Matthew Stafford: Time to prove you’re worth the money

DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 19: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions celebrates a second quarter touchdown during the preseason game against the New York Jets on August 19, 2017 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 19: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions celebrates a second quarter touchdown during the preseason game against the New York Jets on August 19, 2017 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /
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The Detroit Lions made franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford the highest paid player in NFL History. It’s time for him to prove he’s worth the money.

It’s finally here. The preseason is finally over and the Detroit Lions can start playing actual football games now.

All the speculation is over. All the OTA’s and preseason previews and game by game predictions are over. All the hype is over, and it’s time to stop playing these games on paper and start playing them in person.

‘The Lions finally have their final 53-man roster set. No huge surprises there, but the biggest Lions news of the preseason has to come from the Matthew Stafford contract extension. Last week, Motor City signed their franchise quarterback to a five-year, $135 million deal, making him the highest paid player in NFL history.

After paying Stafford this fat stack of cash, Detroit is clearly putting their future in his hands. As they rightfully should, since he’s made the Pro Bowl, led the Lions to the playoffs 3 times, and is clearly an upper echelon quarterback in this league. He’s also been the face of the franchise for half a decade now, and is the veteran leader of this fairly young team.

After being paid all this money, it’s time for Stafford to consistently play at an elite level. We know he’s capable of it. He’s played at this level before, especially last year, when he led the Lions to 8 comeback wins and a playoff appearance, and was an MVP candidate after a 9-4 start by the Cardiac Cats.

Stafford is clearly ready to prove that he is worthy of this new deal. He told the Detroit Free Press that he was “very thankful for the Lions showing faith in him” and that he’ll do his best to try to “outplay this contract” and “help this team win a championship”.

That road to helping this team get to the Super Bowl starts on Sunday, September 10th, when the Lions open their season at home against the Arizona Cardinals. ESPN’s Michael Rothstein has predicted a win for the Lions, since this is a talented young team and Arizona is banged up and coming off a rather mediocre season.

It seems to be poetic justice that the Cardinals are the first team that Stafford has to play under his new contract. The last time the Lions played Arizona, it was a bloodbath. Not only did the Lions lose badly at home 42-17, but Stafford was actually benched after throwing 3 interceptions in arguably one of the worst games of his career.

Matthew Stafford needs to redeem himself in this Week 1 match, and prove that he’s worth every penny of his history-making deal. A great performance against Arizona will not only prove something to Stafford himself, but also get this Lions team off to the good start they need to succeed.

It’s a cliche that is used way too often in sports media, but this might be a must win game for this Lions team. They have a very tough first quarter of the season, as after week 1, they play a quality New York Giants team on Monday Night Football week 2, and play the 2016 NFC champion Atlanta Falcons week 3.

They cap the first quarter of their season with a rough test on the road against the Minnesota Vikings, a place where the Lions never play well, having lost 16 of their last 19 games in the Land of a Thousand Lakes. If the Lions don’t win this Week 1 matchup, its very possible this team could start out 0-4, which would be demoralize this young team and ruin their season before we even start wearing sweatshirts to Ford Field.

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For the Lions to win this opening contest, they’re going to need a good performance from the $135 million man. When healthy,  Stafford has played great in the past and is clearly the greatest quarterback in Lions history. Now the next step in his maturation is to get this team back to the playoffs. For this team to succeed in any way in 2017, it’s time for Matt to put his money where his mouth is.