Category Archives: Green Bay Packers

Detroit Lions – Look Forward to 2017 and Beyond

running-lion

Well damn.

The Detroit Lions came to Seattle to play in the NFC Wild Card game with some lofty expectations…only to discover that the Seattle Seahawks were indeed a very large obstacle they could not get around.

Some of it was of their own doing. The four dropped passes (three of which would have led to first downs). Four very stupid 15-yard penalty calls (two by 13 year veteran Anquan Bouldin and one by Haloti Ngata, an 11-year vet. Those two players should know better.) And of course, the most evident, they were made one-dimensional when the Seahawk defense took away the Lions anemic running and forced Matthew Stafford to put the game on his shoulders.

Not that Matthew Stafford didn’t relish the challenge. I mean, after all, he did lead the Lions this year to an NFL record of 8 fourth quarter comebacks in 2016. And don’t give me that tripe that they accomplished that feat against mediocre teams. Ticks me off to no end when Peyton Manning, Eli Manning or Tom Brady accomplish something similar to this and they are hailed the greatest. But when Matthew Stafford does it, it’s for some other reason.

I’m not going to re-hash the season nor am I going to re-hash the wild card game. You all saw it. Suffice to say, I was rather uncomfortable when I showed up to a friend’s house to watch the game in my Golden Tate III jersey…and even more so after the game had ended. Thankfully I have fantastic friends so the needling wasn’t too awful.

I will say this: I am going to give the Lions organization a pass for 2016. Not that it is of any great importance that I do so since I really, really doubt that what I write here for Beer Thinker Sports is read by anyone in the Detroit Lions organization. None the less, I’ll give them the pass.

My reasons are that since this is the first full season for GM Bob Quinn. And while some of the moves and acquisitions he made prior to the start of the season got the Lions a chance to be in the playoffs, there is more work to be done. And I’m sure Mr. Quinn will be the first to admit it.

What I am going to offer is just my opinion on what’s needed for the future of the Detroit Lions.

  1. The road to the NFC North Division runs through Green Bay. Not a big surprise. Since 2011, the Green Bay Packers have won the NFC North title five out of the last six years. Not sure how they can accomplish that other than to say it rests all on how well Aaron Rodgers plays. And for the last three years, when it looked as though each time the Pack had no chance of even getting to the playoffs, they find a way to dig deep and pull yet another miracle season. So the first step for the Lions to be successful is to build a team that can stop Aaron Rodgers. Best way to beat him is to keep him off the field. That means the Lions need to get themselves a running game that can tire out an opportunistic Green Bay defense and keep their best player on the bench. That means improving the Lions offensive line and getting a dominating running back to take pressure off Mathew Stafford. It also means the Lions need an upgrade to the defense, particularly in the secondary as well as the defensive line. Darius Slay is a good cornerback but Rodgers pin point accuracy can defeat just about any one on one coverage. In order to force Rodgers into mistakes, pressure has to be put on him, force him into making mistakes. Unfortunately, it’s a Catch-22 as Rodgers has an insane ability to escape and keep plays alive until someone gets open. But if the Lions can get another speed rusher to complement Ziggy Ansah and replace an aging Haloti Ngata, they just might be able to at least stay with the Packers.
  2. The Lions need to get a big running back to help Matthew Stafford. No surprise here. For the last 10 years, the Lions have averaged an anemic 92.8 yards a game and only once did a player top 1,000 yards for the season, Reggie Bush in 2013 for 1,006 yards. I don’t know about you but I am pretty fed-up hearing the words the Lions need an “effective running game.” It’s a bunch of bull. The Lions need a rusher that will carry the ball 25-30 yards per game and get you 110 to 125 yards per game. That leads to better time management and keeps the opposing offense off the field. It may be boring but it does lead to wins despite the fact the NFL has become a pass-happy league. And that requires a big running back, one that can make up for any deficiencies in the offense line yet capitalize when blocking is done correctly. Not a big play back, Lions have that in Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick. But a big back that will wear down a defense and allow Abdullah and Riddick to hit big gains when they do come in for a change of pace. And since a big back will force the linebackers to come up, that opens up the passing game and all of a sudden, the Lions dominate on time of possession.  It will also give the Lions a bigger threat in the red zone. Don’t know about you…I like Matt Prater and all but I’d like to see games where he just kicks extra points instead of field goals.

There are 4 running backs in the 2017 draft that I think would be a great fit in the Lions running game. In most cases, any one of these running backs will make Ameer Abdullah expendable.

  • Leonard Fournette, LSU. At 6-1 and 230 lbs. and a 40 time of 4.5, Fournette might not be available to the Lions as he is projected as a top-10 pick. But I list him in case GM Quinn can do some magic to move up in the draft to get him. He has been compared to Adrian Peterson. In his 2016 season, he gained 1,953 yards with an average of 6.5 yards per carry. He is a powerful downhill runner that can run through tackles and can break off big gainers.
  • D’Onta Foreman, Texas. 6-1, 249 lbs. Ran for 2,028 yards for an average of 6.3 yards per carry for Texas in 2016. He isn’t much of a receiver but that’s not what the Lions need since Theo Riddick fills that spot nicely. Foreman is a load who can run over the opposition and bring a bit of attitude and toughness the Lions so desperately need.
  • Samaje Perine, Oklahoma. 5-11, 237 lbs. Perine reminds me a lot of Marshawn Lynch in that he will just not be tackled. Again, toughness and attitude the Lions need and Perine would definitely get Green Bay’s attention. His position in the draft has dropped due to being banged up this season but Perine rushed for 735 yards with an average of 5.2 yards per carry in limited action. He is a decent receiver as well with 10 receptions for 106 yards. Love to see this guy in screen pass situations on first or second downs.
  • James Conner, Pittsburgh. 6-2, 250 lbs. Is listed as a possible 4-6 round pick due to a serious knee injury in 2015 and then being diagnosed with cancer. He was proclaimed cancer free in 2016 as well as coming back from a torn ACL. He responded with 1,092 yards with a 5.1 yard per carry and scored 16 TD’s. He also caught well out of the backfield with 21 passes for 302 yards and four scores. He is worth taking a chance on since he has the potential to become a 3 down back and be a major threat in the red zone with his running and receiving abilities.

