Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Lions in 2010

Well, the preseason's over, and Detroit managed to go 3-1. They say the games are meaningless, and that's 90% true. After all, they went 4-0 in 2008, and the regular season didn't end quite as well.

But it's still important that players get on the field, follow their assignments, and if everything goes according to plan, you come away with a victory. Winning in the preseason means something's been done right.

The offense clicked. The defense, shows promise in some areas, and deficits in the secondary. Does it mean playoffs? No. About 27 teams have a realistic chance to make the playoffs. This year, the Lions are one of them. But I would rank them as No. 27.

Matthew Stafford showed us he's continued to mature as a 2nd-year QB. He's connected in the endzone with Calvin Johnson. He's also shown us he's still a 2nd-year player.

This offense will be good. How good is the question. I'm predicting they'll finish somewhere between 15th and 10th in terms of offensive production. My biggest area of concern is the Right Tackle. Is Gosder Cherilus finally going to get some consistency, or will he wind up another bust from the Millen years? Suprisingly, the Lions cut Jon Jansen in an effort to show that this is a youth movement. They drafted Jason Fox in the 4th Round in 2010, and picked up Corey Hilliard, a guy who can play left and right tackle. Jansen's age + the fact he's suited to RT made him expendable.

The defense will be bad, but comparatively speaking, better than 2007 through 2009. I predict they'll end up ranked somewhere between 20th and 27th. The secondary and weak-side LB are the biggest concerns of mine. It wouldn't shock me at all if Detroit took a CB in both the 1st and 2nd Rounds of next year's draft. They're that bad there. Rookie Amari Spievey was recently converted to Safety, but there's no guarantee it's permanent. Only Louis Delmas is a reliable player, and a standout to boot.

The D-line, however, I expect will be among the best in the league. Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams, Kyle Vanden Bosch, and Cliff Avril will be getting to the QB. Suh may leave with the QB's head detached from his body, but all the NFL will do is fine him another $7,500. DeAndre Levy and Julian Peterson are solid at MLB and LOLB respectively. I'm concerned with if Zack Follett is a good fit. If not, the Lions may have to decide between either CB or ROLB in next year's draft.

The defense should be good at stopping the run. It's the 3rd and long situations I'm worried about. The best thing for the defense will be if the offense can hang on to the ball, since it'll be all on them to win games.

As for the season, I'm predicting a 5-11 year. I suspect they will start off on very bad footing, at some point winding up at 1-5 before things look up. That's mainly due to the fact that four of the first six games are on the road, and the only game that I see is as close to a sure bet is against the St. Louis Rams.

A game-by-game breakdown:

Week 1 - @ Chicago. Possible upset in place. They haven't won at Chicago since 2007, but there's some history. The last time the Lions were on a very long road losing streak (24 consecutive games, they snapped it here in Chicago, opening day 2004). The Lions face former coaches Mike Martz (offense) and Rod Marinelli (defense). Martz is not the brilliant OC he once was and Jay Cutler looked lost in the preseason. But I'm going with Chicago. 0-1.

Week 2 - vs. Eagles. Home opener, the Lions face former 1st Round pick, Ernie Sims. The Lions just didn't think Sims was good enough, especially when you consider Sims was drafted for the Tampa Two Defense. The Eagles are without Donovan McNabb at QB and are going with unknown commodity, Kevin Kolb. Maybe an upset, but I have to give the nod to Philadelphia. 0-2.

Week 3 - @ Vikings. At Mall of America field, the Vikings will again contend for the NFC title. The Lions have little to no chance. Win goes to Minnesota. 0-3.

Week 4 - @ Packers. The Lions haven't won here since 1991. The weather will be warm, but Aaron Rodgers will be hot. Packers win. 0-4.

Week 5 - vs. Rams. The Rams were the only team with a record worse than Detroit's in 2009. (1-15 to 2-14). Who was the only team the Rams were able to beat? Detroit. But Detroit's gotten better and even though the Rams have Sam Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick, I'm going with Detroit. 1-4.

Week 6 - @ Giants. Against Eli Manning, the Giants are not the team they were in 2007. The latter half. But they're better than Detroit. 1-5.

Week 7 - Bye.

