We’re looking in-depth at each team during their bye week.
Right on pace
This was the year everything was supposed to come together for the Lions. It has.
There is a sense this team may not be “for real” after back-to-back home losses, but that’s silly. They are 6-2 and on track for a playoff spot.
They are good enough to convincingly beat teams when they are down (Chiefs, Broncos, Bears), but not good enough to put together four quarters most weeks. Detroit is 3-2 in one-score games.
Great free agent class
Lions G.M. Martin Mayhew doesn’t get enough credit for rebuilding this Lions roster. He had a terrific year signing free agents without spending huge coin.
Stephen Tulloch and Justin Durant have helped to solidify a once-embarrassing linebacker group. Cornerback Eric Wright has played very well at a bargain basement price. This defense is no longer just about the line. They compete at every level of the defense.
Can’t run, can’t stop the run
Second round pick Mikel LeShore was lost in camp and the Lions never found a power back to replace him. Jahvid Best started the season well, but he’s not a workhorse back and is out indefinitely with a concussion.
The Lions are 27th in the league in rushing. It hasn’t killed them because they play from behind so often, but Detroit will struggle to close out good teams if they get a lead.
The Lions also struggle to stop the run. They are 30th in rushing yards allowed and 30th in yards-per-carry allowed. Opposing teams take advantage of Detroit’s aggressive line.
The Lions are very tough to pass against, though. Only one team gives up fewer yards-per-pass.
The Lions leads the league in turnover margin at +13. They have 18 takeaways and only five giveaways. Second in the league: San Francisco.
The main question for Matthew Stafford this year: Could he stay healthy? He has done that, and continued to develop into a quality starting quarterback.
Stafford can get erratic with his accuracy. Sometimes nothing works except “Throw it up for Megatron.” But these are quibbles.
Stafford can deliver the ball from any angle like few quarterbacks in the league. He’s thrown 19 touchdowns to only four interceptions. He’s legit.
(Calvin Johnson, by the way, is realizing all his potential with 804 yards and 11 scores.)
The conversation regarding whether Ndamukong Suh is a “dirty player” has helped to obscure the fact that Suh isn’t having a great season. We’d argue that he’s not playing at Pro Bowl level. It’s not just that his “splash plays” are down. He can disappear for stretches and sometimes be a liability in the run game.
Sure, he sometimes “attracts attention” from the offense. Great players overcome that.
Headed for a Wild Card
It says a lot that Lions fans were booing their home team throughout their loss to the Falcons. Expectations have been raised for this 6-2 squad.
The schedule over the second half is difficult. They play Green Bay twice. They also have road games in Chicago, Oakland, and New Orleans. Home games against Carolina, San Diego, and Minnesota are more manageable.
4-4 or 5-3 over the last eight games is reasonable. That should get Detroit to the playoffs, which would make this year a resounding success for the Lions.