3.  Lions need to upgrade the secondary. Granted, NFL rules will favor the receiver in most cases. However, there are 2 places that teams really can’t shortchange themselves: The offensive line and the secondary. Both are exposed if the talent isn’t there. I feel the Lions offensive line is good enough going into 2017 but the secondary has been exposed. The Lions need another good cover corner to compliment Slay and a safety in the league of an Earl Thomas to help cover the middle.

  • Jalen Ramsey, Florida State. 6-1, 209 lbs. I doubt the Lions will have a shot at this guy but I felt the need to list him just in case GM Quinn can maneuver to get him. He is projected as a top-5 pick so it is a longshot. Ramsey is comparable to Richard Sherman. However, it is felt that he would do better at safety than corner. Teams have high regard for Ramsey and they love him off the field which pretty much means you aren’t going to see his name for any off the field antics. With his great character and impressive skill set, a lot of teams want him on their roster.
  • Eli Apple, Ohio State. 6-0, 199 lbs. He has Number 1 corner potential in the NFL with his size, agility and speed. He does need coaching to stop grabbing receivers but that’s just a matter of technique. Possible he’ll be available late first round or early second.
  • Su’a Cravens USC. 6-1, 226 lbs. Cravens was moved to linebacker in 2016 but most experts feel that Cravens potential in the NFL reside in playing safety. I’d like to see him gain at least 10-15 lbs. to play in the NFL. He is physical, strong and quick and has shown to be a capable tackler. A good defensive coordinator would be wise to use him in a variety of ways. Could be that game changer on defense.

4.  Protect the den. It is one of the most important aspects of the game. Great teams know how to win at home. Winning 6-8 games at home and go .500 on the road gives you 10-6 to a 12-4 season and pretty much gives the Lions a playoff slot. Lion’s fans are more than willing to do their part and if the Lions get that big running back and beef up the secondary, Lions will be able to challenge the Green Bay Packers better for the division title.

There are other aspects that I’m sure need to be addressed. I, for one, am not sure that current head coach Jim Caldwell is the one to lead the team to the Super Bowl. But he is close with owner Martha Firestone Ford who really likes him. Caldwell has Jim Bob Cooter as his offensive coordinator and is a good one. He and Matthew Stafford are on the same page and in his first full season, got as much as he could out of Stafford. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is a good one as well. But he has been mentioned for several head coaching jobs and with 6 openings this year, he may be gone. Whoever comes up next needs to improve the coverage and mitigate the big plays the Lions seem to give up.

Detroit Lions – Getting Hosed By National Media

running-lion

The Detroit Lions are in first place in the NFC North and are currently the third seed in the playoffs.

How come the national sports media seems to brush these facts aside?

No, it’s still about the Cowboys, the Packers, the Seahawks and the Saints.  Not that I have anything against these teams (with the exception of the Cowboys and Packers) but regardless the record of these teams, they still get more nationally televised games than just about any other team in the NFC.

Go to NFL.com and do you see anything about the Lions?  Nope, it’s got headlines about the Cowboys avenging the lone loss against the New York Giants.  It’s got an article about the Kansas City Chiefs taking control in the AFC West.  I peruse NFL.com a lot but rarely do I see anything about my beloved Detroit Lions.

Take the Cowboys.  They are having a great season this year.  But regardless of what type of season they have, Cowboys get a lot of national press.

Take last year for instance when they ended up with a record of 4-12.  How many articles were written by national media about the Cowboys and how can they get back to winning?  How many times did we see on ESPN or Fox on what’s wrong with the Cowboys or is Tony Romo done?  Countless times on both.

Pretty good coverage for a team that went barley over .500 for the past decade (not including this season).

And how about the Packers?  Seems to me that the national media is reasoning the only way the Lions are in first place is because the Packers are having a bad season.  Now I will grant you the Pack has been very good over the past 10 years.  A .650 winning percentage over that time period proves that as well as a Super Bowl win in 2011.

But this year has been a difficult one.  The Packers have aged quickly and lost a lot of players to free agency.  And Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have a decent O-line to protect him and he hasn’t had a lot of time to throw.  When he does, his receivers are not in synch with him.  Still, they are a dangerous team and one to watch.

But this down season by the Packers isn’t the sole reason the Lions are in first place in the NFC North.

Let’s talk about the fact the Lions have played, especially in the 4th quarter.  Up until the New Orleans Saints game, the Lions have trailed entering the 4th quarter in every game.  And in seven of the eight wins the Lions have, they came back and won with Matthew Stafford tying the Manning brothers record (Peyton in 2009 and Eli in 2011) of seven comeback wins in a season.

That’s something that many great quarterbacks have not done.  Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Dan Marino, John Elway, Dan Fouts…none of these guys have had as many comebacks in a season as Stafford and the Manning brothers.  And with 4 games left in the season, Stafford has the chance to own the record outright.

Look, I’m saying these teams don’t deserve the recognition they are getting (except the Cowboys…we’ve been deluged with Cowboy drama for over 25 years now…shut up about the Cowboys…nobody outside of Texas gives a darn).  But how about some recognition of how well the Detroit Lions are doing?

Yes, I know that from 2006 to 2015, the Lions have a 57-103 record including the wonderful 0-16 record of 2008.  National media has no problems pointing out all that is wrong with the Lions.

