I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that most of the prognosticators are picking the Detroit Lions to finish out of the playoff hunt this year. Myself, I see a team on the rise that could shock the NFL, and win the NFC North division if Aaron Rodgers misses any significant playing time this year. The rest of the league sees a team that couldn’t handle whatever little success it had by averaging an arrest a month during the off season.
Head Coach Jim Schwartz opened this year’s training camp with the message that it’s not too hard to go from crap, 0-16 in 2008, to good, 10-6 in 2011, in this league but to go from good to great is. Coach Schwartz’s message to the team was clear, he thinks that the Lions are ready for greatness now.
Schwartz is underselling himself a bit in saying anybody could have done what he and Martin Mayhew have done in the last 3 years. They have done an amazing job in transforming this once laughingstock of the league team, into possibly the next great franchise. They both know the next step is to make the playoffs and win. Matthew Stafford and Ndumakong Suh have spoken about wanting to become great. Calvin Johnson already is. I’ve always thought of these Detroit Lions as a modern version of the Dallas Cowboys of the 90’s, a team that reached the top far earlier than anyone thought they would. Here’s 3 reasons why I think the Lions might be great sooner than you think:
1. THE DEFENSIVE LINE WILL BE BETTER
It takes a lot to humble Ndumakong Suh, but thats what happened after he watched his game film from last year. Suh will benefit from the Lions’ decision to move him around the defensive line this year like they did during his phenomenal rookie season. Nick Fairley will show up as the other half of the dynamic duo of defensive tackles. Fairley will finally show what made him such a great prospect. Cliff Avril will be motivated because he is playing for a huge contract, and Willie Young is playing for Avril’s job, and Mr. Suh want his reputation back.
2. THE PACKERS CAMELOT DAYS ARE OVER
The days of the Packers ruling the NFC with a iron fist are over. I think there are just too many teams nipping at the heels of the Packers that are just as talented as them. I’m pretty sure the fans of the Lions, Falcons, Saints or Giants feel like they can beat the Pack on any given Sunday. The Packers have had to face everybody’s best on every weekend for the last few seasons, and this is the year Camelot fails to uphold that tradition. Who is going to replace Aaron Rodgers if he gets hurt? Bobby Boucher Jr. from ‘The Waterboy’, because I don’t see anyone else on that roster who can.
3. THE SKY’S THE LIMIT WITH MATTHEW STAFFORD
With durability questions out of the way, the next question is, how great can Stafford become? No one knows that answer, but you’re going to have to look at the all-time greats to find a comparison. In his first full season, he amassed 5,038 passing yards and 41 touchdowns, becoming only the 4th quarterback in history to achieve 5,000 yards. The QB Matthew Stafford reminds me the most of is John Elway, only better. They had the same arm strength and Elway was a better runner, but Stafford is more accurate and makes better decisions at this common juncture of their careers. Stafford also has shown he has the best trait that Elway possessed, bringing his teams back from the brink of defeat, by orchestrating 4 comebacks of 13 points or more last year. This is a quarterback league and it helps to have one of the best.