Four weeks into the 2023 regular season, the Detroit Lions are firmly in control of the NFC North and are settling in as one of the top teams in the NFL. For the second week in a row, the Lions finished in the top 10 in every national publication that we track, with the highest spot ranked being five and the lowest being nine.
But are the national rankings keeping up with the latest statistical models, such as DVOA (which has now moved from Football Outsiders to FTN Fantasy)?
The Lions also rank in the top 10 in DVOA, but not just as a team... they rank in the top 10 in every offensive and defensive category, which slots them in as the third-best team in total DVOA. Let’s break it down a bit further.
Total DVOA: 3
Overall offense: 5
Passing offense: 6
Rushing offense: 6
Overall defense: 5
Passing defense: 8
Rushing defense: 3
To further put these rankings into perspective: There are six other teams that rank in the top 10 for passing and rushing offense, just two others that rank in the top 10 for passing and rushing defense, while the Lions and Ravens (Total DVOA: 4) are the only teams in the NFL that rank inside the top 10 for both passing/rushing for offense and defense.
Being ranked in the top 10 in national polls is excellent, especially considering where this team was ranked not too long ago. But maybe we need to start considering the fact that this Lions team might be even better than we imagined.
USA Today: 5 (Last week: 6)
“They’ve scored at least 20 points in 13 straight games. That streak should only get easier to sustain now that WR Jameson Williams has been reinstated after his gambling suspension was reduced.
Sporting News: 6 (Last week: 6)
“The Lions now have early prime-time wins at Kansas City and Green Bay on their resume. Jared Goff, the offensive line and running game are playing well. Aidan Hutchinson has been awesome, too. They’re battling Dallas to be the third-best NFC power.”
MMQB: 6 (Last week: 8)
“Think about this for a minute: There are 14 teams with a better rushing success rate than the Lions, and 14 teams with a better drop back success rate. While this variable is still all over the place right now given that we’re four weeks into the season, it does tell us something: the Lions haven’t even hit their stride yet offensively. Jahmyr Gibbs has yet to break out. Jameson Williams is still coming back. Sam LaPorta, who has been an excellent, high catch percentage target, still has such a high ceiling. And Detroit’s pass rush just arrived.
Touchdown Wire: 6 (Last week: 7)
No explanation was given.
Yahoo Sports: 7 (Last week: 7)
“Thursday night’s result can get lost in the chaos of Sunday’s games, but what the Lions did at the Packers was every bit as impressive as any team’s win in Week 4, outside of perhaps the Bills. The most important part was how well the defense played. We all assumed the Lions would have a good offense. If their defense has improved as much as it appears early this season, the Lions aren’t far behind the top few teams in the NFC.
NFL.com: 7 (Last week: 7)
“It’s a new era in Motown. The Lions smashed the Packers at Lambeau Field last Thursday, then found out Friday that 2022 first-rounder Jameson Williams would be returning early from suspension. They officially became division favorites before the Williams news, and they’re potentially adding exactly what they need in the speedy wide receiver. But Williams also returns with much to prove based on his lofty draft status, limited production and a nagging penchant for being unavailable. And remember: He suffered a hamstring injury in August, played only preseason game and couldn’t communicate with the team during the first three weeks of his suspension, so expectations must be adjusted. But now the runway for him to be reacclimated is longer — and begins right when Detroit embarks on a reasonable slice of the schedule, even with competitive road games at Tampa and Baltimore on tap this month.
The Athletic: 7 (Last week: 7)
“Nothing says chaos like the team with the third-longest playoff drought in the league sprinting toward the postseason. The Lions, who have won 11 of their last 14 games dating to last season, gave the ball to David Montgomery 32 times Thursday night (for 121 yards). That’s the heaviest single-game workload of the season for a running back and the eighth-highest of the last five seasons, according to TruMedia.”
ESPN: 8 (Last week: 8)
“Biggest issue on defense: Rushing the passer
The pass rush has certainly improved from the past two seasons, but the Lions’ pass rush win rate is 32.3% through four games — which ranks 29th in the league according to ESPN Analytics. However, Detroit has shown improvement: Over the past two games, the Lions’ defense has registered 12 of its 13 sacks on the season, with second-year edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson totaling 3.5 in that span. The Lions’ pass rush appears to be figuring it out and will look to build its momentum against Carolina this week. — Eric Woodyard
The Ringer: 8 (Last week: 8)
From The Ringer staff, excerpt from Sheil Kapadia:
“Lions fans came into this season with an unfamiliar feeling: a sense that their team would be good. And guess what? They are good! Ben Johnson has proved to be a difference-making offensive coordinator, consistently scheming up explosive plays and putting Jared Goff in positions to succeed. But the bigger surprise is the Lions defense, which has looked considerably better than last year’s group. Any conversation about a sleeper who could make noise in the NFC playoffs has to include the Lions, who are favorites to win their division.”
Pro Football Network: 9 (Last week: 9)
“After an ugly interception to start the game, the Detroit Lions posted four straight scoring drives, practically deciding the game before it even got to the half. Aidan Hutchinson is the real deal on the edge. He’s been one of the most productive rushers in the league, and he had the Packers offensive line in hell on Thursday Night Football.
“David Montgomery continues to take up the… lion’s… share of the backfield touches, much to the chagrin of Jahmry [sic] Gibbs’ fantasy owners. But Gibbs is a sub-200-pound running back who, while likely underutilized right now, will be more important to have fresh late in the season, given his absolutely outrageous explosiveness.”
CBS Sports: 9 (Last week: 10)
“Going to Green Bay and blowing out the Packers was an impressive showing. That defense is getting better by the week.”