But this is 2016, the Lions are 8-4 with a 2 game lead in the NFC North with four games to go.  The Lions are currently 3rd in the playoff picture, a mere 1/2 game behind the Seattle Seahawks and if by some miracle, could sneak into second place and get a bye in the first round and host a playoff game in Detroit.

At some point, the Lions luck has to turn…but I don’t see this year as being lucky.  I see this team working hard, playing good defense and Stafford putting his team in position to win.  I know, as well as everyone does, we bemoan that we don’t have a running game.  We only have 947 yards rushing on the year.  But we do rank 15th in passing and since the NFL is turning into a pass-happy offense, I’d say we are in good shape.

Still, imagine if we had Barry Sanders with this personnel.  To be honest, I don’t think the record would be any better since we’d still give the ball to Barry too much.  However, the Lions could draft a good running back in the 2017 draft.  Perhaps Christian McCaffery out of Stanford or Alvin Kamara from Tennessee?

GM Bob Quinn knows what’s needed for the Lions and a running game could put the Lions in a very sweet spot for the next 5 years or so.  I know we haven’t really had a decent running back since Barry but that had a lot to do with the front office evaluations instead of talent.

I suppose we need to earn the respect of the national media by making a strong showing in the playoffs.  I’d like to shut them all up with a Super Bowl win but the Lions aren’t there yet.  But they are a helluva lot closer than they have been in years…

All I’m sayin to the national media, how about some love for the Lions?

 

Detroit Lions – These Guys Are For Real & In First Place!

Stafford:  One of the best QB's in the NFL!
Stafford: One of the best QB’s in the NFL!

The Detroit Lions are relevant in December.  In fact, they are in first place in the NFC North, have a 2 game lead over the Minnesota Vikings and hold the tie-breaker as they swept the Vikings this year.

Green Bay could make a run but face an uphill battle as they move into a tie for second place with the Vikings.

And for the first time this year, the Lions decided to win in a much more traditional fashion rather than wait until the 4th quarter, beating the New Orleans Saints 28-13.  Granted, I am proud of that 7-1 record when trailing in the final quarter.  But I felt much better the Lions got the lead in the first and never gave it up.

A great day for Stafford, the true leader of this team.  30 for 42 with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions.  The offense was methodical and time consuming, limiting the New Orleans Saints to only 23:08 while holding on to the ball for 36:52.

Golden Tate had a great day with 8 catches for 145 yards which included a sweet 66 yard touchdown catch on a critical drive in the fourth quarter to pretty much seal the game.

The running game, often the most criticized part of the Lions offense, gained a combined 85 yards with Zach Zenner leading the way with 44 yards.  It was effective enough to keep the Saints defense honest.

And how about that defense!  Intercepted Drew Brees 3 times while sacking him once.  And pretty much made WR Willie Snead a non-factor while holding the Saints to a collective 51 yards rushing.

Let’s take a look at the Lions, Vikings and Packers games over the next four weeks.  I’ll give my predictions for the record during that time.  I do believe the Lions will get a home playoff game for the first time since 1991.

Detroit Lions – Could go 3-1 but most likely will go 2-2.

12/11 – Home against the Bears.  This is going to be the easiest of the next four games and the Lions should have no trouble.  The Bears are simply a mess.  No offense since Cutler is yet again injured as well as WR Eddie Royal, both of whom appear to be out the rest of the year.  I doubt that Cutler will be back as the QB of the Bears next year as they are going to be rebuilding.

12/18 – At New York Giants.  This game is a toss-up.  Giants are one of the hottest teams in the NFL right now winning their last six games.  But if the improving Lions defense can get to Eli, they can force him into mistakes.  Lions have played well on the road this year and if they can stay close to the Giants into the fourth quarter, perhaps Stafford can do his thing and pull this one out.

12/26 – At Dallas Cowboys.  If the Cowboys have the NFC East wrapped up, they may rest the starters.  Cowboys have a heck of a defense and we Lions fans can be envious of their offensive line.  Granted, the Lions do have a tendency to play the Cowboys tough as the Lions have an 11-12 all time record against the Cowboys.  But this is a very tough Cowboy team and most likely, Jason Garrett will play his starters until the game is in hand.

1/1/17 – Home against the Packers.  A statement game.  Packers have broken the Lions fans hearts several times.  I mean who could forget that Thursday night game with the hail-Mary with no time left on the clock last year.  I want to see the Lions get out fast and just pour on the points and blow out the Packers.  The Packers D is getting old and suspect and with the weapons the Lions have, it should be doable.

Minnesota Vikings – Vikings probably have the easiest schedule of the three teams but with the way they have been playing lately, I can’t see them doing any better than 2-2 even if Adrian Peterson comes back

12/11 – At Jacksonville Jaguars – Even this being a road game, the Vikings should be able to win this game.  Jags are a pretty self destructive team and QB Blake Bortles leads all NFL quarterbacks with 15 interceptions.  Vikings secondary is an opportunistic one and should get at least 2 picks.  Vikings are third in the NFL with 12 interceptions on the year.

12/18 – Home against the Indianapolis Colts.  Depends on which Colts team shows up as they are trying to stay alive in the AFC South.  They are only a game back of the Texans and with a win Monday night against Jets, they are fighting for their playoff lives.  So are the Vikings and both teams need wins.

12/24 – At Green Bay Packers.  This is still Lambeau Field and while both teams are considered “cold weather” teams, I have to give the edge here to the Pack.  Packers always seem to make a late season push.  A win by either team doesn’t do much for the Lions but perhaps if both teams beat each other up enough, the Vikings could run the gas out of the Packers when they visit Ford Field the following week.

