Tag Archives: NFC North

Detroit Lions – The Next Steps

OK, so the 2018 Lions were a disappointment under new head coach Matt Patrica.  I get it that many people thought it was a mistake to let Jim Caldwell go despite the fact he had gotten the Lions into the playoffs twice in four years.

Caldwell may have had the chops to get the Lions to the playoffs, he never won enough games in the regular season to get at least one game played at home.

The Lions are 1-1 in playoff games at home.  They beat the Cowboys 38-6 in 1991 and lost to the Green Bay Packers 28-24 in 1993.  So seeing how  the Lions are 0-11 on the road in playoff games since 1958, they have a 50% shot to win at home which is better than 0% on the road.

What needs to be done?  Well for one thing, us Lions fans need to stop being satisfied with merely a playoff appearance and start thinking…no, demanding the Lions perform better in the regular season to get home field games and make deeper runs and maybe, just maybe, get to a Super Bowl.

Jim Bob Cooter is gone so first up on the list is deciding on an offensive coordinator:

Pete Carmichael – OC, New Orleans Saints

Carmichael has been interviewed for several head coaching positions including the Packers and Bengals.  I’m not sure the Lions would be able to pry Carmichael from the Saints in a lateral move…and he’s been a huge part of Drew Brees career since his days in San Diego.

Since Carmichael took over as the Saints OC in 2009, the offense has been rated number one 4 times.  If the Lions can pry him away from the Saints and he gets the Lions near the competency of the Saints, it would only benefit him to get a head coaching gig.

His play calling has been both imaginative and creative.  He will exploit a defense’s weakness and go the his offenses strength.  Most importantly, he has the capability to make the necessary adjustments during the game to keep competitive.

Todd Haley – OC, Browns

Haley may not be a popular choice for Lions fans.  He does have experience has an OC (Cardinals, Steelers and Browns) and head coach (Kansas City) so he could be a valuable add for Matt Patrica.

He can be intense but I think that’s just what this offense (particularly Matthew Stafford) needs.  It may backfire on him but if it works, Patrica can worry about the defense and leave the play calling to Haley

Darrell Bevell – OC Seahawks & Vikings

Bevell is responsible for the Seahawks drafting Russell Wilson.  That alone should give him some kudos for discovering talent.  And being a former college QB, he understands the role and would be a good sounding board for Matthew Stafford.

However, there are may Seahawk fans that will never forgive him for “The Call” that cost them a second straight Super Bowl in 2014.  Many football pundits have called it the worst play call in NFL history.

This makes Bevell somewhat of a gamble since he has done very well overall as an offensive coordinator…however, he does seem to err during critical times, something Lions fans have had to endure many times.

I really wish Lions fans would stop calling for Matthew Stafford to be traded.  Yes, I am just as frustrated as any fan with some of his bonehead plays.  But there are several factors that need to be taken into consideration:

Stafford’s Trade Value

Realistically, only one team in the NFL would be worth it for the Lions to make a trade with and that would be the Denver Broncos.  GM John Elway and linebacker Von Miller are at odds and Miller could be an impact player for the Lions on defense much like Khalil Mack did for the Chicago Bears.

The difference in that scenario is that the Bears already has Mitch Trubisky in place when making the trade with the Raiders for the Bears 1st round pick.  Matt Cassell would be next in line as the starting QB and I’m not sure with the Lions at number 8 in the draft would get any better of QB.

Drew Lock out of Missouri is perhaps the most balanced QB of the draft.  He’s 6-4 and 225 lbs, has a big arm and make a lot of throws at awkward angles (sound familiar?).   Impressive when throwing on the run, equally capable standing in the pocket and go through his progressions.  But he tends to lock on to his first-read and his ball placement is spotty.

Problem is that being at number 8 in the draft, I doubt the Lions will get a QB worth a darn.  Cardinals, Raiders, Bucs and Giants are all ahead of the Lions and all need a QB.

