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Discussion: Are the Detroit Lions a top-5 team in the NFL?

With a record of 4-1, the Lions are sitting among the best teams in the NFL right now. Yet are they truly a top-five team?

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Detroit Lions Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions are on a roll.

Few teams have played as well as the Lions have over the first five weeks of the 2023 NFL season. Sitting at 4-1, the Lions are coming off back-to-back-to-back dominant showings, a promising rebound after a tough Week 2 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. The Lions have cruised to double-digit victories over the Atlanta Falcons (20-6), Green Bay Packers (34-20), and the Carolina Panthers (42-24).

One could argue that the Falcons, Packers, and Panthers are far from world-beaters, and that is fair, but the Lions are winning games they should and they are doing it with ease. This is even in spite of multiple injuries to their playmakers, along the offensive line, and in the secondary. The Lions have yet to play a game at full health, begging the question of what a 100-percent Detroit team would look like. Could they go toe-to-toe with the best of the best in the NFL?

From a standings perspective, the Lions are one of five teams with a record of 4-1 or better (Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers at 5-0, Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs at 4-1), though the 3-1 Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers were on a bye in Week 5. The Lions have wins against teams that are a combined 9-10, with the Panthers’ 0-5 record doing most of the heavy lifting in the loss department.

Entering Week 5, the Lions were ranked third in total defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA), with their offense and defense ranking fourth and fifth, respectively. After stomping the Panthers on Sunday, it is unlikely that the Lions drop in those rankings. The Buffalo Bills and 49ers were first and second in DVOA. The 49ers stomped the Dallas Cowboys (ranked fifth in DVOA entering the week) and, coupled with Buffalo’s loss, will likely jump into the top DVOA spot.

The Lions offense has been dangerous all season, while the defense is coming together of late. Still, is that enough to secure a spot in your top five teams?

Today’s Question of the Day is:

Are the Detroit Lions a top-5 team in the NFL?

My answer: Yes. It still feels weird to call the Lions a good team after so many season of bad to mediocre play, but the patience has finally paid off and the Lions truly look like a team ready to compete against the NFL’s best.

If I had to rank the Lions, I would put them at either third or fourth. The 49ers are firmly atop the power rankings, with a near-unstoppable offense and a dominant defense. Despite their Week 5 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, I would put the Bills at second, since they also boast a high-powered offense under Josh Allen and a talented defense—I’ll chalk the loss up to overseas travels, since a trip to London makes for a tough week.

The reason for me waffling on the third and fourth spot is due to the Miami Dolphins. Their offense is an unprecedented juggernaut, with Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill, and De’Von Achane playing at superstar levels. This doesn’t even factor in Raheem Mostert, a talented veteran, and Jaylen Waddle, who is not yet 100 percent but still an elite contributor. If the Dolphins can unlock the recently-acquired Chase Claypool (easier said than done), that offense could be full of home run hitters.

However, their defense is lagging well behind, entering Week 5 as the 29th-ranked defense by DVOA. They will likely jump up in the rankings after a 31-16 win over the New York Giants, but they are still far from an elite defensive unit. I think their defense could hold them back, but their offense is more than capable of winning an offensive shootout.

If the Lions can string together a few more weeks of solid defensive outings, I think I could comfortably put them in the top three. As it stands after Week 5, I think the Lions are unquestionably a top-five team in the NFL.

Where would you rank the Lions in the NFL? Let us know in the comments.


Are the Detroit Lions a top-5 team in the NFL?

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