Detroit Lions 2019 start a more accurate team barometer

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Are the Detroit Lions actually a better team than their record from last season indicates?

The Detroit Lions aren’t a 3-12-1 team. Yes, that was their record from 2019. But that was also with an injured starting quarterback in Matthew Stafford sidelined for eight games. And in his place, Detroit trotted out an undrafted rookie free agent in David Blough to start in five of their remaining contests, all of which resulted in losses.

The Lions flashed their true colors to start last season. After giving up a disappointing 27-27 tie to the Arizona Cardinals in Week One, Detroit impressed with back-to-back victories over the Los Angeles Chargers and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Then the Lions went toe-to-toe with the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, losing in the final minute, 34-30, in Week Four. This is a Lions’ team that went into their bye week with a 2-1-1 record and appeared to be a contender in the NFC North.

Unfortunately, Detroit would go on to suffered a one-point loss to the Green Bay Packers in Week Six despite leading the game 22-13 in the final frame. The following week, the Lions lost both the game to the Minnesota Vikings and starting running back Kerryon Johnson to a knee injury.

Detroit Lions strong start to 2019 a better barometer to use

Despite winning their final game of the season in Week Eight, a 31-26 victory over the lowly New York Giants, the Lions would lose Stafford after the very next week with fractured bones found in his back. This created a nature split between a version of this team that started the season strong and the one that limped to the finish line.

Detroit would start Jeff Driskel at quarterback for three games without Stafford and Blough for the rest. But without their starting quarterback and running back for a good portion of the season, the Lions were seemingly striving for better draft positioning rather than any chance of climbing out of the divisional basement.

Although injuries are an obstacle every NFL team must deal with and overcome, some players are simply much tougher to replace than others. This offseason, the Lions have focused on improving their depth at these key positions across their roster.

Detroit signed veteran backup quarterback Chase Daniel to secure the position behind Stafford. Then the Lions used their second-round selection in the 2020 draft to select Georgia’s D’Andre Swift, securing the running back depth chart beyond Kerryon Johnson.

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With more depth added at key positions, the Detroit Lions are surely hoping their strong start in 2019 was a true barometer of their team’s current status and potential. And that they’ll be able to post their best season-ending record yet under third-year head coach Matt Patricia in 2020.