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Monday open thread: Is it too late to save the Lions’ 2022 season?

Now sitting at 1-4, has the ship already sailed on the playoffs? And if so, how can the Detroit Lions salvage what’s left of their season?

Detroit Lions v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images

Entering the bye in 2021, the Detroit Lions were without a win. A record in 2022 of 1-4 entering their Week 6 bye is better on paper, but through these first five games, it is hard to feel optimistic.

Whereas 2021 was largely a season written off as a necessary step in a rebuild, 2022 was meant to be the year where strides happen. Some strides have certainly happened, and there are positives to be had, but as a whole, a 1-4 record shows that the Lions aren’t ready to compete. The question now is what comes next.

The defense was not horrific against the Patriots, but they still made rookie third-string quarterback Bailey Zappe look like a competent NFL starter to the point where some New England Patriots fans are clamoring for him to usurp Mac Jones as starter. That is never a good look for a defense, and it is unsurprising given their track record. The Lions were historically bad in 2021. A few games into 2022, and it might somehow be worse.

The offense had outright carried the team to start the season, but Sunday’s loss to the Patriots was a complete disaster. Jared Goff could not continue his hot streak from week’s past. The offensive line took a beating on nearly every down, looking far from the elite unit they were once billed as. Even the run game was quiet, with Jamaal Williams totaling 56 yards on 15 carries. Aside from the Reynoldses, Craig and Josh, putting up respectable receiving numbers, it was a day to forget for the offense. Mustering zero points is never good, but given the missed opportunities, it felt even worse. Burn the tape, bury it deep where nothing but time shall touch it.

If anything, the Lions offense scored negative points on Sunday. The lone touchdown they were responsible for instead went the other way, as Patriots safety Kyle Dugger took a horrific Goff fumble to the house. No stat needs to be mentioned aside from their fourth down conversion rate, for nothing tells a story quite like it. The Lions were a pitiful 0-for-6 on fourth down attempts, and it never felt like any of them were close. Goff fumbled. Goff threw short of the sticks. Goff threw incomplete. Add in two ineffective rushes up the gut by Williams and Justin Jackson, and it all but ended the Lions’ afternoon. Many times the Lions drove into Patriots territory, and every time they were rebuffed like a wave upon rock.

Not only are the Lions dead-last in the NFC North, but they are among the worst teams in the league. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Commanders, and Carolina Panthers each sit at 1-4 (with the Las Vegas Raiders at 1-3 pending ‘Monday Night Football’). While Detroit mustered a win against the Commanders, it feels like a distant memory, for three-straight heartbreaking losses have chased any optimism in Detroit.

Today’s Question of the Day is:

Is it too late to save the Lions’ 2022 season?

My answer: I think the Lions are finished this year.

The bye week gives Detroit time to recuperate, but is it already too late? The expanded playoff format does give an extra team a playoff berth, but it feels like Detroit will have to make a 180 to do so. Not only will their offense have to regain their form after such a lackluster performance, but the defense will have to make significant strides to elevate themselves beyond even mediocre.

With the on-field product we have seen, I cannot see the playoffs in sight. For reference, last year’s NFC Wild Card teams were 11-6, 10-7, and 9-8. The Lions would have to go 8-4 down the stretch to match even the lowest of those records. Does this look like a Lions team capable of such a feat? They will need a productive bye week to prove otherwise. Games against the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers (twice), Buffalo Bills, and Minnesota Vikings could prove challenging. This doesn’t even factor in the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants, or New York Jets playing well, teams that were once viewed as easier opponents for Detroit. The list of winnable games is shrinking. They will need multiple upsets to reach the bare minimum of nine wins, and that might not be enough anyway.

I really want to be optimistic and say they can turn it around with enough grit, but the team hasn’t shown enough to spark that level of confidence. Most of the good will evaporated after the loss to the Seattle Seahawks, and almost none of it remains after Sunday.

Your turn.

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