PFT preseason power rankings No. 15: Detroit Lions

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The Lions are coming off a surprise playoff season, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a lot of optimism heading into 2017.

In fact, the optimism that abounded in Detroit mostly came to a halt over the end of last season, when the Lions lost their last three regular-season games to back into the playoffs and then got stomped by the Seahawks in the wild card round. Because of that, there’s not much playoff buzz around the Lions this year.

So can the Lions be a surprise playoff team for the second year in a row? Let’s have a look.

Biggest positive change: Detroit’s defense struggled all season, but the Lions think they got a lot better on draft day. First-round linebacker Jarrad Davis should start on Day One, second-round cornerback Teez Tabor will get plenty of playing time as a rookie, and fourth-round linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin, fifth-round defensive back Jamal Agnew and sixth-round defensive tackle Jeremiah Ledbetter can all provide depth. Mere regression to the mean suggests the Lions’ defense should be quite a bit better, and the infusion of young talent looks like a real positive.

Biggest negative change: The loss of starting left tackle Taylor Decker for at least the first month of the season, and possibly much more, was a huge blow. The Lions made Decker their first-round pick last year with the thought that he’d protect Matthew Stafford’s blind side for years to come. Now they may have to rely on a castoff like ex-Ram Greg Robinson or ex-Bill Cyrus Kouandjio. On the right side of the line, the Lions think they got better by signing tackle Ricky Wagner and guard T.J. Lang to replace the departed Riley Reiff and Larry Warford. But at least until Decker returns from his shoulder injury, it’s hard to see how the Lions can feel confident in their offensive line this season.

We’d like to crack a beer with . . . Matthew Stafford, to find out where the quarterback really thinks his future lies. Stafford is heading into the final season of his contract, and so far it doesn’t appear that he and the team are all that close on a new deal. Is Stafford committed to the Lions for the long haul? Or would he like to shop his services to the highest bidder in March?

Coaching thermometer: Jim Caldwell’s seat is a lot hotter than you’d expect for a guy who’s made the playoffs two of his first three seasons. He’s heading into the final season of his contract, and his boss, G.M. Bob Quinn, may want to bring in his own coach if Caldwell can’t get to the playoffs for the third time.

How they could prove us wrong: If the Lions’ offensive line can keep Stafford upright and the young players on defense make an immediate impact, it’s easy to see them being better than we’re expecting. If not, it’s easy to see them being worse.

35 responses to “PFT preseason power rankings No. 15: Detroit Lions

  1. GET THE DEAL DONE ALREADY! Stafford needs to be a Lion for life. We have already seen Suh take his talents to South Beach. I would rather not see that again.

    Who knows how the Lions will be. One thing is for sure though, this team will live and die with Stafford. If he’s off the roster, your looking at a 5 win team at most.

  2. Thanks this means we’re definitely making the playoffs. You consistently write us off and we consistently prove you wrong. And to all of you who want to talk trash let me ask you this: has your team been in the playoffs 2 of the last 4 seasons? Because if not maybe you should just be quiet

  3. spartanlegend says:
    Jul 18, 2017 3:06 PM
    Thanks this means we’re definitely making the playoffs. You consistently write us off and we consistently prove you wrong. And to all of you who want to talk trash let me ask you this: has your team been in the playoffs 2 of the last 4 seasons? Because if not maybe you should just be quiet

    Also a lions here fan but this review was pretty fair and not rude in all honesty

  4. Yes, my team has actually been to the Super Bowl in two of the last four seasons. Thanks for asking!

  5. Stafford’s a very decent QB, a good guy and should be re-signed — even if his cranium is the size of a bosu ball.

  6. Hey MDS – you forgot one important * on all of this. They backed into the playoffs with three losses and got stomped AFTER Stafford hurt his throwing hand. What happened before that? He was on the short list of MVP candidates. Keep doubting what Stafford can do and the roster GM Quinn has quietly put together the last two years. They are going to surprise a lot of people this year

  7. “This means WE are definitely making the playoffs. You consistently write US off and WE consistently prove you wrong.”

    We. Us.

    lololololol Hysterical!

  8. They Won way too many close games last year. All be it they won them but Lady Luck can only take you so far. 8-8

  9. The Lions have no shot as long as they have no ground game. 49 rushing yards in a playoff game that’s close for 3 quarters against a good team is your issue.

  10. My father-in-law is a lifelong Michigan resident in his 60s. I have seen enough Lions games over the years to know there is something bizarre, almost otherworldly about their ability to lose winnable games.

    After watching them lose at home to the Titans in week 2 last season, I texted him “what is this team’s problem?” His reply, “the final score, most of the time.”

  11. vikingboy26 says:
    Jul 18, 2017 4:14 PM

    There is NO WAY Detroit is better than Minnesota!
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    smstonerock says:
    Jul 18, 2017 4:33 PM

    Vikingboy, did you forget we swept you last year?
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    AND had a better overall record?