1/1/17 – Home against the Chicago Bears.  Bears have nothing but pride to play for.  And they would love nothing better than beat a division rival to keep them out of the playoffs.  Vikings have a history of not closing the deal toward the end of the year.  A win here by the Bears helps the Lions.

Green Bay Packers – Packers have a brutal schedule down the stretch and most likely will end up 1-3 but no better than 2-2.

12/11 – At Seattle Seahawks.  These two teams have had some great games in recent years.  However, I don’t see Green Bay winning in Seattle.  Seahawks defense is getting healthier each week and the offense is starting to come around.

12/18 – At Chicago Bears.  As with the Vikings, the Bears would like nothing better than to beat a division rival and keep them out of the playoffs.  Bears have a better shot of achieving at home than opposed on the road against the Vikings.  Hard as it will be, we have to be Bears fans for a couple of weeks.  Don’t worry, there is plenty of Jamison’s to wash the bad taste out of our mouths,

12/24 – At home against the Vikings.  Perhaps the only win the Packers get over the last 4 games.  Packers will have a lot on the line and more often than not, come thru on big games.

1/1/17 – At Detroit Lions.  As stated looking at the Lions schedule, this is a redemption game for the Lions.  This is a statement game for Detroit and this time, the Green Bay Packers won’t be able to stop them.

Go Lions!

 

Beer Thinker NFL Predictions – Who Is Going to Finish Where

I have been writing a lot about politics and civil issues and the more I write about it, the more angry I get.  So I decided to get back to why I really created this site for…to write about sports.  And what better subject than predicting how each team in their respective division will finish.

AFC East:

  1. New England Patriots
  2. Buffalo Bills
  3. New York Jets
  4. Miami Dolphins

So now that Tom Brady has decided not to further challenge is part in “Deflategate,” he will accept the 4-game suspension.  How will this affect the Patriots?  Not too much.  Jimmy Garoppolo will take the snaps for these first four games.  Patriots start the season on the road against the Arizona Cardinals then the next three at home against the Dolphins, Texans and Bills.  Worst case scenario, I see the Pats going 2-2 but being undefeated in their own division with wins over the Dolphins and Bills.  Realistically, they go 3-1 with the sole loss at Arizona.

AFC North

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers
  2. Cincinnati Bengals
  3. Baltimore Ravens
  4. Cleveland Browns

The Bengals took the AFC North last year with a 12-4 record.  They actually beat the Steelers 16-10 in Pittsburgh in November but faltered at home in December losing at home 33-20 and folding again against the Steelers in the Wild Card game 18-16.  Granted the Bengals didn’t have Andy Dalton but I am not sure that would have helped.  Until the Bengals can prove they can perform under pressure, the Steelers are going to be the big kid in the sandbox.

AFC West

  1. Kansas City Chiefs
  2. Oakland Raiders
  3. San Diego Chargers
  4. Denver Broncos

Despite the fact Kansas City finished last year at 11-5, they went 1-1 in the playoffs, routing the Texans 30-0 but losing the Divisional game against the Patriots, 27-20.  Andy Reid has a great regular season record going 161-110 over the past 17 years.  However, he has gone 11-11 in that same time frame but never being able to win the big games.  2016 could see the Chiefs in the Super Bowl but can Reid show he can win it?  Denver will finish no better than.500…and yes, I may have picked them last just because I have an intense dislike for them.  Still, too many questions on offense and I see a 7-9 season despite that great defense.

AFC South

  1. Houston Texans
  2. Indianapolis Colts
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars
  4. Tennessee Titans

Texans are favored this year with the signing of QB Brock Osweiler to win the division though it is doubtful the Texans will get past the Divisional playoffs.  Colts will have a healthy Andrew Luck back in the mix but if the offensive line play doesn’t improve, it could be hard going.  Jacksonville will surprise a lot of teams and might sneak in the playoffs.  Long shot will be the Titans but with the addition of DeMarco Murray will make them competitive.

NFC East

  1. New York Giants
  2. Dallas Cowboys
  3. Washington Redskins
  4. Philadelphia Eagles

The NFC East is competitive again.  The Redskins won the East last year with a 9-7 record but I don’t think that will cut it this year.  The Giants will be with a rookie head coach in Ben McAdoo and have the inside track after spending big on free agents.  General Manager used more than $10 million to bolster the defense on Janoris Jenkins, Damon Harrison and Oliver Vernon.  Despite going 4-12 last year, the Cowboys are right behind the Giants to win the East.  Tony Romo and Dez Bryant are coming back healthy and adding running back Alfred Morris gives them a shot.  And while the Redskins did win the division last year, the other rival teams did better in the offseason.  Sam Bradford is back with the Eagles but defense still has major holes.

NFC North

  1. Green Bay Panthers
  2. Detroit Lions
  3. Minnesota Vikings
  4. Chicago Bears

I really hope the Lions prove me wrong and run away with the North.  They have lost Calvin Johnson but Golden Tate is poised to step in as the number one receiver and the addition of Marvin Jones, still have a credible deep threat.  If Matthew Stafford can come close to how he played in the 2nd half of last year, the Lions are a legitimate threat.  Theo Riddick will play a huge part in that success.  Packers are always going to be in contention as long as Aaron Rogers stays healthy.  The Vikings are a team on the rise as Teddy Bridgewater continues to mature as an NFL quarterback.  Adrian Peterson will still need to carry the team.  I picked the Bears last because, well, they are the Bears.

