2019 was one hell of a half-year for Matthew Stafford. In his first season under offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, Stafford posted the best passer rating of his career (106.0), the highest yards per attempt (8.6) and his greatest touchdown percentage (6.5). Had the Lions been winning and Stafford remained healthy, MVP talk was just around the corner.
And at least one NFL.com writer took notice and believes Stafford will take that next step in 2020. Adam Schein dropped nine bold predictions for the upcoming season, and one included Stafford leading the league in passing yards for 2020.
“I think he is primed to have the best year of his underappreciated career,” Schein wrote. “It’s Year 2 in Darrell Bevell’s offense, an attack that suited Stafford quite well last fall. Detroit has a fine trio of receivers in Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola, and I think T.J. Hockenson can enjoy a breakout sophomore campaign with better health. Rookie RB D’Andre Swift was a steal in Round 2, and he’s a legit weapon in the passing game.”
The Lions’ arsenal of weapons will certainly help Stafford maintain a healthy passing game. PFF ranked Detroit’s receiving options as sixth best in the league, and they have legitimate receiving threats at every skill position on offense.
Last year, Stafford would have been a threat for the passing title. He averaged 312.4 passing yards per game, which was just barely off-pace from his 5,000-yard season in 2011, when he averaged 314.9 yards per game. Extrapolate Stafford’s 2019 season to a full 16 games, and he would have passed for 4,998 yards—second most in the NFL and just 111 yards behind Jameis Winston for the league title.
However, there is reason to believe the Lions offense will be more balanced this year, which could significantly drop Stafford’s passing attempts. Despite trying to commit to the run game last season, Detroit still passed on 60.1 percent of downs—the 14th highest percentage in the league. With D’Andre Swift now in town and a couple of run-maulers added to the offensive line, it’s clear the coaching staff wants to run the ball a lot in 2020.
Still, Schein believes that because the Lions may continue to find themselves behind on the scoreboard, Stafford will get his opportunities.
“Detroit still has issues on defense, meaning Stafford is going to be called upon to throw the ball a lot,” Schein wrote. “And I think the Lions are going to win some games you don’t expect them to win this year behind a rejuvenated Stafford.”
Whether Schein actually believes this will happen is unclear. When you label something a “bold prediction” there’s an underlying, “I know this is kind of crazy” subtext to the guess. Still, given how close Stafford would have been with a full season last year, this doesn’t feel like too bold of a prediction.