Analytic expert says Detroit Lions could compete for playoff spot

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

Football Outsiders believes the Detroit Lions could compete in a down NFC North

Two years into the Detroit Lions‘ experiment under head coach Matt Patricia, and there have only been diminishing results. Posting a 6-10 record in 2018, Patricia’s version of the New England Patriots – Midwest edition, would regress to winning only three games last year.

Both Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn were granted a reprieve this offseason with the caveat that Lions’ ownership is expecting an epic turnaround in 2020. Yet, we’ve seen little evidence that this is even possible based on the performance of this team over the past two years.

One of the main reasons the Lions face an uphill battle making themselves playoff contenders this upcoming season is the fact they play in one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL. Last season, every team in the NFC North but Detroit posted a .500 record or better.

The Chicago Bears, who won the division the year prior with a surprising 12-4 record, regressed last season to go 8-8. The Minnesota Vikings, who haven’t had a record below .500 since 2014, posted a solid 10-6 record in 2019.

Finally, the Green Bay Packers decisively won the NFC North posting a 13-3 record under first-year head coach Matt LaFleur. The Pack fired longtime head coach Mike McCarthy near the end of the 2018 regular season as Green Bay ended that year with a 6-9-1 record.

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Because of the overall talent within the division, there has been a constant shifting of the NFC North crown over the past three seasons. The Vikings (2017), the Bears (2018), and the Packers (2019) have all won the division in that span. Before 2017, Green Bay was crowned the divisional champs in six of the previous seven seasons.

Now, one football analytics group believes the balance of power will continue to shift in the NFC North. And it gives the Lions a chance at a postseason berth, perhaps by winning a division that’s trending down, something Detroit hasn’t done since 1993.

During an interview on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football earlier this week, the founder of Football Outsiders, Aaron Schatz shared his choice for a Dark Horse NFL MVP candidate as well as a prediction for the NFC North in 2020.

"“My dark horse candidate for MVP is Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions. In the limited time he played last year, Stafford was the fourth most efficient quarterback in football by our numbers. And that defense is going to be better this year. And that division is down, we have both Green Bay and Minnesota down. Detroit could compete for a playoff spot … “"

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The Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings have dominated the NFC North division over the past decade. But if both teams falter the way these analytics experts predict, that could leave an opening for the Detroit Lions to walk through. Yet, the Motor City has done little over the past two seasons to think they are capable of doing so. Fans have to hope this is finally the year the experiment in Motown clicks.