The Lions will be better off with Stafford as QB and if they still want a play maker on defense, KJ Wright of the Seattle Seahawks will be hitting the open market as an unrestricted free agent.

Better yet, go after safety extraordinaire, Earl Thomas…having him roam the secondary along with Darius Slay and Glover Quinn would improve the number 12 ranked secondary (by Pro Football Focus) easily into the top 10 or even the top five in the NFL.

Draft/Free Agency

The Lions have needs to improve in 5 areas:  Linebacker, Wide Receiver, Cornerback, Edge Rusher & Tight End.

As of right now, Lions have 8 picks in the 2019 Draft.  Compensatory picks will be figured out in the spring.

With the Lions getting the 8th pick in the  2019 Draft, Nick Bosa is not an option.  He’ll be snapped up with the first pick by the Arizona Cardinals.  He will be a game changer that opposing teams will need to plan for.

As for LSU cornerback Greedy Williams, this will be another pipe dream as San Francisco will draft him with the # 2 pick.  The Rams and the Seahawks are in for a few surprises next year.

1st Round – Byron Murphy, Cornerback – University of Washington

I know there is a huge call out there to get a difference maker on the defensive line.  But drafting Murphy out of UW is the smart move simply because Darius Slay needs help.  It would have been great to nab LSU’s Greedy Williams but the win at Lambeau put the Lions out of the running.

But imagine the Lions having two lock down caliber corners on both sides of the field.  Scouts love Murphy who at 5’11 and 182 lbs, plays much bigger than his size, is a willing tackler and wants to be involved in the run game.  Excellent change of direction and has excellent closing speed.

Free Agent Possibility – Earl Thomas, Free Safety – Seahawks

This is a pipe dream.  But you never know what may happen in the off-season.  Thomas’s days are done with the Seahawks and it isn’t set in stone that the Dallas Cowboys will pick him up.  Thomas should come back just as strong from his broken leg injury.  He played just four games in 2018 but had three interceptions in that span.  In his 8 year career, he has 28 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles.  Lions need his turnover ability to take pressure of Darius Slay and whomever is on the right side of the field.  Just his presence would make the Detroit secondary close to elite.

2nd Round – TJ Edwards, Outside Linebacker, Wisconsin

I know, I know, where is the edge rusher?  But with Edwards, you get a smart linebacker who does all the little things right.  He isn’t the flashiest but he is very comfortable at his position and is willing to take on an offensive lineman to free up a blitzer.  He is a selfless linebacker who has just enough flair to make the big play as well as doing all the other little things to help his team.  Solid pick for the Lions in Round 2.

Free Agent Possibility – KJ Wright, Outside Linebacker, Seattle Seahawks

No, I’m not trying to make the Lions the Seahawks of the NFC North.  It’s just that Seattle has a lot of good defensive players who will be available in the free agent market.

Wright is 29 years old and has played in Seattle for the past eight years, most along side middle linebacker Bobby Wagner.  Much like Edwards, Wright has just enough flair to make the big play as well as doing all the little things right.  He is a very sure tackler, pretty decent in coverage and can occasionally sack the QB when called upon.  Same type of player but with 8 years experience.

Round 3 – Demarcus Christmas – Defensive Tackle, Florida State

The Lions were rated 23rd in the NFL against the run.  And if it weren’t for James “Snacks” Harrison, they most likely would have been rated even lower.

Pairing the 6’4″, 308 lb Christmas with Harrison would indeed be a present for Detroit Lions fans.  Christmas offers outstanding play strength and physicality.  He is very difficult to move out of his gap, is aggressive with his hands to initiate first contact to control linemen.  To be a more complete DT, he’ll need to refine his pass rushing skills but with him and Harrison clogging up the middle, teams will have a hard time running against the Lions.

