The Detroit Lions are off to a 4-1 start this season—by record, their best start since going 5-0 at the beginning of the 2011 season. By point differential, the Lions’ current mark of +41 is the highest also since that 2011 season (+70). And according to ESPN, the Lions’ three straight wins by double digits is the first time that’s happened since 1997.
Those are all impressive stats and signs that this team is for real. But this one courtesy of DVOA creator Aaron Schatz is the most jaw-dropping. According to Schatz, the Lions’ current DVOA mark of +39.0% is the best start in Lions history going back to the beginning of their database in 1981. And if you know anything about Lions history, if this is the best start in the franchise’s past 40 years, it’s also the team’s best start in the past 65 years or so.
Here’s the breakdown via Schatz:
Here's a remarkable list. These are the best 5-game starts by the Detroit #Lions in DVOA history (since 1981).— Aaron Schatz (@ASchatzNFL) October 9, 2023
Look at how far ahead 2023 is compared to anything else. The Lions had never ranked above 8th at this point in a season. They're 3rd now. #OnePride pic.twitter.com/KqCjLnPfnq
It’s not even close. This Lions team has started well over twice as good as any previous Lions team over the past 42 years.
What is DVOA? It stands for Defense-Adjusted Value of Average, and it’s a measurement of team success based on the outcome of every single play put into its proper context of down, distance, time remaining, current score, and strength of opponent. You can read more on what DVOA means here.
As for how the Lions rank compared to the rest of the NFL right now, DVOA has them as the third-best team, trailing only the San Francisco 49ers and the Buffalo Bills. Remarkably, the Lions are an extremely balanced team, ranking as the fourth-best offense and the third-best defense in the NFL. And when you break those numbers down even further, the Lions nearly have all top-five units:
- Pass offense: 4th
- Run offense: 5th
- Pass defense: 8th
- Run defense: 4th
If you want even more good news, by DVOA standards, the Lions’ remaining schedule ranks 27th—or the sixth-easiest games remaining in the league.
It could be a special year, y’all.