Let’s be honest, the Lions had a rough year. But there are some shining moments to look back upon, and there’s a lot of hope for the future. Let’s remember that the four-win Atlanta Falcons were one of the worst teams in the NFL just one year ago. However, the Falcons drafted the right players, made the right changes, and then soared to 11 wins and a Wild Card playoff appearance this year. All hope is not lost. A dramatic turnaround isn’t far out of the picture. In fact, with the right offseason moves, we could be buying Detroit Lions tickets to see a playoff game in Detroit next season. Here are some of the key points from the past Lions season.
Everybody knows that the Lions failed to win a game in 2008, so let’s try not to focus this schedule overview section on wins and losses, because that would neglect some of the good things that Detroit was able to accomplish. Usually with teams we like to go over their season in terms of a narrative- the Niners started out slow, then switched coaches and ended well. The Broncos were looking like a playoff team, then faltered at the end. Stuff like that makes for good drama. Instead, let’s point out a few key moments of positive, forward progress for the Lions. For one, they played the Minnesota Vikings, a playoff team in their division, very well. In week six the Lions lost to the Vikings 10-12, falling only because of a fourth quarters field goal. In fact Minnesota had to come back from a 10-2 deficit in the second half. In week 14 the Lions again took the Vikings to the fourth quarter with a lead. In week nine on the road in Chicago the Lions almost beat the Bears, again because their opponents came back in the fourth quarter. If the Lions were capable of closing out their good games they could have had at least three wins in 2008.
Calvin Johnson was a premier fantasy football wide receiver this year, as he caught 78 passes for 1,331 yards and 12 touchdowns, the most TDs of any NFL receiver this past season. Considering his young age, and the age of QB Dan Orlovsky (who looked quite decent at times, despite mediocre numbers), this could be a nice little QB-WR duo that the Lions should work on keeping together and growing their offense around. The Lions did not have a 1,000 yard rusher, though Kevin Smith came very close with 976 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns.
Overall, the stats were not kind to the Detroit Lions. Detroit allowed 517 points, the most in the NFL. They only put up 268, leading to a -249 point differential at the end of the year. Even still, their Pythagorean win index predicted that they should have won 2.8 games. At any rate, they had one of the worst turnover differentials, at -9. Opponents of the Lions rushed the ball like mad, and Detroit ended up with the most rushing TDs allowed, the most yardage allowed on the ground, and had the fewest interceptions in the league.
Possible Offseason Moves
The stats seem to indicate that the offense has potential. It looked at times like Dan Orlovsky and Calvin Johnson might grow into a nice combo. Running back Kevin Smith looked very strong in his rookie season. On offense the Lions are young and fast, and due to break out. But it didn’t help that the defense couldn’t keep them in the game. The Lions need to keep their young guns on offense and draft defensive linemen. Since some of the best players in the upcoming draft are OTs and QBs, the Lions might think about trading down to get a large stack of DEs and LBs, a bunch of playmakers like Brian Orakpo of Texas, Malcolm Jenkins of Ohio State or Michael Johnson Georgia Tech.