AFC West

  1. Seattle Seahawks
  2. Arizona Cardinals
  3. Los Angles Rams
  4. San Francisco 49ers

The Seahawks may have lost Marshawn Lynch to retirement but they do have three running backs that will be very, very hard to stop.  Thomas Rawls will take the place of Lynch as the bruiser to wear down defenses and is a threat to break off long gains.   Alex Collins will be used to push Rawls and will get a lot of carries.  C.J. Prosise is a former wide receiver and will be a huge 3rd down threat out of the back field and can flat out fly.  As for receivers, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Tyler Locket will drive defenses nuts.  On the defensive side, strong as ever despite the loss of Bruce Irvin.  Cardinals are pretty much the same team as they were last year.  But defenses are going to do whatever they can to get to Carson Palmer because as goes Palmer goes the Cardinals.  Rookie QB Todd Gurley will make rookie mistakes but for the most part, if he can be protected and the defense stays strong, the Rams could contend.  49ers have a lot of work to do to become contenders again and Chip Kelly will need at least a couple of years to bring them up.

NFC South

  1. Carolina Panthers
  2. Atlanta Falcons
  3. New Orleans Saints
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Panthers have mostly kept their roster intact from their 15-1 2015 season and should be in good shape to take their 2nd straight division title.  I am not a fan of Cam Newton but I cannot deny that he has done some good things with the Panthers.  Defense is still strong and will keep them in games.  The Falcons made some good moves in free agency, the best pick-up being WR Mohamed Sanu to take pressure off Julius Jones.    Running back Doug Martin stayed with the Bucs and the Saints picked up Nick Fairley and Coby Fleener.  But the Saints are getting old and Drew Brees and the Saints will more than likely not make the playoffs.

 

 

 

 

Seattle Seahawks Must Play Championship Football vs. Cardinals

Seahawk Shining

I know the headline is an obvious statement but it needs to be said.

When the Seahawks enter the University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday to face the Arizona Cardinals, it has to be as though they are playing in the Super Bowl.

We as fans, need to stop worrying about the offensive line and what the defense gives up.  Nothing we can do about it anyway.  But if there was ever a time this city needs to rise above any doubt about the Seahawks, now is the time.

The 12’s are what’s gonna get this team the lift they need to make their 3rd straight Super Bowl appearance.

I know, the shoddy showing they had against the Rams makes it difficult.  But this team has always had a rough time against the Rams, which has a very good defense and now looks like they have a marquee running back in Todd Gurley.

We also know that the Seahawks, at least over the last few years, rarely lay an egg two weeks in a row.

They march into Phoenix to face a Cardinal team that is the number one offensive team in the NFL.  The Hawks have some solace in the fact when they played them in Week 10 and were down 22-7 at the half, they came back against this team to take a 29-25 lead early in the fourth quarter.

It is my belief the reason why the Hawks lost this game is because the defense was gassed.  They played their hearts out to hold down the offensive juggernaut known as the Cardinals until 1:48 left in the game when Andre Ellington ripped off a 48-yard touchdown run that sealed the game.

Despite the loss, the Seahawks went on a record setting 5-game stretch to vault themselves into playoff contention, beating the 49’s and Steelers at home, Vikings and Ravens on the road and then dismantling the Browns at home before self-destructing against the Rams last week.

Right now, the Seahawks are the Number 6 seed going into the playoffs.  That points to heading to hallowed ground, facing the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.  Perhaps not the best scenario but not the worst either.  Seahawks and Packers have had games filled with controversy and while going 4-6 against them over the past 10 games, the point differential between the two teams is 12 points over that span.

Another possible opponent would be the Minnesota Vikings of which the Hawks have a 6-4 record over the past 10 games.  The last game played between these two teams was the Week 13 38-7 blowout in Minnesota.   They focused on stopping Adrian Peterson and dared Teddy Bridgewater to beat them.  The result was holding Peterson to 18 yards on eight carries and the only reason the Hawks didn’t shut the Vikings out was the 101-yard kickoff return by Cordarrelle Peterson in the third quarter.

The third possible playoff opponent would be the Washington DC based team.  They have a 4-6 record against them over the last 10 games but have beaten them twice at FedEx Field in Landover, including a 24-14 playoff victory in 2013.

Regardless of who the Seahawks play in the opening round, the Seahawks cannot take this game against the Cardinals lightly.  Pete Carroll has stated in the press they are looking at this game as a championship game and won’t be holding anything back.

Hawks are going to have to rely on Christine Michael, Bryce Brown and Fred Jackson to get the running game going as well as QB Russell Wilson using his legs to keep the Cardinal defense honest.

The offensive line will need to get back to the caliber of play during that 5 game stretch and allow Wilson the time he needs to connect with receivers Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Cooper Helfet, Tyler Lockett and perhaps Anthony McCoy.

The defense will need to get through the Arizona O-Line and make Carson Palmer uncomfortable.  Sacks would be good but I am looking for the Hawks front four to get him off his spot and force him into making bad decisions which would play into the heart of the Seattle D, the Legion of Boom.

It’s going to be a good game and I don’t see Bruce Arians pulling any of his starters to save them for the playoffs…unless the Seahawks put the game out of reach by the 4th quarter.  As much as I would love that scenario, I don’t see it happening.

But I do see a Hawks victory, 38-35 with Steven Hauschka kicking the game winning field goal with no time left on the clock.

GO HAWKS!

Detroit Lions – Green Bay Loss Hurt But Need To Stay Hungry

Stay Hungry

I, like many Lions fans, was sure the game was won Thursday night.  We outplayed them for 60 minutes and we had them.  But a small yellow flag gave the Packers another chance…and they took advantage of it.

I could be stoic and say it’s all part of the game.  But I can’t.  I am pissed that the game was basically decided on a referee’s decision.  Packer fans can say what they want but that was no face mask.

But shame on the Lions as well.  Granted, the Packers got the opportunity but where the hell was our defense?  Did no once consider the Packers would attempt a Hail Mary?  With no time left and only one shot, how the hell can you not expect it?

