The Detroit Lions enter the 2018 season in a bid to end the second longest drought in the NFL without a playoff victory. Detroit last won in the post-season in 1991, only the Cincinnati Bengals have a longer active streak.
The Lions’ patience with Jim Caldwell ended after missing out on a post-season berth in the last campaign. The NFC North outfit won nine matches, but it was not enough to reach the playoffs, resulting in the departure of the head coach.
General manager Bob Quinn used his connection with the New England Patriots to hire Matt Patricia. The 43-year-old served as the Patriots’ defensive coordinator in their wins in Super Bowl 49 and 51 along with their defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl 52.
Patricia has already made a number of changes, including the hiring of defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni to replace Teryl Austin. However, the offense has been more-or-less untouched as the head coach seeks to keep Matt Stafford in his rhythm with Jim Bob Cooter.
The Lions have not won the NFC North since the divisions were readjusted in the 2002 campaign. With the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings for company, Patricia faces a huge challenge to improve the team and win their first division title since 1993.
Stafford continued to display his quality as a quarterback, putting forward arguably the best season of his career. The 30-year-old has been operating in the fringes of being a top-10 quarterback in the NFL, although he has lacked the playoff surge to put in him in the upper echelon at the position. Stafford threw for 4,446 yards along with 29 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions. Stafford had a quarterback rating of 99.3 – the best of his career. The success of the team will be tied to Stafford given the club’s lack of success running the ball.
The Lions have gone 68 matches without a 100-yard rusher in a single match. The last player to achieve the feat was Reggie Bush in 2013. Since then Detroit have had nothing out of their running game, putting huge pressure on Stafford to win matches single-handed.
Patricia has moved to address the issue by signing LeGarrette Blount, who has won back-to-back Super Bowls with the Patriots and the Eagles. Kerryon Johnson was selected in the second round of the 2018 Draft following an impressive campaign with the Auburn Tigers. Behind a strong offensive line, further boosted by the selection of Frank Ragnow in the first round of the Draft, there is hope that the Lions can end their drought. It could be the first of their milestones to reach in order to end their playoff misery.
There’s talent in the receiving corps led by Golden Tate. Tate has been the reliable option for Stafford around the field, while Marvin Jones and TJ Jones are big-play options down the sideline. However, the man to watch is Kenny Golladay. He caught the eye with a number of impressive catches for 477 and three touchdowns in his rookie term. Golladay could be on line for a breakout campaign should he learn the lessons and improve from his experiences in 2017.
This will be the area under most scrutiny under Patricia. He comes into the game fresh off seeing his Patriots’ unit concede 41 points to the Eagles in the Super Bowl. Although his defenses in New England gave up yards they were more often than not in the top five in the NFL for fewest points allowed. The Lions were 27th in yards allowed and 21st in points allowed in the league last term, therefore Patricia and Pasqualoni have a challenge on their hands to reverse the fortunes of the unit.
Detroit were able to retain the services of their leading pass-rusher Ezekiel Ansah by placing the franchise tag on the defensive end. Anthony Zettel has shown promise in his first two seasons, but generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks has to be the priority for the defense. Da’Shawn Hand and A’Shawn Robinson will have the opportunity to team up in the middle of the line to stop the run. The duo played alongside each other at the Alabama Crimson Tide and will now aim to replicate their form at the highest level. Robinson was solid in his rookie term, but will need to kick on to become a dominant force in the middle of the line.
Jarrad Davis was impressive after being selected in the first round of the 2017 Draft. Communication is vital for a defense such as Patricia’s and he will be the key cog in ensuring that every player knows his duties along with being a tackling machine. Darius Slay has established himself as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. He has to maintain that level of form as he will likely shadow the number one targets of opposing teams should Patricia continue his strategy from his Patriots days.
With the Packers and the Vikings for company in the NFC North, the division crown looks beyond the Lions at this stage of their development. Both of their rivals have quality quarterbacks in the form of Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins, with the latter joining Minnesota in the off-season.
Don’t expect Patricia to have an overnight success in Detroit due to the talent in the division. Back them to stay the course and win eight matches or over at odds of -111 with 888Sport, but not to reach the playoffs at -350 . An ambitious shout could be to back them for the NFC North crown at +650 at TopBet, but only for value.
Stafford has thrown over 4,000 yards on a consistent basis and finished third behind Tom Brady and Philip Rivers last term. It would not be out of the question for him to surpass the two players and the rest of the quarterbacks in the NFL. Back him at odds of +1200 at BetOnline to achieve the feat. He threw 29 touchdowns last term and has been floating at around that mark for the past six seasons.
Take him at odds of -110 to throw 27 touchdowns or more with BetOnline, and under 13 interceptions at -115 . Tate has recorded back-to-back seasons of 1,000 receiving yards. He has been Stafford’s primary target since the retirement of Calvin Johnson. Back him to continue his fine form for the Lions by taking the over on 976 yards or more at -120 with BetOnline and over five touchdowns at -115 .
Detroit Lions To Win Eight Matches Or More
Matt Stafford To Lead The NFL In Passing Yards
Matt Stafford To Throw 27 Touchdowns Or More
Golden Tate To Record Over 976 Receiving Yards