2019 NFL Power Rankings:
No. 26 Detroit Lions
Before last year, the Lions boasted a winning record in three of their previous four seasons. They also hadn’t won fewer than seven games since 2012. After breaking the team’s streak in his first year as head coach in 2018, Roger Goodell agitator Matt Patricia enters his second season in the D with much higher expectations. Detroit isn’t a bad team on paper. The roster is insanely talented but equally as youthful. With that said, the franchise remains a couple years of mediocrity away from contending for a division title, much less a Super Bowl.
Matthew Stafford returns for his 11th season as Detroit’s starting quarterback after a year in which he totaled less than 4,000 passing yards for the first time since his rookie campaign in 2009. The lack of success meant changes on the offensive side of the ball, as the Lions hired Russell Wilson’s former professor, Darrell Bevell, to fill the vacancy at coordinator. Most of you remember Bevell from blowing Super Bowl XLIX. You know when the Seahawks stood 1 yard away from winning their second consecutive Super Bowl before Professor Fancy Pants outthought himself by calling a pass play instead of handing the ball to a guy nicknamed “Beast Mode.” Despite arguably the biggest blunder in Big Game history, Bevell stood as the brains behind several well-balanced offenses. In Detroit, he inherits arguably the strongest arm in the game and a buffet of weapons.
The Lions snapped one of the most embarrassing streaks in NFL history in 2018 when rookie tailback Kerryon Johnson became the first Detroit player to rush for at least 100 yards in 70 games. Like deadass, an actual professional football organization went five years without a breathing organism on its payroll exceeding the century mark. I’ve seen teams hire random running backs off the street for five years and this still serves as uncharted territory. Now Johnson isn’t Barry Sanders by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s damn good. Don’t be surprised if he rushes for a stack behind an offensive line that led the NFC North in run-blocking grade a year ago according to Pro Football Focus.
To give Stafford a Gronk-like presence in the passing game, the Lions spent their first-round pick on T.J. Hockenson, a freak of nature out of Iowa (aka Tight End U). He joins a loaded pass-catching corps consisting of Marvin Jones, a future top-five wideout in Kenny Golladay and slot-specialist Danny Amendola. Stafford has enough talent surrounding him to return to form, which means the Lions shouldn’t have any problem lighting up the scoreboard in 2019.
Despite the departure of the oft-injured Ziggy Ansah, the team boasts a star-studded defensive line featuring one of the game’s premier run stoppers in Snacks Harrison, a gem of a draft pick in Da’Shawn Hand, $90 million-man Trey Flowers and Pro Bowler Mike Daniels. With a massive group of studs up front, the linebackers will have free rein to roam from sideline to sideline, and the defensive backs should benefit from the pass rush.
Verdict: Youth is the only thing stopping the Lions from taking home the NFC North crown in 2019. The growing pains are expected. Just be patient. 6-10.