The Lions are pretty much out of the playoffs for this year.  I don’t know how anyone could have expected a team starting out 1-7 would have qualified but the Lions played well enough over the 3 games prior to this loss to give us a glimmer of hope.

And they played well enough Thursday night to make people think that it just might happen.  The Lions offense clicked well in the first half and the defense was lights out for the whole game.

We all know what happened.  The call the refs blew yet again and yet again it went against the Lions.

Facemask

Look, I am all for player safety.  But I also think that common sense needs to be instituted.   Devin Taylor’s thumb brushed Aaron Rodgers’ facemask…it wasn’t blatant and there was no harm done.

However, because Taylor brought Rodgers down by his shoulder pad, it looked like it was a facemask.  This play should have been reviewable…and if it had been, I am almost sure that New York would have reversed the call since the contact with the face mask was incidental.

All right, I’ve vented my frustrations and have accepted the condolences of my friends, none of whom can understand why I continue to root for this team.  I can only compare it to when people ask me what it’s like to ride a Harley Davidson.  If I have to explain it, you wouldn’t understand.  About the only thing the Lions can expect is yet another apology for blowing yet another call.

Now is the time to start looking forward.  The Lions, if they get the right GM in, are in a great position to improve themselves in specific areas, which I believe are the offensive and defensive lines…and in that order.

We have the quarterback in Matthew Stafford that I believe is finally showing the type of QB we all have been waiting for.  Of course for years I have been saying the Lions needed to get him an offensive line to give him time to display those talents.  And while the line has been better the last 4 games, depth is needed to make it even more successful.

It is possible the Lions will have as many as 11 picks in the 2016 draft.  Let’s call it a departing gift from Martin Mayhew.  While losing Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairly, Corey Hilliard, Kellen Davis and Jed Collins to free agency without signing any unrestricted free agents, the Lions will be rewarded with at least 3 compensatory picks in addition to the eight draft picks the Lions currently have.

That gives them a ton of options and I think for the Lions to move to the next level, they are going to need depth on the offensive and defensive lines.  And they need to seek players that will compete with the current starters and push them to excellence.

And this next observation is critical:  Those players that cannot accept competing for the jobs each week need to be shown the door.

It started with new leadership at the top when Martha Ford removed Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand.  It continued when Jim Bob Cooter replaced Joe Lombardi as offensive coordinator.

And head coach Jim Caldwell, despite whatever success he may have for the rest of this year, has to know he is on the hot seat.  I’m willing to give him one more year since changes he has made have resulted in some success.  But now, after this loss, he has to prove his coaching chops and continue success by winning as many games as he can the rest of this year.

Draft position isn’t going to matter for 2016.  There are so many players out there that can be had in the later rounds and rookie free agency, the Lions can upgrade in many areas without breaking the bank.

So the mantra for the rest of this year is the Lions need to stay hungry for the rest of this year…and need to stay hungry from this day forward.

Go Lions!

 

Detroit Lions: Who Are These Guys?

Who Are These Detroit Lions

Watching the Detroit Lions destroy the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday, two recurring movie quotes kept popping up in my head.

The first, as you can tell by the picture of Paul Newman and Robert Redford, is from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.    When being chased by a posse of the best lawmen money can buy, Butch turns to Sundance and asks, “Who are these guys?”

The second one, after the game was over, is from a Richard Dreyfuess movie Let It Ride.  After winning a ton of money at the track, Dreyfuess shouts, “Did I win?  Did I win?  Son of a bitch, God likes me! He really, really likes me!  What a day!  What a fabulous day!”

So here we are, the Lions playing some very good football on both sides of the line.  Now 4-7,  after starting out 1-7 looking like an imitation of a Matt Millen team.

But changes, ones that have been a long time coming, were made.  Joe Lombardi, who directed the offense last year to a 11-5 record, was jettisoned after losing to the Minnesota Vikings  28-19 at home.  Lombardi, despite having the success in 2014 as well as being the QB coach to Drew Brees the previous 5 years in New Orleans, was never a good fit.

Stafford often appeared uncomfortable with the offense.  He is not the type of QB that is going to be successful dumping off to backs and tight-ends…and Lombardi seemed to forget that he had one of the best wide receivers on the planet in Calvin Johnson.

Enter Jim Bob Cooter…really, that’s his name, you can’t make this stuff up.  Granted he started off badly with the uninspired loss to Kansas City in London but the Lions were still basically running the Lombardi offense.

Then came the firings of Tom Lewand and Martin Mayhew and since then, the Lions offense has gotten better each week…and have 3 wins in a row to show for it:

First was the biggest win the Lions have had in recent years, the 18-16 victory over the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau ; the first since 1991.  Granted there was the gut-wrenching final seconds where every Lions fan was sure Mason Crosby was going to make that 50-yard field goal.  But he muffed it and the Lions won for the first time in Green Bay in 24 years.

Next up was the rising Oakland Raiders.  The Lions, despite playing at home, were underdogs in this game.  But the Lions D had something to say about that.  They held David Carr to just 169 yards passing and no TD’s.  They stymied the rushing attack, holding them to a collective 54 yards but did give up 1 TD.  Hey, this is the NFL and it’s hard to keep teams out of the end zone in this league.

Then came yesterday’s masterpiece, the 45-14 dismantling of the Eagles.  The offensive line gave Matthew Stafford time all day.  And Stafford showed just how good of a quarterback he can be when he is given time.  A sterling 337 yards passing with 5 TD’s and zero interceptions and a career best QB rating of 137.5.

Let’s talk about Mr. Stafford for a minute here:  For all you folks that want to heap the troubles the Lions had on his shoulders, you were wrong to do so.  Stafford showed that given the time, he has the capability to put up Tom Brady stats…and I say right now that if Stafford had the protection that he had yesterday for his whole career, the Lions would have been in the Super Bowl already.