Free Agent Possibility – DeMarcus Lawrence – Edge Rusher, Dallas

If indeed the Cowboys can’t afford Lawrence, he would be a huge pick-up for the Lions.  He would be a difference maker in the same vein as Von Miller or Khalil Mack.  The Lions have a lot of room in their salary cap and could make a strong push for Lawrence.

Lawrence is only 26 years old and has accumulated 34 sacks in his 5 year career for an average of 6.8 per year.  However, that increases to 12.5 per year over the last two years.  He would be a still if the Lions could get him signed for a three year, $60M contract.

Round 4 – Foster Moreau, TE – LSU

It’s too bad that Luke Willson didn’t pan out as I had hoped.  He had some great years while with the Seahawks but didn’t have much of a chance with the Lions.  Still, they may want to keep Willson but still draft Morreau.

Morreau would most likely become a fan favorite because of his blue collar work ethic.  He plays through the end of the whistle and is rarely caught behind the play.  He makes the extra effort to pick up an extra block and his physical tenacity can make up is technical deficiencies as a blocker.

He’s not going to stretch the field with his speed, would be more of a safety valve or be used in tight end screen plays.  He cradles the ball well in traffic and uses his body well to shield the ball away from defenders.

At 6’6″ and 256 lbs, he’ll provide extra protection in the passing game, can be a factor in the Red Zone for Stafford as he will present his numbers for him to put the ball on.

Free Agent Possibility – Jared Cook, TE – Oakland

If the Lions want to get more offensive production out of the TE spot, perhaps a temporary fix would be Cook.  He’s bounced around the league in his 10 years and in 2018 had his best year catching 68 passes for 896 yards and 6 TD’s.

He’s a capable pass and run blocker at 6’5″ and 254 lbs.  He is most often compared to Greg Olsen and Delanie Walker…if the Lions can get the same kind of production that he’s had in his two years at Oakland, it just might be worth signing Cook to a 1 or 2 year contract around $8 M per year.

Afterthoughts

The rest of the draft is much more of a crap shoot…They could get a decent slot receiver in the 5th round, perhaps Alex Wesley out of Northern Colorado or Kavontae Turpin from TCU.  Lions could bring back Golden Tate as he is a free agent now.  Also on the market is Cole Beasley from Dallas and Rashad Greener from Jacksonville.

I don’t think it would be a good idea to try and get Antonio Brown from the Steelers.  While there is no denying his talent, his latest antics could make him poison in the locker room.  However, a change of scenery just might be the ticket for Brown and he would make the Lions very difficult to defend being paired with Kenny Golladay and TJ Jones.

A lot depends on what type of OC the Lions get…and I would imagine the choice needs to be made prior the draft and any decisions on free agency.

Once again, Lions fans look to 2019 as a hopeful season.  My hope is they get their act together, win 12 games and get home field advantage for 1 or 2 games…because with that occurrence, anything can happen.

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 – There Is Hope For A Super Bowl

Roaring Lion

History was made when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series last week, ending 108 year drought.  No longer can we call the Cubbies the loveable losers.  After an epic game 7, they have earned the title “World Champions.”  Congratulations Cub fans!

Witnessing this event, something that has now only happened once since I was born, gives me hope that another event may occur before my time ends on this earth:  The Detroit Lions are crowned as Super Bowl champions.

All  die-hard Lions fans (and I count myself proudly as one of them) know of all the epic failures we have had to endure…from Marty Mornhinweg taking the wind in 2002 against the Chicago Bears to the eight year travesty of Matt Millen running the Detroit Lions into the ground.

But let us not focus on the negative but instead, look toward the future and the hopes the Lions can get a Super Bowl victory that the City of Detroit so richly deserves.

With a bonafide GM in Bob Quinn, that I feel we can state is one of the best the Detroit Lions have ever had since the 1950’s, we can see events in motion that just might have the Lions pointing in that direction.