Week 8 - vs. Redskins. They now have Mike Shanahan, Donovan McNabb, and a cluster of RBs. But no viable weapons in the receiving corps outside Santana Moss and Chris Cooley. Could be an upset, but I'll take the Redskins. Remember, the Lions snapped their 19-game losing streak in Week 3 against the Skins in Detroit. 1-6.

Week 9 - vs. Jets. The talk going into this game? Matthew Stafford vs. Mark Sanchez. The Jets were one half away from the Super Bowl last year. But I see growing pains for Sanchez this year. Just not in Detroit. 1-7.

Week 10 - @ Bills. Probably will wind up as the worst team in the league by season's end. The Bills have too many questions on both sides of the ball. Trent Edwards, the once and future QB, is on his last leg with the team. If the road losing streak ends, it will end probably no later than here. 2-7.

Week 11 - @ Cowboys. You might think that given all the prognostications about the Boys heading to the Super Bowl, think about this. Their O-line is suspect. They no longer have Flozell Adams (a better cheap shot artist than a LT). Plus, the Lions have had a history of upsetting the Cowboys. But I suspect that won't be the case this year. 2-8.

Week 12 - Patriots on Thanksgiving Day. The Patriots were the team of last decade. Tom Brady is the best in the game, despite the insane insistence of some sports writers that Peyton Manning is. The problem for the Patriots as I see it, the days of Super Bowl glory are probably gone. Brady, despite not holding out for a new contract, is going to be asking for a lot of dough. Left Guard Logan Mankins promised to hold out the entire season until he gets a fatter contract. This is a complete reversal from even five years ago, when everyone who played for the Patriots was willing to accept a smaller contract for an opportunity to win championships. The NFL's a business, sure, and Logan Mankins is only trying to do what a lot of players who have won Super Bowls early in their career have done, start cashing in. But it looks to me as though the culture that once defined the Patriots is gone. But, hey, all that money and a victory in the Thanksgiving Classic should console their crocodile tears. 2-9.

Week 13 - Bears. I suspect that by this time of year, the Bears will begin wearing down as the players get more frustrated with the coaches (mainly the offense with Martz), Jay Cutler's performance will diminish even further. This lack of unity and cohesion benefits the Lions on their own turf. Put this one in the win column. 3-9.

Week 14 - Packers. Aaron Rodgers is expected to have another 4,000 yard passing season. Barring injury to Rodgers, the Lions probably will keep this one closer, but come up just short. If the D-Line can get to Rodgers through a less than spectacular Packer O-Line, then Lions have a shot. 3-10.

Week 15 - @ Buccaneers. The Buccaneers drafted one spot right after the Lions. Tampa Bay took DT Gerald McCoy. The Suh-McCoy debate was about as hotly debated an argument between two players of the same position since Manning/Leaf in 1998, or even Bledsoe/Mirer in 1993. I have nothing against McCoy. It wouldn't shock me if he had a better year than Suh, but I think Suh will have a more productive career. I doubt we'll be talking in ten years about how good one was and how bad the other was like we were the previous two. Lions win. 4-10.

Week 16 - @ Dolphins. I really don't know where this team will be at by season's end. Chad Henne is perhaps the team's answer after a decade's long search for its Dan Marino replacement. Henne has all the tools and intangibles needed to be an All-Pro. I'm looking forward to watching a rivalry develop between Henne and the Jets' (ooh, just saw that pun) Mark Sanchez this decade. This might be the Lions' upset game of the year. 5-10.

Week 17 - Vikings. Ugh, the Vikings are still too good. Or, are they? Unless Favre starts handing the ball off 60 times in a game, I think he will have been worn down by the grind of a 16-game season. Plus, he's at the Lions. This game will be closer, but it's another win for the Vikings. 5-11.

This Detroit team is a team that can finish 8-8 (if you count @ Bears, Redskins, and Eagles). What I do predict is another losing season and a Top 10 draft pick come April (some 5-11 teams wind up in the Top 5 of the draft order, which can only help).

Fans want to see improvement in the number of wins. Real fans of football shall enjoy some of that, and more of watching these players develop into a competitive organization by 2011 and 2012.

Barring a strike.

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