The Lions need to get more depth on the offensive line and need to do so in the upcoming draft.  They have the talent at the position spots with Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Lance Moore, Ameer Abdullah and Joique Bell.  Shore up that line because everyone knows that the offensive line needs quality players on the first, second and third string.

That line yesterday, in addition to allowing Stafford to throw for 337 and five TD’s also gave some hope to the dormant rushing attack.  Granted, we didn’t have an individual rush for 100 yards, but collectively they went for 108 yards on 30 attempts and scored 1 rushing TD.  Getting nearly 3.6 yards per attempt as a team is pretty darn good.

And how about Theo Riddick?  The Lions have something special in this guy and better keep utilizing him.  Five receptions for 62 yards and a score.  He has become the third-down receiving threat coming out of the backfield.  When the Lions played like they did yesterday, there isn’t a team that can cover all of their receivers.  And if Eric Ebron can ever pull his head out of his ass and catch the ball, adding a good receiving tight-end into the mix, tell me how doubling up on Megatron is gonna stop this team.

The Lions still have a mathematical chance of making the playoffs.  They are now 4-7, right there with nine other teams such as the Tampa Bay Bucs, New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears.

The Lions remaining five games are all winnable, provided they can keep playing the way they are:

12/3 – Green Bay:  After a fast 6-0 start, the Packers have come back into the NFC Central pack.  With last night’s loss to the Bears, they now are in second place in the division.  Lions have to protect the home turf here and with the way they are playing, should do so on Thursday night football.

12/13 – @ Rams:  This is going to be a tough game for the Lions…and it will be a low scoring one.  The Rams defense is one of the toughest in the league and if the O-line can give Stafford some time against that front four, Stafford should be able to have success.  Theo Riddick will be an important tool in this game.

12/21 – @ Saints:  Saints can score points but they just can’t stop anyone.  Drew Brees is still one dangerous quarterback but he doesn’t have the top flight weapons that he used to have.  Still, they are in New Orleans and dem Saints fans are some of the most supportive in the NFL.  High scoring shoot-out, Calvin and Golden Tate could both have huge games…and Abdullah could run wild against the Saints run defense.  Could be a great Monday Night Football game.

Side note:  My wife, an avid Saints fan, is convinced that the trade of Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks have hurt both teams.  Saints may have improved their protection of Drew Brees but lost a valuable offensive weapon in Graham.  Seattle still hasn’t figured out quite how to use Graham thus both teams have taken a hard road this year.

12/27 – San Francisco 49rs:  This team is a mess…and the Lions cannot take this team lightly, something they have done in the past.  If the Lions do actually beat Packers, Rams and Saints the three previous games, then this becomes a must win game, more so than any other game.  I would call this the definition of a “trap game” and the Lions need to stomp the 49ers into oblivion.

1/3/16 – @ Da Bears:  How sweet it could be if the Lions and the Bears both needed to win this game to get into the playoffs…and the Lions would shut the Bears fans up and eek out a close win.

If the Lions do indeed win out, that would give them a 9-7 record and quite possibly the 13th seed in the wild-card.  Granted, we can forget a home playoff game but I would say that most Lions fans would call the 2015 season one of the best they’ve had.  To start out 1-7 and finish 9-7?  That is some serious football.

Who are these guys?  These are the Detroit Lions!

Go Lions!

Detroit Lions Slay The Dragon In Lambeau

Lions Packers Score

The last time the Lions were on the winning side of an NFL game they played in Wisconsin, George Bush was president…George Bush Sr. that is.

There has to be a party going on back in Detroit right now…and, at least for one week, the Detroit Lions, as a team, can feel good about themselves.

It has been a very long time since I’ve seen the Lions dig deep to win a game…and of course, they didn’t make it easy what with Matt Prater missing 2 extra points as well as the sure handed Calvin Johnson muffing an onside kick.

I don’t care.  The Lions won in Green Bay too snap a 24 game losing streak that was bordering on the sublime.  Scratch that, it was already sublime.

Defense really stepped up in this game to help out the offense…and the offense played better than Green Bay for once…not by much but enough.

Weird calls, missed calls and a lot of no-calls.  But the officiating was crappy for both sides…and it didn’t come down to a blown call…it was decided by the players as it should always be.

There was one point in the game, somewhere in the 3rd quarter where I thought the Lions were going to hand it over the Packers.  On first down, the Lions gained eight yards.  On second down, they handed it off to Joique Bell for no gain so that left a 3rd and two.

So many options and the one I would have picked would be to fake the hand-off inside and let Matthew Stafford run to the outside.  But no, the hand-off went to the up-back and he was stuffed and the result forced the Lions to punt.

But the defense bailed out the offense, as they did all day.

I live in Seattle which plays on Sunday Night Football.  I am sure that all of my neighbors were ready to call the cops considering all the yelling and swearing that was going on.

And as I paced nervously in my front room, knowing that Mason Crosby was going to crush us yet again, I had to watch.

And then I saw the wounded-duck that came off Crosby’s foot and fall far short of the uprights.

The.  Detroit.  Lions.  Frickin. Won. The. Damn. Game.

Congrats Guys…cherish this win and get ready for Oakland at home.  And play with this intensity for the rest of the year…play with this passion, play with this grit.  Because at the end of the day, if you play your hearts out, I can respect that.

Don’t give up.

Go Lions!

Detroit Lions – I Gotta Believe!

Roaring Lion

The most wonderful time of the year?  It ain’t Christmas baby…it’s the start of a new NFL season!

And yet another hopeful and optimistic start for my hometown Detroit Lions.

