Tag Archives: New Orleans Saints

Detroit Lions – After A Promising Start, Back To What They Are

I thought the Lions, after hiccupping against the Jets and 49r’s, had righted the ship with impressive wins against the Patriots and Green Bay.  In between those wins, they played well in the loss against the Cowboys, a game they should have won.

After watching the first quarter of the Lions against the Bears, I realize the ship had a massive hole and the duct tape they used didn’t hold.

Inspiration came as well as I was watching.  Using Eric Clapton’s song “Lay Down Sally,” I re-wrote the chorus to sum up my feelings regarding my hometown team:

Lay down Lions, and be the cure for what ails teams

Don’t you think you want a shot at a Super Bowl?

Lay down Lions, no need to be done so soon

We’ve just been waiting 60 years for a Super Bowl Show

Ok, so this proves that I’m no Eric Clapton.  But don’t think us Lions fans feel that every season, at some point, the Lions just lay down.  And I’m sure that in every season, when the Lions absolutely had to have a win, they just laid down and let the other team do just about anything they wanted.

Examples?  You want examples?

Ok, let’s start with the Lions most promising season where they came within one came of going to the Super Bowl, 1991.

The Lions had a great season, going 12-4.  They followed the formula of winning all 8 games at home and going .500 on the road.  Against the NFL North teams, they had an impressive 5-1 record including a win against the Packers at Lambeau Field which snapped a 25 game losing streak.

The 12-4 record earned them home field advantage in the NFL Divisional Playoff game where they crushed the Dallas Cowboys 38-6, putting them just one game away from the Super Bowl.

That should have fired up the team, pumped them up to a frantic level going to Washington, D.C. to face the Redskins, right?

Nope, the “Lay Down Lions” showed up and Washington trounced them 41-10.

Let’s fast forward to 2011, Jim Schwartz’s third year.  Lions started out 5-0 with impressive wins over the Kansas City Chiefs (48-3) and an OT thriller on the road against the Vikings (26-23).

Lions were at 6-2 thru the first 8 games, poised to take the NFC North.  Instead, the “Lay Down Lions” showed up in the 2nd half of the season, going 4-4, blowing important games at Chicago (13-37) and losing twice to Green Bay in week 12 at home (15-27) and at Lambeau the last game of the season (41-45).  Win either one of those games, they would have been 11-5 and in the playoffs.

That last game against the Pack?  They were back on track, riding a 3 game winning streak and could not close it out.

This week 7 game against the Bears?  Lions came in at 3-5 only 2 games behind the 5-3 Bears.  They needed to win this game to close the gap in a division where no team was running away.  You’d think they’d be pretty fired up, right?  Not.

I turned the game off midway thru the 2nd quarter where the Bears were leading 26-7.  The “Lay Down Lions” had reared their collective ugly head.

I could go on and on, but no need to relive the countless heartbreak the Detroit Lions have done to Lions fans and the City of Detroit.

I look to teams that have are having great years.  Los Angles Rams, New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs and of course, the New England Patriots.  Two of those teams have young quarterbacks (Rams – Goff, Chiefs – Mahomes), the other two doing it with veteran quarterbacks (Saints – Brees, 17th season/Patriots – Brady, 18th season.)

The most common denominator in the success of these teams is they protect the QB.  Brees has been sacked only 9 times this year, Mahomes 12 times, Brady has been sacked 13 times, and Goff 17 times.

Stafford?  He was pretty well protected prior to the Vikings game getting sacked only 13 times.  But then he got nailed 10 times against the Vikes for a total of 23 times.  And by the time I turned off the game against the Bears, he had already gone down 3 times!

Now, no one can totally blame the offensive line for all of the sacks…Stafford admitted he needed to help out his team by getting rid of the ball quicker or if there is nothing there, throw it away.

However, for the last decade, the Lions offensive line has been far from stellar.  Since Stafford came into the league in 2009, he’s been sacked a total of 318 times (including the six in the Bears game) for an average of just under 3 times a game and each time he’s sacked, he gives up 6 yards on average.

Talk to any coach, he’ll want those 18 yards or the extra 2 first downs and a 3rd down with only 2 yards to go.

