Are the Detroit Lions For Real Or Just Pretenders?
The Detroit Lions are fresh off a last-second, comeback victory against the Atlanta Falcons, which gives them a record of 6-2 and a one game lead at the top of their division. So why would I be saying that they don't belong there? An argument I look to tackle in the next few paragraphs.
Lets start with the game against the Falcons I just mentioned. On paper it looks good, the Lions came back from 21-0 down at halftime with a 48-yard game winning field goal from Matt Prater to secure the 22-21 win at Wembley stadium. However if you watched the game, I was lucky enough to be at Wembley, you could easily see that this was a performance that left a lot to be desired.
Firstly the absence of Reggie Bush for the Detroit run game means that the Lions are 31st in the league in yards per game, only the Oakland Raiders are worse at running the ball. Which means right now the Lions are one of the most one-dimentional offences in the league, relying on the arm of Matthew Stafford and their ninth ranked passing game.
Which is an issue, highlighted in the Falcons game. Stafford made several, actually, a lot of terrible throws. Not even on difficult passes, check down routes, screens, there were balls thrown at receivers' feet, throws miles overhead and some just completely off target. Don't get me wrong, Stafford has one of the best arms in the league, his decision making on the other hand is questionable. Also without Calvin Johnson on the field Stafford refused to make any deep throws, his strength. The only one I can remember seeing was the touchdown to Golden Tate, apart from that it was a lot of small gains here and there.
The next thing that concerns me is the amount of injuries the Lions have going down the stretch. They have coped pretty well so far, but losing all three of your tight ends has got to catch up with you soon right? Calvin Johnson's health will also be telling of how far Detroit go into the post-season. He is without doubt the best receiver in the league and without him, all due respect to Tate, the Lions' passing game is incredibly average.
The schedule isn't the easiest either, so far the Lions have handled business in the divisional clashes, but with two games against the Bears and Packers remaining with a depleted squad, it will be hard to keep that momentum going. Not to mention games at both Arizona and New England.
I would love the Lions to prove me wrong, I've got a lot of respect for them, Calvin Johnson is one of my favourite players in the league and their defensive line is one of the most disgustingly good around. But in my opinion Detroit will struggle from here, the injuries and schedule will slow them down. I still think they will get nine or ten wins, but a playoff run? I think they just aren't complete enough of a team to contend with the NFC heavyweights.