Now I know that this is Quinn’s first full year as GM.  I believe the reason he didn’t make any changes to the coaching staff is because he wanted to see what he had and to perhaps keep any additional turmoil that could have occurred.

I feel strongly that Jim Caldwell isn’t going to be the coach that takes the Lions to the Super Bowl.  I’m not sure that Matthew Stafford is going to be the quarterback either.  It’s his eighth year in the league and he has some good things for the Lions.  But if we are looking at a 3-5 year plan, will Stafford have enough to lead the Lions?

We have to give Bob Quinn the same leeway Chicago Cubs fans gave Theo Epstein and be patient.  Changes are going to happen within the coaching ranks of the Lions and if not this year, next year Caldwell will be gone.

I don’t have a crystal ball to predict the future especially when we are talking about the Lions.  What I can predict is that changes will come.  We aren’t going to like a lot of them but us Lions fans have to understand that what we’ve been doing for the past 58 years hasn’t been working.

Yes, you’ve read that correctly:  The Lions haven’t won a championship in 58 years, soon to be 59 as I don’t see them getting there this year either.

Lions are relatively young on the offensive side of the ball…decent running backs with Theo Riddick and Zack Zenner.  And the defense is serviceable.

I think Quinn needs to keep Stafford for at least two more years and draft a QB and RB in 2017

If Luke Falk out of Washington State decides to enter the draft this year, I’d like to see the Lions snap him up and let him soak up watching Stafford and what he does.  They could get him in the 3rd or 4th round.  But if he does play his senior year, he’ll go higher in the draft, a low first round or high second round.

As for the running game, we could take Alvin Kamara from Tennessee.  He is a lot like Jamal Charles in that he is a fast slasher and can run with power.

So we could sew up the future with these two guys and then Quinn can draft smartly to beef up both the O-Line and D-Line as well as shoring up the secondary over the next two years.

Lions are in a good position to make a big push to make the playoffs next year, go even deeper 2018 and perhaps in 2019, get to the big dance.

Hey, a guy can dream can’t he?

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.

 

 

 

 

Detroit Lions – Will They Ever Turn The Corner?

Roaring Lion

One thing I have to get off my chest:  Writer’s block absolutely sucks!

One would think that after the Seahawk – Lions game two weeks ago, I could offer a unique perspective on what went down seeing how I have lived in Detroit and Seattle for about the same number of years now.

But nope….nothing, nada, zip.

So I decided today that I would write something, anything to get my mojo back…and what I came up with is common ground:  What the heck is going on with the Lions?

Forget the statistical stuff…anyone can look up and see where the problems are.  I’d prefer to be a little more philosophical if I could.

Their last championship season was in in 1957, 58 years ago.  I was born in 1958 and I’ve see my Lions in the playoffs 11 times in my lifetime and have only seen them advance beyond the first round once.  That would be the dismantling of the Dallas Cowboys in 1991 with a score of 38-6.

Naturally, they couldn’t carry over that success the following week where the Lions were dismantled and humiliated by Washington, 41-10.

When William Clay Ford purchased the Lions in 1963 for $4.5 million dollars, many believe this became the crux of many, many problems that the Lions have endured over the years.  The Lions have had their share of great players during this time, like Alex Karras, Greg Landry, Billy Sims, Lem Barney, Mel Farr, Herman Moore, Chris Speilman and of course Barry Sanders.

But despite these great players, the management portion has always been less than stellar.  Russ Thomas, who was actually with the team as an assistant coach in 1952 and 1953.  But when William Ford tapped him to be the GM in 1967, he was pretty much the sole reason for the Lions mediocrity during his 22 year reign.

Russ Thomas was a tight-wad as if the money spent on player salaries was his own.  His philosophy on player salaries was to avoid paying market value at all costs.  If his number for a player was set in his mind, he would rather lose the players than pay them what they were really worth.

Understand the Lions had many players drafted they let get away because of Thomas being a miser.  Players such as Fred Belitnikoff, perhaps one of the greatest possession receivers to  play the game.  Or seven time Pro-Bowl safety Johnny Robinson.

