The Detroit Lions remain one of the four NFL teams that have never made it to the Super Bowl and will continue to be in that number until they’re able to actually win a playoff game.
Detroit actually made the playoffs in 2016 but thanks to a season ending three-game losing streak, had to settle for a wild-card berth and a trip to the hostile environment of CenturyLink Field in Seattle. By the time it was over, the Lions were on the losing end of a 26-6 score and extended their nine-game losing streak of playoff games.
Other than the last four games, it was a great year for Detroit but their long-suffering fans will surely lament a 9-4 record and the inside track at the NFC North title slipping through their hands.
The Lions hopes begin and end with quarterback Matthew Stafford. The 29-year-old has quietly put together one hell of a career in Detroit, some would say that it’s been a terrible waste of a career for a guy who really deserves better than to rot in the NFL’s version of Purgatory.
Stafford had another 4,000 yard plus season, his sixth in a row which should put him in elite company if he played anywhere other than Detroit.
Stafford’s favorite target Calvin “Megatron” Johnson shocked the football world with his early retirement last season, prematurely cutting short a potential Hall of Fame career but in a recent report, Johnson expressed frustration that he was stuck on a team without a prayer of winning a Super Bowl and his being “fed up” led to his hanging up his cleats.
While it’s impossible to know what Stafford may be thinking it would be hard to believe that he doesn’t harbor some of the same feelings and is ready for a new contract. The native Texan would be an ideal fit in quarterback-challenged Houston but as with Johnson, the organization would rather see him retire than wear a uniform outside of the silver and Honolulu blue.
One of the enduring failures of the Lions has been a woefully deficient running game that has never been the same since the days of another premature retiree: Barry Sanders.
2017 will likely be another year of the dreaded running back by committee which effectively means that you have no running back. Ameer Abdullah will likely get the starting nod after missing all but two games last year with a foot injury. Theo Riddick carried the load out of necessity but was also injured.
Neither one will be a serious threat which means that Stafford will the throwing the hell out of the ball once again this year and hope that his offensive line can keep him healthy.
Despite the retirement of Johnson, the Lions actually fielded a decent receiving corps led by Golden Tate, free agent signee Marvin Johnson and tight end Eric Ebron. They also added Northern Illinois speedster Kenny Golladay via the draft.
The offense will have to score because the defense is mediocre bordering on lousy. The Lions were 18th in total defense but that doesn’t tell the story. The team gave up an NFL record in opponent’s pass completion percentage (.727) and the team did little to improve.
The return to health of pass rusher Ziggy Anash will help a bit but opponents will nickle and dime the Lions to death again this year. The schedule includes games against quarterbacks Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers (twice), Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and Jameis Winston, all of which will feast on the team’s inability to stop the pass.
So, what does it all mean?
It all comes down to Matt Stafford and whether his arm is enough to overcome the team’s laundry list of deficiencies.
Don’t look for that playoff losing streak to end in 2017 nor the Lions to even make the postseason.