I believe the Lions have the talent at the skill positions on the offensive side of the ball.  Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, Jr. are above average receivers.  Yes,  the trade of Golden Tate to Philadelphia did hurt the Lions offensively.  But they were more than likely have lost him to free agency anyway and Theo Riddick can fill that role very well.   They got a 3rd round pick from the Eagles who have pretty much rented Tate for the season unless they sign him to a contract.

They have also found a diamond in the rough in Kerryon Johnson.  The Lions went out and signed free agent LeGarrette Blount and he was slated as the starter.  But Johnson proved to be the best running back on the roster and has been very productive.  He has two 100 yard games and should run for 1,000 yards this year.

Right now, the Lions have 9 draft picks for 2019.  I think GM Bob Quinn is going to deal for at least 2 more but let’s go with the 9 that they have right now.

There are not really any good offensive line statistics.  But the Lions O-Line, according to Pro Football Focus, is ranked 18th.  Center Graham Glasgow, who had a rating of 71.1 last year, was thought that he was going to be premiere center or at least one as good as Dominic Raiola.  But his ranking has dropped 8 points and he really hasn’t done much to help the running game.

Now I don’t recommend taking a center in the first round.  Lions need to much help at linebacker and defensive line.  They have picked up Damon Harrison to help stuff the run but I think they need an outside pass rusher since it appear they really can’t count on Ziggy Ansah.

If they can trade up after the season, I would love to have them get Joey Bosa out of Ohio State.    He did not play this season as he went out with a core injury to his abdominal tear.  But his upside is too good to pass up.  And if Ansah stays with the Lions, with him Bosa coming from either side along with Harrison would make that line pretty formidable.

I am hoping that center Tyler Biadasz out of Wisconsin is available.  At 6’3″ and 316 lbs., he will open holes along with Frank Ragnow and TJ Lang…I would suspect both Kerryon Johnson and Matthew Stafford would feel good about that.

As for the play calling, as much of a breath of fresh air Jim Bob Cooter was when he took over from Joe Lombardi, he has fallen into predictable play calling as all Lions OC’s seem to do.

Perhaps Bob Quinn can convince Matt Lafluer to leave the Tennessee Titans.  Lafluer understands how to build a modern-era offense and he’s done some great things with Marcus Mariota.  He did wonders with Matt Ryan in 2016 making him a MVP as well has helping Sean McVay rejuvenate the 2017 Rams and working with Jarred Goff so well.

Or maybe the Lions reach into the college level and grab Texas Tech head coach Lincoln Riley.  He is one of the more innovative offensively-minded coaches in college football.  He had Texas Tech average 45 points a game…get him the O-Line outline above with the offensive weapons the Lions currently have, and you can see them averaging 24-28 points a game…wouldn’t that be a treat?

Ah well, once again, the Lions faithful will have to suffer with the “Lay Down Lions” and wait until next year.

Seattle Seahawks – What To Do With Jimmy Graham

There has been a lot of questions on Jimmy Graham.  How to use him? Should the Seahawks trade him?  Should the Seahawks cut their losses and let him go?  Why isn’t he targeted in the Red Zone?  Why isn’t he as productive as he was when he was with the Saints?

The most intriguing question of all of these is how to use Graham.  It was well known when Graham came to the Seahawks that blocking wasn’t his forte.  Catching the ball and scoring touchdowns is what made him one of the best tight ends in football.

But let’s think about how New Orleans used Graham in their offense.  In 2013, Graham had 86 receptions, 16 TD’s, averaged 14.1 yards per catch and 76 yards per game.  67% of the time during the season, the Saints lined him up as a wide receiver to take advantage of the mismatches created lining up against smaller cornerbacks instead of linebackers.  Doing this gave the Saints an absolutely lethal weapon in the Red Zone.

Remember, after the 2013 season, the Saints wanted to place the franchise tag on Graham as a tight-end.  Graham argued that he had more snaps as a wide receiver and should be paid accordingly.  He even forced an NFL arbitrator to rule on the dispute.  He lost and the Saints were able to franchise him at the tight-end level which paid significantly less than wide receiver.

That aside, let’s talk about how Drew Brees threw to Graham in the five years they were teammates.  Brees took advantage of Graham’s 6-7″ height, his 6-7″  wingspan and his 10″ hands along with his 3′ vertical jump and threw passes that only he could go and get.  Let’s also remember that Graham was an outstanding basketball player and was a fierce rebounder so going up and fighting for passes was second nature to him.

