A few weeks ago, NFL analytics site Football Outsiders wrote (via ESPN+) that according to their prediction model, the Detroit Lions were the most likely team to go from finishing last in their division in 2018 to first in their division in 2019. Of course, this week Football Outsiders took things a step further by calling the Lions the outright favorites to win the NFC North.
But NFL fans don’t exactly feel the same. This week’s national FanPulse question simply asked which team is most likely to go from worst to first. And unlike Football Outsiders, the Lions weren’t first among voters. In fact, they weren’t among the top half of the eight teams in votes:
The Jaguars were the overwhelming choice from the national FanPulse audience, which makes sense on a couple levels. First, the AFC South appears to be wide open after Andrew Luck’s sudden retirement. With the Colts, Texans, Jaguars and Titans in the division, none appear to be clear front-runners. Additionally, it’s reasonable to believe Jacksonville could bounce back to 2017 levels after a horrible hangover year.
And that’s likely what’s working against the Lions. There is no recent history to suggest this team could win the North—they have won their division since 1993. They also sit in a division with three teams that many consider Super Bowl contenders.
Even Lions fans themselves are a little hesitant to believe in the team right now. After another shaky preseason, Lions fan confidence in this team lies at just 63 percent, with only seven team fanbases posting lower confidence levels.
One of those teams with lower confidence in their team is the Arizona Cardinals, whose current approval rating sits at just 47 percent. If the Detroit Lions can put their Week 1 troubles from last year behind them, it’s certain to help out their fans’ reasonable skepticism.