Did you know the Lions actually drafted six time Pro-Bowl quarterback John Hadl in 1962?  He was taken 10th over all by the Lions…and never played a down for them.  He, of course, became the starting QB for the San Diego Chargers and from 1966 to 1970, averaged over 3,000 yards passing and 28 touchdowns per season.

After Russ Thomas came Chuck Schmidt who attempted to get the Lions on the right track.  From 1989 to 2000, he gave the Lions perhaps the most successful decade since the 1950’s.  During that time, the Lions made six playoff appearances, winning one (the sole win since 1957) game out of seven.  He gave Wayne Fontes some very good players during that time…and while they had pretty good regular seasons, the choked during the playoffs.

And of course, after Schmidt came the GM whose name will not be spoken, a demon who had no business being a general manager of a Girl Scout team let alone a professional football franchise.  A GM who put together a team that went 0-16 in 2008…Nuff said.

And now we have Martin Mayhew who started out looking pretty damn good…course after following the previous GM, how could he not, right?

This current crop of players that the Lions have, both on offense and defense, compares fairly well with other NFL teams.  But for some reason, the Lions just can’t get the combination right.  They either have the players but a coaching staff that is unimaginative or they have the coaching staff but don’t have the player talent to execute!

Okay, this part is going to be a bit tricky:  I know the Ford family is Detroit loyalty but I truly believe the crux of the Detroit Lions is the Ford family.

I was hoping that the Ford family would have sought out a buyer for the team under the condition the team stays.  But I see that Martha Ford has taken over and William Clay Ford Jr. has pretty much reduced his role as Vice Chairman, leaving the team being controlled by President Tom Lewand and GM Martin Mayhew.

This current coaching staff, with Jim Caldwell as head coach and coordinators Joe Lombardi (Offense) and Teryl Austin (Defense) seems to be running a bit scared…as if they are coaching to not lose games as opposed to trying to win them.

Granted, the win over the Bears last week showed some promise.  The offense seemed to open up more with Stafford getting some deep passes to Calvin Johnson.  Still need to get an effective running game though….something that can be relied on to eat up some game clock toward the end of games.

I look at the last six games…the Lions could easily be 4-2 instead of 1-5.  If they hadn’t blown 21-10 lead at the half and allowed the Chargers to score 23 points in the second half, they could have had a rare West Coast win.

They were in the Minnesota game and of course, lost a heart-breaker to Seattle.  Screw the missed call, Calvin has got to hang on to the ball until the whistle blows.  But it was a great play by a great player in Kam Chancellor taking on another great player in Calvin Johnson.

I doubt the Lions will have a shot at the playoffs this year.  But I do want them to get on a hot streak and make the Packers nervous.  If anything, a sweep of the Packers this year would be a helluva accomplishment…and it would give the Lions something to build on next year.

Yeah, I know, I’m just as tired of saying it as much as anyone but wait until next year. 

It Ain’t Easy Being a Detroit Lions Fan

The title of this article says it all:  It ain’t easy being a Lions fan.

After Monday night’s game, where yet the Lions snatched victory from the jaws of defeat yet again, I questioned my own sanity as to why I am so loyal this this team.

Can’t be because of the four NFL Championship games they won, they all occurred before I was a twinkle in my Daddy’s eye.

Prior to the game, I was pondering which jersey to wear.  Should I honor my hometown team and wear my number 15 Golden Tate III or should I wear my number 31 Kam Chancellor to honor the team I have watched since I moved here in 1989.

The pull was to great, I wore the Golden Tate III jersey.  Because I wanted to see my Lions come to Seattle, the league’s loudest stadium with the most loyal fans and do something great.