How do the Seahawks use him?  As a traditional tight-end that needs to block in a run-first offense.

Yes, I know that Graham finished with nearly a 923 yards last season along with 6 TD’s.  But a lot of those yards were when the Hawks were behind or the game was out of hand.

With the Saints, Graham’s 5 years stats were outstanding.  His average for each category:

Receptions-77.2  Yards per Season-950.4  Yards per Catch-12.18  Yards per Game-60.52  Touchdowns per Year-10.2

In his two years with the Seahawks, there is a significant drop in several categories, based on the average with each team:

Receptions:  56.5 (-20.7)  Yards per Season-764 (-186) Yards per Catch-13.4 (+1.22) Yards per Game-60.52 (-4.17) Touchdowns per Year-4 (-6.2)

How should the Seahawks use Jimmy Graham?  In my opinion, make him a wide receiver.  You say he doesn’t have the speed?  Between 2008 and 2012, the average 40-yard dash times for wide receivers was 4.55 seconds.  Graham’s time in the 40?  4.53 seconds so he has the speed.

The average height of an NFL cornerback is 5’10” tall.  At 6’7″, to go along with his leaping ability and huge wingspan, having him at wide receiver would be a huge mismatch, something that NFL offensive coordinators look for in every situation.  And with his rebounding experience from basketball and his 10″ hands, he will win more battles for the ball than lose them.

What does this do for the Seahawk offense?  Quite a bit actually.  It can still be a run first team if that’s what they want.  But consider when they do have to go to a 3 or 4 wide receiver set in long yardage situations.   Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham out wide with Tyler Lockett and/or Doug Baldwin in the slots.  You can’t double team any of the receivers because all can catch the ball and all can create havoc after the catch.  You would force the defense to drop eight and if by some chance all of the receivers are covered, there is 3rd down specialist C.J. Prosise out of the backfield.

Added bonus to that is you get a real tight end in Luke Willson and Nick Vannett in the offense who can actually, you know, block and help the offense line in the run game.

Don’t like any of those options?  Then I suggest you do what Jim Moore of 710 Sports says:  Trade him for a top tier offensive lineman or multiple high round draft picks to use for the offensive line.  I couldn’t agree more with Jim Moore on this.  I also agree with Moore on getting sick and tired of hearing about Graham’s potential when the Seahawks don’t know how to use him, in particular, Russell Wilson.  If you watch game tapes of when Graham was with the Saints, Drew Brees put it in places that only Graham could get.  He threw it up high over the defender’s heads and let Graham’s basketball instincts take over.

Wilson?  Throws passes at Graham’s hips and knees where they are difficult to catch and in the reach of anyone covering Graham.  And don’t give me that crap that Wilson is too short to find Graham.  Brees is only 6’0″ tall, just an inch taller than Wilson.  While Wilson may have the better arm between the two, I’d be inclined to take Brees in a 2-minute drill simply because he knows how to use the weapons he has…and he used Graham brilliantly.

Graham was brought to Seattle specifically to improve scoring in the Red Zone.  In 2015, Graham’s first year here, the Hawks were 16th in the NFL in Red Zone scoring.  Last year, the dropped to 25th.  The Saints, over the same 2 years were 9th in 2015 and 3rd in 2016.  So it’s not just Graham, it’s the plays.  Over the past 10 years, New Orleans has been in the top 10 in Red Zone scoring except one year:  2010.

Seattle, in that same 10 year span, has been in the top 10 only once:  2007.  So let’s not put the lack of Red Zone production all on Jimmy Graham or Russell Wilson.  Let’s look at the consistently unimaginative play calling in that area by the offense coordinators…and since 2011, that falls on the shoulders of Darrell Bevel.  Comes up with some nice play designs between the 20’s but once in the Red Zone, he will switch to conservative play calling that leads to field goals instead of touchdowns.

I like Jimmy Graham but the Seahawks are wasting him…either move him to wide receiver and create the mismatches that all NFL coaches crave for or trade him to shore up the offensive line.

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!

 

Seattle Seahawks – Against Atlanta, They Got Lucky & They Know It

luck-seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks beat the Atlanta Falcons 26-24 yesterday…and they were darn lucky to walk away with that win.

