For weeks I’ve been calling the Detroit Lions a team you couldn’t trust. And it’s not because I have some prejudice against them, in fact, I like the Lions. I root for them most of the time. But they’ve been a team of screw ups for a while, and, truth-o-meter on, they cost me in my survivor pool earlier this season when they lost to the Bills.
But now they’re 7-2, they just beat a very good Miami team that had had momentum coming in, they got Calvin Johnson back and they have the #1 defense in the NFL for both yardage allowed and scoring. What’s not to like?
What’s not to like is that sneaking suspicion that this team WILL let you down. The multiple instances of screw ups late in games, late in the season, at the worst possible time, how can you believe in a team that hasn’t been able to get out of its own way? That’s still these Lions, right? Is it?
Maybe not. The Lions are in the top third of the NFL in not giving the ball away, they’re top third among the most penalized teams, but most of the good defensive teams are, and top third isn’t number 1 or number 2, drawing penalties like crazy. They’re just ahead of Seattle and just behind San Francisco. Good company.
Well what about Matthew Stafford. He’s a big screw up isn’t he? Well this one’s a little more thorny. Stafford is top ten in the NFL in yardage, but he’s proven he can throw for a lot of yards in the past. Rating wise he’s bottom third, mostly owing to the fact that he’s somehow only thrown 11 touchdowns this season. But has Stafford improved in terms of taking care of the football? Maybe. Halfway through the season he’s on a pace to post the lowest interception total of his career. Matt the game manager?
That’s an odd thing to say about a guy who’s top 10 in passing yards, was a #1 overall draft pick and over the last three years has thrown for 5000, 4900 and 4650 yards. Then again, what did the Lions do in those years. Nothing.
So what if their offense is bottom third in scoring. The Lions’ defense is #1 in the NFL. All the offense really has to do is not make mistakes (they’re definitely improving on that count) and move the ball when they have to. In that regard, they’ve got a tandem of truly excellent receivers in Calvin Johnson & Golden Tate. One of them is an elite NFL receiver, one of just four players averaging 100 yards per game this season. The other is Megatron.
And the Lions aren’t putting up big takeaway numbers, which could be why they’re not scoring so much. Don’t count that as a minus at this point. It means the Lions defense is shutting people down without the benefit of opposing teams making mistakes against them. In that sense, it’s actually more impressive.
Screw ups or not?
But the Lions have yet to face their toughest test. Their three toughest remaining games, vs. Arizona, New England and Green Bay, are all on the road, and the first two are coming up back to back.
Let’s see how they fare in those contests before finally lifting the “screw up” label from this team.