The Seahawks were plumb for the taking, having started out with road losses against the St. Louis Rams and the Green Bay Packers.  The game against the Chicago Bears was a great effort by the Seahawks and as much as I love the Lions is about as much as I dislike the Bears.  After the 26-0 shutout, I felt that it couldn’t have happen to a better team.

But being a Lions fan is to suffer strange losses and heartbreak.  The loss to the Seahawks wasn’t the strangest…forget the batted ball rule…Kam Chancellor made one helluva play to knock that ball lose.  And Calvin Johnson himself said that “bottom line, I have got to hang on to the ball.”

As for the no call on KJ Wright for batting the ball out of bounds, it really is a non-issue…if Johnson had hung on to the ball, the defense, which really played great in this game, would have had to stop the Hawks with 1:51 left in the game.

Now despite the Lions recovering three fumbles and sacking Seattle’s Russell Wilson 6 times, the Lions were still having a very hard time containing him.  There were scrambles that Wilson made that looked like he was coached by Twyla Tharp.

But here’s the thing:  The Detroit Lions did play a very good defensive game.  Despite the fact the Seahawks didn’t have Marshawn Lynch, they contained that offense pretty well…and to hold a team that had averaged 24 points a game over the last three games to only 13 is saying something.

But now we get to the crux of the issue, the Detroit Lions offense.  After dropping 21 points in the first half on the San Diego Chargers in the opening game of the season, the Lions became predictable.  Golden Tate came out and said that opposing teams knew what was coming.

And watching the game against the Seahawks, in the first three quarters, I was about 75% correct on what they were going to do…and I’m no expert at reading offenses.

But in the fourth quarter, the Lions offense suddenly came awake.  With 6:24 left in the game, the Lions put together a masterful 91-yard drive that could have driven the Seahawks into panic mode until the fumble in the end zone.

During that drive, the Seahawks didn’t know what hit them.  Stafford was masterful with pin-point precision, hitting four different receivers driving them to the 11 yard line, setting up the fateful play.

And it’s at this time you want to go to your best players.  Stafford drifted back, looked for the best wide receiver on the planet and connected.  And Calvin did what every bone in his body said to do:  Fight to get over the goal line…and a special play by a special player in Kam Chancellor put the Lions at 0-4.

Here’s what gets me about Matthew Stafford.  During that drive, he got what Golden Tate called “that look in his eye” that would give him the focus to put the Lions on his back and drive them to victory.  It’s one of the reasons Tate said he wanted to come to the Lions.

If there is any hope for this season, Matt Stafford has to get that “look in his eye” from the opening kick-off until the final gun.  It’s his team, he needs to own it.

And Joe Lombardi, quit being an old lady and take the shackles off.  Convince Jim Caldwell that the current ball-control offense isn’t working and start taking some chances early in the game instead of always in desperation mode.

It’s time to awaken the Lion.

Awake The Lion

Good-bye Mr. Suh, We Hardly Knew Ya!

Looks like Suh will sign with Miami for $114 Million
Looks like Suh will sign with Miami for $114 Million

 

Alright, let’s everybody take a deep breath….and now exhale.

Detroit Lions all-world defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is poised to bolt to the Miami Dolphins.  With his exit, Suh will achieve his goal of being the highest-paid defensive player in the league.

Funny thing about that achievement is it will only last a year or two.

Anyone who is even a fair-weather fan of the Detroit Lions will see this as a colossal mistake in letting him go.  And anyone that remains a fan will point to Detroit Lions management and yell “you screwed us again!” and be right.

However, looking at this from a different perspective, it may work out better for the Lions financially.  But then again, the Lions aren’t the brightest bulb in the box when it comes to finances.

We all know when Barry Sanders was here they needed to spend money on building a team around him.  While they came close, they never really go over the hump that would have at least given the greatest running back whoever played the game a Super Bowl appearance.

As for Suh, yep, it’s gonna suck that the Lions have a huge hole to fill now.  But at least it sets them up to draft appropriately…wait, this is the Lions, right?

