As we inch nearer towards the start of the 2022 NFL season, the predictions are starting to roll in. For the Detroit Lions, a fair amount of hype has collected, both locally and nationally, while many are also preaching patience for a franchise that is in just Year 2 of a rebuild.
But ESPN’s Bill Barnwell is the latest to join in on the optimism for the 2022 Lions. On Tuesday, Barnwell posted his yearly “teams most likely to improve” article, and the Lions were one of five teams featured. That’s notable, because the five teams that made his list last year (Falcons, Jaguars, 49ers, Eagles, Broncos) all improved, with an average of 2.9 wins gained.
Of course, the Lions almost have nowhere to go but up after a 3-13-1 season, and Barnwell admits as such.
“I don’t think the Lions are a particularly controversial choice for this list,” Barnwell writes. “It might be fair to question what would qualify as a significant improvement for them. With the NFC getting the ninth home game this season and Detroit projected to face the league’s seventh-easiest schedule by Football Outsiders, it should have no trouble getting to five wins. It would likely take seven or more for Campbell & Co. to feel like they’re on track to compete for a postseason berth in 2023.”
But in addition to an easier schedule, there are also a ton of other reasons Barnwell mentions for a potentially serious turnaround in Detroit. There’s the fact that the Lions were one of the most injured teams last year. Or the fact that the Lions went 2-5-1 in one-score games that could have very realistically been a 5-3 record. Or maybe it’s the fact that they had the youngest roster in the league last year.
Barnwell, too, is optimistic about a noticeable improvement in talent.
“Some of those players given opportunities a year ago emerged as valuable contributors, including defensive end Charles Harris, wide receiver [sic] Amani Oruwariye and St. Brown, who had 560 receiving yards and five touchdowns over the final six games of the season,” Barnwell said. “St. Brown and first-round offensive tackle Penei Sewell were the notable standouts from their rookie class, as they fielded the league’s youngest team by snap-weighted age. ESPN has age and snap data going back through 2007, and last year’s Lions were the seventh-youngest team over the past 15 seasons.”
Put it all together, and Barnwell makes a compelling case for the Lions as one of the most improved teams in 2022. The question is simply: how improved will they be?