2013 NFC North Division Preview: Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions have the talent, but do they have the coaching to harness that talent and make a run at the division and a playoff spot?
Projected 2013 Finish: 3rd NFC North
Projected 2013 Record: 8-8
2012 Record: 4-12
If there was a coach who deserved to be fired last year it was Jim Schwartz. A few years ago, the Lions were a young, up-and-coming talented group with loads of potential. They surprised everyone and made the playoffs in 2011, then laid the proverbial egg in 2012 with a 4-12 record. There is little doubt in my mind that this team, if harnessed correctly by the right coach, would be a playoff contender every year. Detroit needed discipline two years ago and in 2013 the same goes. I'm not so sure Schwartz is the one that can give it to them.
The offensive starters on this team are drastically different than last season, especially in the trenches. Of their five opening day starters in 2012 only C Dominic Raiola and RG Rob Sims return. Replacing three starting offensive linemen is a tall task. Especially when protecting an injury prone franchise QB is essential. Stafford was sacked only 29 times in 15 starts in 2012. (Aaron Rodgers led the league in sacks with 51 in 16 starts and Eli Manning was last on that list with 19 sacks in 16 starts.)
Stafford threw for over 5,000 yards in 2011 and almost did it again last season(4,967 yards). He would have done it had he not been injured in a game against Tennessee early in the season. Having the best WR in football doesn't hurt, but not having a balanced running attack does. The Lions hope to remedy their anemic running game in 2013 with the addition of RB Reggie Bush. He should be a positive weapon out of the backfield; running and catching the ball and taking pressure off of Calvin Johnson down the field. However, the Lions desperately need a consistent No. 2 receiver. There have been rumors that they will try to trade for one before the start of the regular season.
Ndamukong Suh anchors this defense once again. The Lions lost both starting defensive ends from last season and the 13.0 sacks they totaled between them. But they took defensive end and BYU standout Ezekiel Ansah with the fifth overall pick in this years draft and have big plans putting him on the line with DT Nick Fairely and Suh.
There was a revolving door of sorts in a secondary that had many injury problems in 2012. CB Chris Houston has started for the Lions since 2010 and returns as the veteran of a group that is almost completely new. Detroit went out and signed starting SS Glover Quin away from the Houston Texans. There will be plenty of opportunities for interceptions in the secondary as the defensive front should apply a good amount of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. It''l be interesting to see if this secondary can come together with the new faces that will be starting. If they step up to the task, the whole defense could be a dominant one this season.
The Lions can only improve from last years dismal season. They have a plethora of talent on both sides of the ball to contend in the NFC North, but their schedule is tough and facing each division opponent twice will not help their chances. I cannot see them making the playoffs this year.