It seems like it has been a offseason unlike any other. Can you remember a time when the excitement over the Detroit Lions felt this real? Can you remember a time when you didn't feel like you were just being a fan when you said to yourself, “I think this team is about to be really good”?
The Lions have been good before. Really good even. The 2014 Lions were easily one of the better regular season teams that year. Did you think they’d be good before that year? Even more so, did you think they’d be 11 wins good? I know we here at Pride of Detroit didn’t. Just about everyone on staff had them with nine wins or fewer. The optimism has never been as high as it is right now.
It’s not just the fans this time, either. The national media has been singing the praises of this team during its rebuild and especially this summer. And I’m riding the wave.
This team might be ready to go back to the playoffs this season. Throw all your patience into the wind. I’m ready to declare it a real possibility today instead of waiting. Here’s why this team is ready right now.
The offense is ready
On paper, the Lions offense is stacked. The team proved in 2021 that they can run the ball somewhat well, and they showed that Jared Goff can be pretty good when you tailor the offense to the things he’s good at. Throw in that the team now has an already rising star in Amon-Ra St. Brown, a Pro Bowl caliber tight end in T.J. Hockenson, plus new studs in DJ Chark and Jameson Williams, and you can see there’s weapons abound. This team also happens to have a pretty dang good offensive line that some think will be one of the best groups in the league. There’s not a lot of reason to believe this offense can’t get things done immediately.
The defense might be able to be just good enough
The Lions defense is a bit of a question mark and that’s fair. What we do know is that it’s deep. Not deep in the “defense wins championships” way, but deep in the sense that the Lions proved they could roll with the next man up pretty well in 2021. They’re hoping to get some important players back who missed a big chunk of last year, and they do have an influx of new talent with an emphasis on the defensive line. On top of all that, the Lions have Aaron Glenn—one of the most respected defensive coordinators in football right now—who has turned around defensive units before. This isn’t going to be a world beating defense by any stretch, but do they really need to be?
Look at last year's playoff teams. The Super Bowl was between the 15th and 17th ranked defenses in points against.Can the Lions be a middling defense in 2022? It would be a stretch, but teams like the 26th ranked Raiders, 20th ranked Steelers and 18th ranked Eagles showed that it’s possible to get in with a lower-tier defense. Can Lions defense be just good enough? It’s possible.
The NFC isn’t looking so hot right now
Look around the conference. It’s like everyone picked up and went out west or something. The Cowboys, Packers, Rams and Buccaneers are probably sure things to be good and head to the playoffs. Can you say that about any other team?
In the NFC East the Commanders are rolling with Carson Wentz, the Eagles should be good enough to nab a spot and the Giants are kind of a mess. In the NFC West the Cardinals feel like they’re about fall apart and lose Kyler Murray any second now, the 49ers have a quarterback controversy. Then the Seahawks are in full blown rebuild mode.
Every team in the NFC South is rebuilding outside of the Bucs, and in the Lions’ own division, the Bears and Vikings might have had the most questionable offseasons in the league. Expectations should be tempered for both teams with first-time head coaches.
Any one of these teams could take a jump like the Lions could, but as it stands right now, all the good teams look to be in the AFC.
The Lions were in just about every game of the season in 2021. This team fights and they don’t give up. This team has a ton of respect for their coaching staff, and they love the organization. When there’s mutual respect for everyone in the building, that can go a long ways on the field.
You really get the sense that this team walked into the locker room and collectively put playoffs on the board as the thing they all want to achieve. Detroit continues to add players who love the game, will create intense competition in practice, help each other get better, and relentlessly fight on Sundays. No one is going to be more hungry for postseason play than the Lions this year.
What’s going to prevent this?
Sadly there’s a lot that could possibly prevent the Lions ascension to the playoffs. Health was a real issue for this team in 2021 and there’s nothing the Lions can do to make sure that doesn't happen again short of using good old fashioned hope. With the Lions already hobbling through offseason activities, there’s reason to believe some of these could impact the regular season.
Also, what if the defense doesn’t get to that “just good enough” point? The offense looks to be good, but can you really succeed if you have to win shootouts every week? What if Jared Goff regresses instead of continues to progress? What if the rookies are busts? What if the Lions aren’t really getting better and we just think they are?