Tried as they did to give it away, it was the will of Richard Sherman who appeared very angry at one point in the second half.  And there was good reason for him to be so ticked off after the Legion of Boom allowed Julio Jones to break free for a 36-yard touchdown.

It was a lack of communication.  Those happen a lot in the NFL and in this case, safety Kelcie McCray, subbing for injured Kam Chancellor, blew the assignment and allowed Jones to break free for the score.

This proves how much of a leader that Richard Sherman is.  He expects a lot of himself and expects a lot of his teammates.  I don’t blame him one bit for getting as upset as he did.  The Legion of Boom is way better than they played yesterday.

But not all of the fault can be placed on the defense.  The offense has issues they need to correct.

First and foremost, Russell Wilson needs to go back to doing what he does best…when the situation calls for it.  I agree, from a health standpoint, that being more of a pocket-passer will mitigate injury issues.  But there were at least five instances where his running abilities would have put pressure on the Atlanta defense to stop him.

One instance that stands out was in the 4th quarter.  Seahawks were on the Atlanta 10 yard line with a 3rd and goal.  Wilson stepped up in the pocket when he felt pressure behind him no one was in front of him.  He had a clear path to the end zone.  Instead, a stopped and attempted a pass to Jerome Kearse that was incomplete.

To put more salt on the wound, the normally reliable Steven Hauschka missed a 29 -yard field goal that went left.

I get the fact they want to protect Wilson but he is a weapon that needs to be utilized.

Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell needs to start becoming more imaginative with his play calling.  He doesn’t have the luxury of calling Marshawn Lynch plays anymore and needs to trust Wilson and the Seahawk receiving corps and take more shots downfield.  The 15-20 yard throws work when you have Beast Mode but he’s gone now.  And Christine Michael, while doing an admirable job, is no Marshawn Lynch.

Defenses have figured out Bevell’s offense and see that Wilson is reluctant to run.  So they stack the box because they have no fear of Wilson going deep and they throw more bodies at the running game.

The use of Jimmy Graham is ludicrous.  Yes, he had six catches for 89 yards.  But during crunch time, they went away from Graham.  For crying out loud, the man is 6-7, has an 82″ wingspan and can run the 40 yard dash in 4.5 seconds.

The Seahawks need to look at all the tape when Graham was with the New Orleans Saints and see how Drew Brees used Graham…up high, triple-covered and as an outside receiver.  C’mon man, line up a 6-7, 265 lbs. receiver against a 5-11, 193 lbs. cornerback (the average height and weight of an NFL cornerback.)  I’ll take that match-up all day!

Am I being too critical?  Darn right I am.  The Seahawks had no business winning this game.  And the last pass attempt by Matt Ryan, the officials gave the game to the Seahawks because that was pass interference.  I’ve seen a lot less contact and the flag was thrown.

The next three games are going to be critical for the Hawks.  The travel to Arizona to play the Cardinals.  Carson Palmer has been cleared to play and will tune-up against the New York Jets tonight.  Cardinals with Palmer have played the Seahawks very tough.

Next-up is the resurgent New Orleans Saints.  Drew Brees lit up the Carolina Panthers for 465 yards and 4 touchdowns and built a 31-17 lead in the third quarter.  They won the game 41-38 despite allowing the Panthers to score 21 points in the 4th quarter.

After that comes the surprising Buffalo Bills.  This isn’t going to be the team the Seahawks played in 2012 when they lit them up in Buffalo for 50 points.  This version of the Bills have a very strong running game with LeSean McCoy who lit up the San Francisco 49rs with 140 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns.  This team also shut out the New England Patriots.  Yes, I know, they didn’t have Tom Brady but the Pats are still a formidable team without him and weren’t able to score against the Bills defense.

Speaking of New England, that is the Seahawks opponent after the Bills.  And they have Brady back who in the last two games has thrown for 782 yards with six touchdowns and zero interceptions.

So the road back to the Super Bowl is going to be a tough one.  And if they played like they did against the Atlanta Falcons, they aren’t going to make it.

Teams will score.  It’s what the NFL wants to keep fans interested.  But the Seahawks need to become more imaginative on offense and corral the other teams big-name players and limit the amount of scoring.

Let’s hope the Falcon game serves as a wake-up call and gets these Hawks back on the right track.

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!