2nd place; Detroit Lions
The NFC North runner up will be the Detroit Lions. Matt Patricia’s defense has much to prove, but the offense is the best in the division.
The offensive line is the question mark. It appears to be better than last season’s offering, but the left guard position, as well as chemistry, are the key to this unit being good.
The Lions offer the best trio of receivers in the division with Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, and Danny Amendola while fifth-round pick Quintez Cephus has impressed everyone during training camp. Toss in second-year tight end T.J. Hockenson and Detroit almost has an embarrassment of riches to throw the ball to.
The backfield has enough talent to finally allow the Lions to run the ball. Kerryon Johnson, if healthy, is a very good back. D’Andre Swift is a complete talent that has the ability to be Detroit’s lead back for years to come and the addition of former Lions’ crusher Adrian Petersen gives the Motor City plenty of talent to share the workload and never miss a beat.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford played like an MVP last year until he was injured. It’s hard to imagine he will be anything but outstanding again. Matthew will carry this team as far as the defense will allow him to, but if he is injured once again all bets are off.
There is probably no unit in the NFC North with more to prove than the Lions defense.
The front seven should be better with Trey Flowers and Danny Shelton anchoring the defensive line. Depth is a concern along the line, but the starters have enough talent to be competitive.
Jamie Collins has excelled in this defense while in New England and the Lions hope he will be just as good here in Detroit. Jarrad Davis has much to prove but overall this unit should be at least a little improved over last season’s version.
The secondary is the strength of the Lions defense. Desmond Trufant is a wily veteran cornerback who is coming off a very productive, but injury-plagued season. Jeff Okudah is the ultra-talented heir to the secondary throne but will need to grow into the position quickly. Safety Tracy Walker could be an All-Pro this year and veteran acquisition Duron Harmon will be the glue that holds the secondary together.
Matt Patricia is on the hot seat and for good reason. All the pressure will be on Patricia’s defense. It was announced by both Patricia and new defensive coordinator Cory Undlin that Undlin will call the defenses. His background with aggressive defensive teams should mean the pass-rush will get help from the blitz. If it works, then the Lions will be postseason bound because they will be plenty good enough on offense.