Marc and Ben are back with their takes on the NFL on Nickelodeon debut and the first round of playoff football. Also, Marc gives his list of the top head coach candidates.
Schedule: CHI, @GB, @ARI, NO, BYE, @JAX, @ATL, IND, @MIN, WAS, @CAR, HOU, @CHI, GB, @TEN, TB, MIN
Additions: S Duron Harmon (Trade), OL Halapoulivaati Vaitai (FA), LB Jamie Collins (FA), CB Desmond Trufant (FA), DL Nick Williams (FA), DL Danny Shelton (FA), LB Reggie Ragland (FA),
WR Geronimo Allison (FA), CB Jeff Okudah (Draft), RB D’Andre Swift (Draft)
Losses: CB Darius Slay (Trade), OL Graham Glasgow (FA), EDGE Devon Kennard (FA), DL A’Shawn Robinson (FA), OL Ricky Wagner (FA), P Sam Martin (FA), TE Logan Thomas (FA), RB J.D. McKissic (FA), CB Rashaan Melvin (FA), DL Mike Daniels (FA), S Tavon Wilson (FA), DL John Atkins (Opt-out), WR Geronimo Allison (Opt-out)
Matt Patricia should be fired. Let me just get that out of the way. Matt Stafford is the only reason I have the Lions winning six games. I have little-to-no faith in the rest of the roster and coaching staff.
Stafford has a proven track record of putting the team on his back, though. Prior to Patricia’s tenure, the Lions had back-to-back 9-7 seasons, so 6-10 certainly isn’t out of the question. Plus, they were 3-4-1 last year before 9’s injury. Of course, they didn’t win a game without him, so this team will only go as far as its quarterback goes.
Stafford isn’t the only reason the passing game excels. Receivers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones are a great outside duo while Danny Amendola is a solid option in the slot. Jones is good for a couple monster games a year and Golladay is good now with an even brighter future ahead. Rookie tight ends never do much, so there’s no reason to sour on T.J. Hockenson’s potential. The 23-year-old could be in for a second-year breakout. D’Andre Swift is a nice option out of the backfield as well. With the signing of Adrian Peterson, the rookie isn’t likely to get many carries, though.
Kerryon Johnson will get in the mix as well, so this is pretty much the definition of a running back by committee. The offensive line ahead of them has a good foundation, but they’re down two starters from last year. Both new guys are on the right side, too, so this unit could end up being pretty lopsided. Rookie third-rounder Jonah Jackson is the starting guard while longtime Eagles reserve Halapoulivaati Vaitai will line up at tackle. There’s both risk and potential here.
The defense features much more of the former than the latter, as Patricia and GM Bob Quinn are still devoted to acquiring every ex-Patriot possible. It hasn’t worked out great so far, but you have to respect the commitment. This year’s batch isn’t likely to flip the script. The crown jewel of the bunch, linebacker Jamie Collins, bombed the first time he left New England while Danny Shelton and Duron Harmon are hardly team-changing additions.
Besides their lingering Patriot fandom, Detroit made a concerted effort to get better across the board. They beefed up the interior defensive line, added a couple intriguing LBs, and completely overhauled the secondary.
With that being said, it’s hard to see this being a great unit. Even average might be a stretch. For as great as Trey Flowers is, you won’t get very far with him as your best defensive player. And while the defensive line looks solid, the linebackers are worrisome. The secondary could be a weakness as well, with the Lions relying on a rookie and aging veteran at corner. Jeff Okudah locking up top receivers from day one is a tough sell. Same goes for a major career revival for Desmond Trufant.
As per usual, Detroit is going to have to dominate through the air to be competitive. While he’s certainly capable of that, Stafford’s health is worth monitoring. Back injuries are no joke, and his was bad enough that he had to be placed on IR. Lingering problems are a definite possibility. If the issues persist, the Lions will bottom out again. That should mean the end of the Patricia era with an outside chance of Stafford joining him. Sometimes teams just feel they need to make a change, whether it’s warranted or not. To end on a more positive note, this team could snag a wildcard spot if everything clicks. Even a playoff win is a possibility.
What’s your record prediction for the Lions? What did I get right or wrong? Sound off in the comments.