Suh is gone and I don’t have a lot of faith in Nick Fairley.  Say what you want about Suh.  But the one thing you have to admit, the man stayed healthy and came to play.  Teams had to account for him and when they didn’t he made them pay.

But is he truly a freak of nature?  Are there some defensive tackles in the college ranks that could fill that void?  I believe there is and here are the ones that I think would help ease the pain:

Danny Shelton – University of Washington:  This guy is an absolute monster.  6’1″ and weighing in at 343 lbs. he would be a great run-stuffer.  He can bulldoze into the backfield and collapse the pocket quickly.  Teams are going to have to always double-team him because I don’t think there is any interior lineman that can hold him one on one for long.

In 2014, he was one of the leaders in sacks for defensive tackles, registering nine.  On top of that, Shelton had 87 tackles with an astounding 16.5 of them for losses.

If the Lions want to fill the hole, Shelton would be a great pick at 23.  Shelton is considered a top 25 player.

Malcom Brown – Texas:  Coming in at 6’2″ and 319 lbs, Brown is a very different player than Shelton is…but just as effective.

He is a dangerous pass rusher and showed that he can shed blocks.  Quite often, Brown overwhelmed opposing linemen.  He recorded 6.5 sacks in 2014  to go along with 71 tackles (13 for loss) and two forced fumbles.  Kid has a great motor and is always a tough assignment.

Jordan Phillips – Oklahoma:  6’5′ and 329 lbs.  Has a surprising burst for a big man and uses his size to overwhelm linemen.  He can cause a lot of disruption at the point of attack and would be a great candidate for a 3-4 defense if the Lions go that way.

These are just 3 players in the ranks that I believe can play defensive tackle for the Lions.  Will any of them make us forget Ndamukong Suh?  Doubtful as Suh is a one of a kind player.

But I do think any of these three will create enough havoc in opposing backfields.  And there wouldn’t be a big step backward in the defensive line philosophy the Lions currently employ.

Suh is gone and there is nothing we can do about it.  And yelling at the Lions management won’t do much either.  We need to trust (which I know is a hard thing to do) the management to fill the void and keep the Lions in contention.

I’m going to keep hoping the Lions will make smart and savvy draft day decisions and spend wisely in free agency.

Go Lions!

 

Detroit Lions – One Pride, Lions Will Not Be Standing Alone.

Detroit One Pride

Today when the Detroit Lions play the Green Bay Packers, it will be the most important game they will have played in over two decades.

We need to exercise the demons that we celebrated getting a high first-round draft pick.  We need to forget all the bad coaching decisions that were made.  We need to forget the debacle of Matt Millen who’s influence on this team will finally be forgotten.

Now is the time to celebrate the defense that has carried this team all year long.  We need to celebrate the qualities of Matthew Stafford who has stepped up his game this year.  We need to celebrate the magic of Calvin Johnson who without a doubt will go down in NFL history as one of the best wide receivers ever to put on an NFL uniform.

But most of all, we need to thank these Detroit Lions.  From my point of view, they have done so much to unite Detroit.  Between the Lions and the Detroit Tigers, they have once again made downtown Detroit a vibrant again.

I was born and raised in Detroit, as was my wife.  While we have moved to Seattle and haven’t been through what our fellow Detroiters had to endure, we both still have friends and family that kept us appraised.

Personally, I read the Detroit Free Press every day, mostly to keep up with what goes on both within the city as well as the sports scene.  I was heart-broken to hear that Detroit, after all the years of financial mismanagement went bankrupt.

But I was equally proud that my hometown pulled it together and are now coming out of it.  We were back in the area last week and while there are still areas that are reminders of the blight Detroit has faced for the last few decades, there is a palatable difference in the air.   Attitudes are more positive…all of the people we encountered were positive and polite.  We were treated with respect everywhere we went.

