NFL 2012 Season Preview: The NFC North – Detroit Lions

Matthew Stafford may soon supplant Philip Rivers as the best quarterback nobody talks about. Of course, having Calvin Johnson as your top wideout doesn’t hurt, but Stafford could probably launch a ball into orbit if he really tried.

2011 wrap-up:

  1. The Lions have gone from 0-16  in 2008 to the playoffs in 2011. Say what you will about head coach Jim Schwartz’ likeability factor—he and general manager Martin Mayhew have come a long way in four years.
  2. Unfortunately, three of the draft picks that became starters (DT Nick Fairley, RB Mikel Leshoure and WR Titus Young) can’t seem to stay out of significant trouble. Then there is DT Ndamukong Suh: a huge talent with a very bad reputation as a dirty player.
  3. The team played the New Orleans Saints in the postseason. They played in the Super Dome—with a predictable loss. However, the roar has definitely been “restored” in the Motor City.
  4. Stafford won the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year, proving what the Lions thought when they gave him over $40 million as the first overall pick.
  5. If young WR Titus Young can stay out of fights, he could very well draw enough coverage so that there would be only two DBs draped all over Calvin Johnson as opposed to three. Not that it appears to matter, actually.
  6. The Lions were infamously without a rushing attack in 2011. They re-signed Kevin Smith after Leshoure tore his Achilles. They should just start Smith: he’s the only one who seems able to stick around and produce. Although Keiland Williams comes in every couple of weeks and makes a big play. Jahvid Best is an intriguing scatback who is still recovering from a concussion received almost a year ago. Hmmmm.
  7. Detroit has two tight ends who are really, really good. They’re not Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez perhaps, but they help keep Stafford healthy and they can both contribute as receivers. What more do you want out of your TEs?
  8. Do I need to tell anyone what a fantastic kicker Jason Hanson is? Who cares if he’s 105 years old.

2012 offseason:

  1. Leshoure made eyes roll by hurting his hamstring early in the offseason. However, he played in the third preseason game. He gained seven yards. Oh and he will be suspended for the first two games. Great.
  2. WR Nate Burleson has not received nearly enough credit for his leadership on and off the field. In a team filled with spoiled testosterone-loaded brats, he has been a class act during the transition from horrible to hunting for a championship. He may end up coming off the bench if Titus Young can stay on the field—but he is tremendously valuable.
  3. Injuries are already taking a toll. CB Dwight “Bill” Bentley was getting fans all excited until he hurt his shoulder. DB Chris Houston and RB Smith hurt their ankles. Even Leshoure ended the third preseason game with a wrap around his middle.
  4. It was generally thought that LT Jeff Backus would not be a Lion in 2012—but he has been able to return. That is a good thing, since rookie Riley Rieff isn’t quite ready to protect Stafford’s blind side, although the future looks bright there.
  5. These boo-boos pale in comparison to the cast on Matthew Stafford’s hand. Keep breathing, Detroit. It’s the non-throwing hand and it’s not serious.

Storylines:

  1. WR Stefan Logan has re-invented himself as a running back. After suffering what looked like a terrible ankle injury, everyone was relieved that it turned out to be a sprain. Keep an eye on him since he brings so much versatility.
  2. Starting Safety Louis Delmas is still out with a knee injury. The secondary went through a lot of changes in 2011 and they already lost Eric Wright to free agency and David Perry to stupidity. Rookie Bentley was like a heavenly gift, right up until his injury. This unit is the weakest point on the team (if you don’t count that whole “can’t run the ball” thing).
  3. The Lions have one of the annual undrafted free agent sensations in their facility. His name is Patrick Edwards and he’s a WR. Too bad he hasn’t shone on special teams, which is where he would need to begin his Detroit career.
  4. Matthew Stafford may be tough, but he’s kind of fragile. Don’t tell him I said so. Fans should feel relieved that the pass protection has been adequate in August. Run Blocking? Not so much.

NFC North 2012 NFL Season Preview: Chicago Bears

Breaking Down the NFC East:

 Breaking Down the American Football Conference:
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