    AND went to the playoffs?

    AND didn’t quit on their coach?

  12. Of the 16 teams in the NFC PFT has 9 ranked below this spot and 6 above it. That means they expect the Lions to not make the playoffs. For now I can see ranking the Boys, Giants, Packers, Falcons and Hawks ahead of Detroit but with a healthy Stafford in a contract year I’d take the Lions over the Bucs for that last slot.

  13. Continue to write off the Lions at your own peril.
    This team is very close to putting it all together and challenging the Packers for the NFC North again.

    And as most of you know, you only need to punch your ticket to the tournament to make a run.
    I love the opportunity that stands before this team.

  14. karras71 says:
    ———————————————-
    It’s so easy to write them off because they have never been written in… 1 playoff win in 60 years.

  15. smstonerock, did you forget that despite losing 4 LTs and many other players, the Lions BARELY beat the Vikes in both games, AND yet only finished ONE GAME better. And that was last year! What improvements did the team make in the offseason? Hmmm? We’ll see, but my money is on the Vikes! Same old sorry arse Lions!

  16. The Almighty Cabbage, 2017 is NOT 2016. Otherwise, I could point to 2015 when the Vikes were NFC North Champs!

  17. Tampa missed the playoffs last year while beating atlanta, Seattle, and Kansas City while playing Dallas very well and losing to an Oakland team that we would have beat had we a better field goal kicker. Detroit on the other hand LOST to Houston, Green Bay, Dallas, and the giants. Tampa will make the postseason this year and does deserve to be ahead of Detroit; schedule might be tough but we beat 3 playoff teams last year and should win at least 10 games this year

  18. @vikingsboy

    Stop. You’ll know you lost the season when your reach for Riley Reiff gets Sam Bradford killed. Turnstile. Get ready.

  19. Stafford isn’t going anywhere. He’s elite-ish, certainly better than half the starters in the league. Lions will back up the money truck for him, because there can’t possibly be another organization in the NFL as stupid and short-sighted as the Redskins.

  20. I was wondering when the Lions would show up on the list. I take 15th as a compliment, considering some of the teams they are ranked ahead of.

    To look at the optimistic side of the Lions team, first off they have Matthew Stafford, who is a legit franchise QB.

    The most exciting changes in the offseason are on the O-line. For some of us Lions fans, it’s really satisfying to finally see a GM who puts a lot of resources into the O-line. I’m not too worried about the Decker injury. The two studs they signed in FA go well with young ascending players at C and LG. If LT plays even mediocre, they’ll still have a good line.

    And this brings us to the running game. Although I think they have a bit of an odd RB combination (Abdullah and Riddick are both finesse runners who are on the small side), I have optimism that the Lions, with their improved O-line, will finally be able to run the ball at an above average level. heck, even an average level would be a BIG improvement! Also, shout out to Zack Zenner, who has proven he can play in this league!

    The defense is banking on star DE Ziggy Ansah returning to form. He had a down year while hobbled with an ankle injury all season. If he’s healthy, look for another 10+ sack season.

    CB Darius Slay is another blue-chip defender on their defense. He’s not an INT machine, but take a closer look at his stats and you’ll soon understand that he is actually one of the best CB’s in the league.

    That makes two blue-chip talents at the two most important positions on a defense.

    The rest of their secondary is solid, led by S Glover Quinn. the player who brings about the most hope is second-year nickel S Miles Killebrew, who had a very good rookie season (in a limited role, but still, he excelled in it). If he can take more responsibilities this year and take it to the next level, that will greatly improve the D.

    The new rookie LB Davis needs to play well right away because the LB’s were garbage last year. Tahir Whitehead was poor as the MLB last year, but he moves back to OLB this year, and hopefully, he returns to playing decent like he did before. FA acquisition Worrilow brings starting experience and is a welcome addition.

    The biggest ? is the rest of the D-line. Last years 2nd round pick DT Ashawn Robinson was their best DT and looks to be a solid starter, though his pass-rush is marginal. Ngata is another year older and he needs to continue to play solid, because their depth guys are nobody’s.

    DE Hyder needs to prove his team leading 8 sacks weren’t a mirage.

    The rest of the D-line was essentially allowed to hit free-agency, and were replaced with similar types, unheralded, underperforming FA’s, who they hope will be better than the guys they allowed to walk. These new guys NEED to be better in order for the sack and INT starved defense to play at a higher level.

    If things go right, they could make the playoffs again.

    On the negative look at things, their WR core isn’t all that exciting and lacks any proven depth, TE Ebron will continue to underperform on his 10th overall pick status, the RB’s are just average, and the OL won’t gell quick enough and there will be some setbacks with players (TJ Lang possible lingering injury, C Travis Swanson concussion, etc).

