Are the Detroit Lions the NFC North’s third-best team?

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /

One NFL writer ranked the Detroit Lions the third best team in their division this year. Are they right or underestimating Matt Patricia’s impact?

Last season, the Detroit Lions should have been the best team in the NFC North. Think about it. Both the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings had their starting quarterbacks go down with injury. And the Chicago Bears had a rookie quarterback under center.

It was a perfect opportunity for the Lions to establish themselves and claim the NFC North crown. Instead, it was the Vikings with career backup quarterback Case Keenum at the helm that ended up being one game away from the Super Bowl.

Although the Lions did manage to go 5-1 against their divisional opponents, Detroit lost four of their first seven games. And back-to-back losses to the Vikings and the Baltimore Ravens late in the season killed their playoff chances.

The Lions squandered a rare opportunity last year. And this offseason, every team in the NFC North got better. The Packers should be back to 100% with a healthy Aaron Rogers under center. The Vikings replaced Sam Bradford and Keenum with top free agent Kirk Cousins at quarterback.

And the Bears added talented free agents like wide receiver Allen Robinson and tight end Trey Burton to help young quarterback Mitch Trubisky in his second season.

Is it any wonder one NFL writer believes the Lions are already two back in the division?

"“In a division with the still surging Vikings and a healthy Aaron Rodgers, this [Lions] team will likely be third-best in the NFC North,” wrote Kalyn Kahler for the"

The Lions have plenty going for them. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has a talented trio of wide receivers in Golden Tate, Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay. Now throw in new running backs LeGarrette Blount and rookie Kerryon Johnson who should improve the rushing attack.

The Lions defense is now led by new head coach Matt Patricia. And Detroit is hoping he can bring his Super Bowl-caliber defense over from the New England Patroits to the Motor City in Year One.

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Still, we’ve heard this all before. The Detroit Lions had a real shot at winning the NFC North last season and couldn’t take advantage of it. Are we now supposed to believe they can do so when every divisional foe is actually better? For most fans, it seems to be a “I’ll believe it when I see it” situation.