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NFL Week 15 Power Rankings: Detroit Lions still top-10, but confidence waning

Checking in on where the Detroit Lions stand in the national rankings heading into Week 15 of the NFL season.

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NFL: Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions are 9-4 on the season—the sixth-best record in the NFL—, hold a two-game lead in the NFC North, and have a 99% chance of making the playoffs.

Yet, they’ve been in five close games following their bye week, going 3-2 over that stretch, and appear to have regressed in multiple areas. This rough patch has led to a loss in confidence from sections of the fanbase, as well as from some of the national analysts, which is reflected in this week’s national power rankings.

Things may feel grim coming off a loss, but when you step back and look at the bigger picture, every national analyst still believes Detroit is a top-10 team in the NFL right now. While the Lions surely need to make some corrections over the final four games, the work they did early in the season has put them in a spot to sustain through a slump.

So now, the question becomes: can Detroit make the necessary moves to correct their issue over the next month? Lions coach Dan Campbell believes so.

“Here is the most encouraging thing about what happened yesterday,” Campbell said on Monday. “Some of our best players on the team did not play well and that’s encouraging going into this one because those are prideful guys, and those are our dudes. And believe me, those guys are going to come back—no different than us as coaches do—we’re going to be at our best. And I just know what kind of locker room we’ve got, what kind of players and we will respond. We will respond.”

With that, let’s take a closer look at this week’s national power rankings to see why the Lions landed where they did on each ranker's list.

MMQB: 6 (Last week: 4)

From Connor Orr:

“You could make the argument that the Lions’ margin of victory has been tight of late and that they have been taxed significantly since their Week 9 bye. Detroit narrowly beat the lowly Chargers and came back against the Bears before losing to the Packers (and nearly collapsing against the Saints). Personally, I think this Bears loss is a leftover from a few weeks back. Bears head coach Matt Eberflus can call a good game and has the personnel to match up decently against what the Lions do well (even though both of Detroit’s lead backs were over six yards a carry in this one). This Broncos game comes at a fascinating time. If the Lions are still sleepwalking, they’ll get clobbered.”

ESPN: 6 (Last week: 6)

From ESPN staff, excerpt from Eric Woodyard:

Biggest improvement: Red zone efficiency

“The Lions’ offense can score with the best of them, ranking in the top 10 in scoring for the past two seasons, but it wasn’t the best at capitalizing in the red zone to start the season. Through Week 9, Detroit’s red zone efficiency (48.1%) was in the bottom tier of the league, tied with the Texans for 24th. But in their five games after the Week 9 bye week, the Lions have the fifth-best red zone efficiency (72.2%), with the running back tandem of rookie Jahmyr Gibbs and veteran David Montgomery thriving in the backfield.”

Sporting News: 7 (Last week: 7)

From Vinnie Iyer:

“The Lions’ young defense is falling apart as it digs big holes for itself via giving up chunk runs and big pass plays. The Lions’ offense has plenty of passing firepower with Jared Goff, but it’s much better off pounding away on the ground with a lead and having its D tee off vs. predictable passing.”

USA Today: 7 (Last week: 7)

From Nate Davis:

“QB Jared Goff has looked awfully ordinary over the past seven games (4-3 record, 10 touchdowns, 10 turnovers). But at this point, the franchise may have little choice aside from making him the long-term answer … which could still be the right answer, price pending.”

CBS Sports: 7 (Last week: 7)

From Pete Prisco:

“They have big problems lately. The defense isn’t the same and the offensive line has led to poor play by Jared Goff. They need to turn it around quickly.

NFL.com: 7 (Last week: 7)

From Eric Edholm:

“Even at 8-2, the Lions gave us plenty of reasons to be concerned, from Jared Goff’s turnovers to the offensive line injuries and general defensive issues — and none of those things have gotten better in the three games since. At 9-4, Dan Campbell’s team is almost assured of earning a playoff bid, but Detroit logging its first postseason win since January of 1992 feels less likely by the day. There are still reasons for hope, and winning the division would help immensely, giving the Lions home-field advantage for at least one game. But they have allowed 26 or more points in five straight games and six of the past seven, struggling mightily with mobile quarterbacks throughout the season. When you look at the potential NFC playoff field, this is obviously a problem. The Lions need to find late-season answers in a hurry. Detroit looks nothing like it did earlier in the year.

Yahoo Sports: 8 (Last week: 6)

From Frank Schwab:

“The last time we saw the Lions look like a potential Super Bowl contender might have been all the way back in Week 4, when they dominated the Packers. Since then, they’ve had a few good performances but all against bad teams, and the last four games have been troubling. They should have lost to the Bears twice in that span, did lose once to Chicago and were outclassed at home by the Packers on Thanksgiving. The Lions are still very likely to win the division, though that’s not a lock anymore. The real concern is that this Lions team we’ve seen the past few weeks looks like a prime one-and-done candidate for the playoffs.”

The Athletic: 8 (Last week: 6)

From Josh Kendall:

Fantasy spotlight: The rookies

“Running back Jahmyr Gibbs and tight end Sam LaPorta are each top 11 in fantasy points among rookies this season. Only the Houston Texans also have multiple rookies in that group. Gibbs is fifth with 134, and LaPorta is 11th with 110.6. However, each was pedestrian Sunday as Detroit lost for the second time in three games, leaving the Vikings within striking distance of the division lead.”

Pro Football Network: 8 (Last week: 7)

From Dalton Miller:

“The Lions are officially in trouble. They’re still running the ball well, but Jared Goff has been struggling, and their defense has fallen apart in the second half of the season.

“Goff’s regression shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Lions have had to play musical chairs with the interior of their offensive line. That’s led to leaks on the interior, and Goff does not possess the athleticism or playmaking ability to create in a collapsing pocket.

Touchdown Wire: 8 (Last week: 7)

From Jarrett Bailey:

“The Lions have taken a major step back over the last month. They’ve lost two of their last three, and turnovers have started to become a problem for the offense.”

The Ringer: 9 (Last week: 8)

From The Ringer collective staff, excerpt from Austin Gayle:

“The Lions are 3-2 with a minus-9 point differential since their bye in Week 9. In that stretch, quarterback Jared Goff leads the league with eight turnovers, and the Detroit defense ranks 29th in points allowed per game. And that’s while playing the Bears twice, Packers, Saints, and Chargers. None of those teams have a winning record! The Lions may be a playoff team, but it won’t be one that does much damage once they get there if they continue to play as they have over the last few weeks.”

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