Lions have a lot to play for today…not just for the division but for the city itself.  When out Lions take the field today, they will not stand alone.  All Detroit Lions fans, regardless of where they are, will be standing with them…

One Detroit, One Pride.

Go Lions!

 

Lions Win Over The Bears – There Are Some Concerns

Lions Win!! Playoff Bound Baby!
Lions Win!! Playoff Bound Baby!

The Lions won yesterday beating the Chicago Bears 20-14.

We should be happy in the result (OK, I admit the 45-7 prediction was a little out of whack) since a win is a win is a win, right?

But there are too many causes for concern:

  1. Leaving at least 17 points on the field.  Matthew Stafford didn’t have his best game but played well enough to win.  But 2 crucial interceptions in the red zone (one that should have been a touchdown) and a makeable 34 yard field goal that was blocked made the game a lot closer than it should have been.
  2. Giving up points of turnovers.  The Lions defense played well enough to have shut-out the Bears.  But a special teams gaffe gave Chicago a short field.  Jeremy Ross was indecisive on a punt, not sure to catch it and attempt a return or just fair catch it.  He did neither as he tried to allow the ball to go into the end-zone.  However, the funny shaped ball has a tendency to take weird hops.  It touched him and the Bears recovered on the Detroit 11-yard line.
  3. Just plain dumbness.  What the heck was Dominic Raiola thinking when he stomped on the leg of Ego Ferguson?  The last thing you want to do is fire up a team when they have nothing to play for but pride.  Regardless if it was intentional or not, it was used by the Bears as fuel.

The Lions can ill-afford to play a game such as this against Green Bay next week.  If I were Jim Caldwell, I would give the team about 2 minutes to celebrate and then lay into them because of the dumbness of how they played.

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.  And the Lions got lucky yesterday.

They had better start focusing on being good if they want to have any chance against the Packers next week.

 

 

Lions 42, Bears 7: Bears Give Lions An Early Christmas Present!

Right Now, The Bears Are A Mess...And The Lions Aren't Going To Do Them Any Favors.
Right Now, The Bears Are A Mess…And The Lions Aren’t Going To Do Them Any Favors.

OK, the predicted score may be based on my total dislike of Bears fans.  But when the Lions were down, how often did the Bears come to town and mash us…and how we had to endure the insults of Bears fans in the process.

I have little sympathy for the Bears but I have to admit I know what they are going through.  Inept management, ineffective coaching and players who have little motivation to succeed.

That being said, I have a strong feeling the Lions will dominate the Bears to the point of embarrassment.  So much that it will more than likely cost head coach Marc Trestman his job and could be the final days of Jay Cutler.

The Lions defense is riding high right now and the mistake prone Bears will just add fuel to the fire.  If they think that Jimmy Clausen will fare any better than Cutler would, they are sadly mistaken.

Clausen was  pretty good QB for Notre Dame but once again, being a good QB in College doesn’t mean you are going to be a good QB at the Pro level.  Clausen, in his three years with the Carolina Panthers, played in 13 games, all in 2010.  His stats show him attempting 299 passes, completing a little over 50% of them with three touchdowns and nine interceptions.  I guess there was a reason Clausen didn’t see the field over the next two years.

There is also an issue with his character.  In 2010, the Panthers still had Steve Smith who for the longest time was all the Panthers had as far as an offensive weapon.  It all boiled down to that Smith pretty much thought Clausen was a punk.  If that meant that Clausen couldn’t play the game, Smith wasn’t that far off as Clausen went 16 of 33 for 188 yards, tossing one interception and losing two of three fumbled snaps.

I’m not sure the reasoning for making a change at the Bears QB spot right now but it’s a desperate move.  Cutler may be mistake prone but he is the best QB the Bears have right now.  Granted, Cutler can also be called a punk since he can be stubborn and rely too much on his arm.  And if this is a disciplinary thing, it’s too little too late if you want to face reality.

All I can say to the Bears is thanks for the early Christmas present!