Dan Campbell may not have won Coach of the Year in 2022, but he did have one noticeable achievement that should not go overlooked. The Detroit Lions were the most improved team in football this past season.
There are several ways of determining that, but all pretty much point to the Lions receiving that distinction. Incredibly, four of the worst teams in football in 2021 (Jaguars, Lions, Jets, Giants) all saw significant improvement in 2022. The Giants went from 4-13 to 9-7-1. The Jets went from 4-13- to 7-10. But the Lions and the Jaguars both improved by six wins, going from three wins last year to nine in 2022.
Another metric you could use is point differential, which many claim to be the more accurate determiner of a team’s true talent than just win/loss record. The Lions don’t top the leaderboard in year-to-year gain in point differential, but they’re pretty high up there.
Jaguars: +258 (-204 to +54)
Jets: +174 (-194 to -20)
Lions: +168 (-142 to +26)
There’s one thing, though, that neither of these two metrics take into account: strength of schedule. By winning percentage, the Lions had the fifth hardest schedule in the NFL (.535), much tougher than teams like the Jaguars (.467), but on par with the Jets (.538) and Giants (.526). So the Lions’ win improvement is a bit more impressive than the Jaguars.
Perhaps the most compelling piece of evidence is Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, which measures team efficiency on a play-by-play basis, taking into account score, time left, down and distance, and strength of opponent. By that data, the Lions are the undisputed most-improved team in football:
The Detroit Lions made the biggest jump from 2021 DVOA rank to 2022 rank of any team this season.— Football Outsiders (@fboutsiders) February 16, 2023
Last year, the Lions ranked 29th in total DVOA. This season, Detroit ranked 9th. #OnePride pic.twitter.com/wnyAher8S4
A 20-team jump in the rankings is ridiculous—going from 29th to ninth—but to be fair, the Jaguars were pretty darn close (32nd to 13th).
The more important note here is that by Football Outsiders’ metrics, the Lions were the ninth-best team in football last year. And if you go by their “weighted” DVOA metric—which puts more value on games later in the season—the Lions were the sixth-best team in football by the end of the season.
In other words, if the Lions can pick up where they left off in January—which is never a guarantee—the improvement should continue and potentially propel this team to the playoffs and beyond. Add in the seventh-most offseason resources in the league, and this team seems primed to make another jump in 2023.