There are many who think the Detroit Lions have little chance of climbing out of the NFC North basement. Is Matthew Stafford the biggest reason?
The members of the media and many fans are dubious about the Detroit Lions chances of bouncing-back this year and at least making the playoffs, to say nothing of actually winning the division.
For those of us who are camped right here in the middle of the NFC North, we can understand some of the trepidation surrounding the Lions. But is this mountain insurmountable? The Chicago Bears had one of the best defenses in the NFL last year and it almost single-handedly led them to a divisional title.
That’s not to downplay Matt Nagy’s innovative offense that he brought from Kansas City with him. But Mitch Trubisky, while possessing terrific mobility to go with a solid arm, hasn’t blossomed into the next great quarterback yet and while they were ninth in scoring offense, they were only 21st in total yards per game.
In other words, they were mostly opportunistic. Their defense ravaged opposing offenses giving up a league-low 17.7 points a game and was also first against the rush while finishing third in overall defense. Between the difficulties opponents had moving the ball, much less scoring, and the opportunities the defense afforded them by getting the ball back, the Bears offense can receive more credit for opportunistic scoring than being any kind of offensive juggernaut.
And when Vic Fangio left his position as the Bears defensive coordinator to become the Denver Broncos head coach, it didn’t do the Bears defense any favors.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota Vikings took a step backward defensively, except of course when they played the Lions, and former MSU Spartan Kirk Cousins didn’t provide the immediate spark expected as they were only 19th in points per game with 22.5 and 20th in overall offense.
Then, of course, there are the Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers has been injured quite a bit in recent seasons and it may be starting to take its toll. That doesn’t mean that he isn’t still one of the best in the league when healthy, but being healthy is the key. They only averaged 23.5 points per games last year which ranked 14th in the league and they were 12th in overall offense.
And the Packers defense really isn’t worth talking about as they finished 22nd overall. Despite the emphasis they have put on rebuilding their defense this offseason, it still all comes down to Rodgers.
The point is, while the Lions did flounder last year, the NFC North is not some immovable object to overcome. All of the Lions divisional rivals have flaws just like them.