    On the D, Ansah won’t be able to get sacks like he did when Suh was taking double teams up the middle, the rookie LB won’t be good enough soon enough, Whitehead will still suck, and Worrilow will just be pedestrian, and Glover Quinn, their next best player in the secondary behind Slay, is getting up there in age, and the rest of the CB’s won’t play up to snuff behind a DLine that can’t get any pressure.

    If things go sour like this, the playoffs are out of the question.

  21. The Almighty Cabbage says:
    Jul 18, 2017 4:56 PM
    vikingboy26 says:
    Jul 18, 2017 4:14 PM

    There is NO WAY Detroit is better than Minnesota!
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    smstonerock says:
    Jul 18, 2017 4:33 PM

    Vikingboy, did you forget we swept you last year?
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    AND had a better overall record?

    AND went to the playoffs?

    AND didn’t quit on their coach?
    —————————————-
    It does you absolutely no good to try and reason or discuss anything logically with Viking fans.
    They are truly a simple minded, delusional bunch.
    It’s just one of the reasons the entire league ridicules and laughs at their fan base.

  22. vikingboy26 says:
    Jul 18, 2017 5:55 PM

    The Almighty Cabbage, 2017 is NOT 2016. Otherwise, I could point to 2015 when the Vikes were NFC North Champs!
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Quitting on the coach can’t be fixed. Ever. It will be 2016 in Minnesota until the day Zimmer joins Tice, Childress, and Frazier on the “best coach in the NFL” scrap pile.

    Zimmer no longer controls the fate of the players, the players control the fate of Zimmer… and they know it. As soon as Zimmer starts screaming again, the players will quit again… and Zimmer will be gone.

    It’s not that I want that to happen. I’d like Spielman and Zimmer to run the show over there for life but I can’t think of a single time where a coach recovered from his players quitting on him.

  23. Caldwell is a spectator… he was just as surprised they made the playoffs. Imagine the possibilities with a true savvy head coach at the helm.

    When will ‘making the playoffs’ stop being the celebrated accomplishment for my fellow Lions fans?

    There’s that thing called a LOMBARDI TROPHY that teams get for winning the SUPER BOWL.

    How bout we start aiming a bit higher and expecting a bit more, eh?

  24. I’m a Lions fan but reading through these comments makes me even more embarrassed than I usually am to admit that.

    Stafford is NOT a franchise QB. The best thing they could do is let him play out the contract, then if he shows some ability to actually beat good teams this year then you franchise him in 2018, while grooming Brad Kaaya. Stafford is 5-46 against winning teams in his career. No, that is not a misprint. 5-46! I told my Cleveland Browns fan buddy that and he still hasn’t stopped laughing.

    If the Lions move on from Stafford in 2018 or 2019, sure, they will be worse off for a couple of years, but better in the long run for not paying him like a franchise QB when he isn’t one. If they’re happy going 8-8 or 9-7 every year with an occasional playoff appearance with a quick exit, then by all means extend him. Hopefully Bob Quinn is smarter than that.

  25. The Lions FINALLY have what I believe to be the most important piece of any NFL franchise. A general manager who knows what he’s doing. Above average contributions from last year’s draft class, and I see the same thing this year. Specifically from Davis, Tabor, and Golladay. All 3 will be day 1 starters. Bank it. Quinn knows how to evaluate talent. I’ll take Bill Belichik’s word for it. The moves in FA on the o line have been fantastic, getting Wagner and Lang for LESS MONEY than what it would’ve cost to keep Reiff and Watford.

    All that said, Detroit is in serious danger because of that defensive line and the recent suspensions of Thornton and Bryant. The interior shows promise, but my goodness Ansah needs help! At this point, it’s not crazy to kick the tires on 37 yr old Dwight Freeney IMO. Thank goodness the 2ndary should be improved, as a lot will be on their shoulders. Does Detroit challenge Green Bay this year? I just don’t know…..for the beating Caldwell takes in the media for game management, the guy consistently does a lot with a little. His players never ever gi

  26. Most times after a decent year, Lions fans talk and think that they are going to continue on an upward path and be good. m I’m not seeing that this year. Most expect low mediocrity or worse. We shall see.

  27. I wasn’t happy with the Caldwell hiring, because he was awful in Indianapolis and he made the Ravens a worse team, statistically.

    But I believe in some stability. I believe that if Mike Tomlin has a bad year, you stay the course, and keep him around. I believe free agents like knowing who their coach will be in 2 years.

    And I believe in the Quinn, Caldwell, Cooter, and Austin regime. As a Lions fan, when was the last time we could honestly say that all 4 of those positions were filled by competent people?

  28. Hawknballs says:
    Jul 18, 2017 4:46 PM

    The Lions have no shot as long as they have no ground game. 49 rushing yards in a playoff game that’s close for 3 quarters against a good team is your issue.
    ____________________

    No. A very good quarterback with a damaged throwing hand for the last four games of the season and the playoffs. That was the issue.

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