. The Fangio’s Broncos in Denver should be a challenge, and the Vikings have a good chance of sweeping. As well, they have the misfortune of facing the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams, both of whom boast excellent offenses and defenses.
A lot of things went the Bears’ way in 2018 (aside from some Audible Dongs), and a regression seems imminent. Chicago really needs Trubisky to develop into a serviceable quarterback this season, or they could be looking at a last place finish in the NFC North.