There have been a lot of changes to the Lions, most notably the departure of Ndamukong Suh to the Miami Dolphins.  While I was sad to see him go since he was such a disruption on the defensive line, part of me thinks his leaving will be a good thing in the long run.

Also gone are fellow defensive tackler Nick Fairley, running back Reggie Bush and offensive lineman Garrett Reynolds.

Its too bad Reggie Bush didn’t pan out with the Lions as we all hoped he would.  He showed flashes of brilliance during his time here but injuries caught up with him and he was never able to bring consistency to the running game.

New additions are defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to replace Suh as well as three other defensive tackles Corey Wooten, Tyrunn Walker and rookie Gabe Wright.  Rookie CB Alex Carter comes in to the secondary with some high expectations.

On the offensive side of the ball to help Stafford is highly touted rookie running back Ameer Abdullah who, along with Joique Bell, should give the running game some credibility.

To bolster the offensive line, Manny Ramirez comes back to the Lions after four years with the Denver Broncos along with rookie Laken Tomlinson.  The O-Line showed some promise in the run game during the pre-season.  As for protection in the passing game, I think once the O-line gels, they will be OK.  That and along with the work that Stafford has done to get rid of the ball quicker should help mitigate the sacks.

Lions have two legitimate Pro Bowl wide receivers right now, the incredible Calvin Johnson as well as the tough Golden Tate.  With Lance Moore coming on to give even more veteran savvy, I don’t see any issues there…just need to stay healthy!

How Brandon Pettigrew stays on this team is beyond me.  But he must be doing something right.  He is a good blocking tight end and has had some good receiving games but not really someone you can count on in the clutch.  I think Stafford will look more toward Eric Ebron in clutch situations.

In most of the pre-season predictions, I have seen the Lions having a single digit win season, anywhere from 6-10 to 9-7.  My gut tells me that the Lions could be the surprise team in the NFL this year and the win total could go as high as 12 games.

Key games:

10/5, Monday night in Seattle – Huge test in a very hostile environment.  I don’t think they can have the talent to pull it off here but I do believe they play the Hawks very tough.  Why have this as a key game?  It prepares them for going into Lambeau to get that fricking monkey off their backs.

10/25, at home against Minnesota –  Despite the Vikings 7-9 finish last year, many pundits have them vaulting over the Lions to a double digit win season this year.  Yes, I know that AP is back but historically, the Lions have contained him pretty well.

11/15, at Green Bay – It has been nearly a quarter century since the Lions posted a victory at Lambeau.  If the Lions want to have any shot at getting by the Packers, they need to sweep them and a victory here would give them momentum to have back to back playoff appearances for the first time since the 1990’s.

11/26, Thanksgiving Day at home against Philadelphia – Turkey Day is always key.  And it isn’t going to be easy against the fast-paced, Chip Kelly offense.  Lions have to take care of business at home and a win on Thanksgiving always gives us Detroit Lions fans a better Thanksgiving, right?

As for the playoffs, when the Lions get there, I see them getting to the NFC conference game against the Seahawks.  And unfortunately, that’s where the run will end but this will cap off a great season and hopefully build for 2017.  If this nuclease can stay in place, then the Lions are in the Super Bowl next year.

Here is to a great season!

Seattle Back In The Super Bowl, Beat Packers 28-22

The Seattle Seahawks pulled off one of the most improbable wins in NFC Championship history.

Before I get to the Seahawks, hats off to a very classy and well-prepared team, the Green Bay Packers.  This team played on helluva game and should be commended for how they came in to Century Link Field and took it to the Seahawks.

Another thing I want to say is that I am so glad that the officiating never played a part in the outcome of this game.  Last thing the NFL needed was yet another week of controversy heading into the Super  Bowl.

All right, on to the Super Bowl bound Seattle Seahawks.

Starting with the defense, while they may have been put back on their heels in the first half and part of the second half, it came down to the defense coming together as a unit.  It wasn’t one player who stepped up, it was eleven.

ShermanChancellorThomas

I will focus in on what I feel are three different players who are the heart and soul of the defense…Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas III.

We all know the game that Chancellor had last week against the Panthers, culminating with the 90 yard pick six he last week.

But this week, it wasn’t about a single individual.  It was about the leaders stepping up their game and getting the defense to quit get pushing them around…I would imagine that Sherman, Chancellor and Thomas all spoke to the defensive unit with the message to play for each other and lay it all out right now.

To set the example, both Thomas and Sherman both were injured during the game but played on, feeding the warrior mentality to the rest of the defense.  Sherman was literally playing with one arm…and yet the Packers still couldn’t beat him.

WilsonKearseLynch

Now on to the offense.  In the first half, lets face it, they absolutely stunk up the place.  Russell Wilson, for the game, threw 4 interceptions.  Doug Baldwin fumbled the first kick-off they received.  They just could not get anything going.

But Russell Wilson being Russell Wilson, didn’t  let any of that get to him.  After their first touchdown, a fake field goal that punter John Ryan threw a TD to Garry Gilliam, Wilson began to play his game.

He stepped up his game to an amazing level at the last part of regulation and then again in OT.

Which ties in nicely to start talking about Jermaine Kearse.  Want to talk about redemption?  Here is a guy that Wilson threw to and 4 of those attempts were interceptions, two of which bounced off Kearse’s hands.  But who catches the game winning touchdown in OT?  Jermaine Kearse on a 35 yard post play.

And what can be said about Marshawn Lynch that hasn’t been said already?  There is no quit in the man.  25 carries for  157 yards and throw in 26 yards receiving, he kept the Seahawks alive when they needed him the most.

Is this a team of destiny?  I’m not sure about that but they are a team to be reckoned with.  Be it the Colts or the Patriots in two weeks, you can damn well be sure this Seahawks team will not be intimidated.

On to the Super Bowl!