Tag Archives: NFL Playoffs

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.

Seattle Seahawks – Offensive Line Has To Play Better

Seahawk Shining

There is a saying about the three most important things when you want to open a business:  Location, location, location.

Pretty much the same thing can be said if an NFL football team needs to be successful:  O-Line, O-Line, O-Line.

I watched the Seattle Seahawk-Arizona Cardinal game Saturday and I was amazed at just how the Cardinal defense dominated the Hawks offensive line in the first half:  QB Russell Wilson sacked 5 times and under constant pressure.  34 plays run by the Seahawks in the first half and of those, 19 of them resulted in no gain, yards lost or a turnover.  One yard of offense in the first quarter and a total of just 94 yards for the first half.  A total of seven plays run inside Arizona’s 10-yard line and failed to punch it in and having to settle for a field goal.

While everything appeared to improve in the second half, I still am having a hard time as to why the O-Line has been so inconsistent.  How can they look so pitiful as they did in the first half and then seem to become above average as they did in the second half?

The play of the Seahawks offensive line is what will determine how well they will do in the playoffs.  And since we don’t know which O-Line will show up, us Seahawk fans are going to be sitting on pins and needles when the playoffs start.

It was evident what the Cardinals wanted to do with Russell Wilson.  Keep him in the pocket and do not allow him to extend plays.  You could see the Cardinal defense swing out wide when rushing the QB, daring him to run up the middle.  On most of Wilson’s sacks, at least two of the offensive linemen had blown their assignments.

I understand that Seattle GM John Schneider had to make a decision when building this team that somewhere on this team, money just could not be spent.  As of right now, the Seahawks have the lowest salary cap for the offensive line at $6, 259,177.  That’s nearly $7 million dollars less than the next lowest team, the New York Giants.

Tom Cable may be just about the best offensive line coach in the NFL.  But as with any profession, you are only as good as the ingredients you are given.

Let’s start with left tackle George Fant.  Amazing potential and has indeed come a long way this year.  But understand you are protecting your most valuable asset with a guy that didn’t start in a football game since his 8th grade elementary season.  He focused on basketball in his high-school days and had a decent collegiate season for Western Kentucky.  He was finally convinced to try football as he had a wife and child to consider.  He was either going to play basketball in Poland or hopefully play in the NFL.  He had no tape, barley any game footage but during a workout with the Seahawks, Cable saw him as a “long-armed athlete” and was convinced he would be a great prospect.

I am amazed at Fant’s production and improvement and I think he will be an excellent left-tackle.  What I fear is that with all that Cable is teaching him, when it comes time for a new contract, he’ll be gone since the Hawks won’t want to spend the money.

Center Justin Britt seems to have found a place that he can succeed at.  He was drafted by the Hawks in the 6th round of the 2014 draft.  He was a starter the last two years at Missouri playing  both left and right tackle.  Seahawks love versatility and saw Britt as a possible right tackle and was the starter there for the Hawks in 2014.  Despite being ranked as one of the worst rookie pass blocking tackles, Britt started all 16 games at right tackle and the divisional playoff game against the Carolina Panthers before suffering an injury.

After a poor showing in the 2015 season at right tackle, Hawks moved him to left guard.  Britt improved a bit, starting all 16 games at left guard but still was ranked as one of the least effective pass blockers in the NFL.  In 2016, Britt was moved to center and his game improved dramatically…so much that he was elected as a Pro-Bowl alternate for 2016.  Pete Carroll stated that center is what they had in mind for Britt when they drafted him 2 years prior.  My question is why the heck did they want so damn long?  Max Unger was at center in 2014, Britt’s first year.  Why didn’t they have him back up Unger the first year, get him to learn all the tricks of the trade from him and then have him start at center in 2015 and just leave him there?

The Seahawk offensive line is young with an average age of 24.2 years old.  I don’t have issues with the age factor but I do have an issue with the talent level.  Seahawks have been known to find some gold at other positions.  Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Richard Sherman and Tyler Lockett are proof of that.

They need to find the same gold for the offensive line coming up in next years draft.  I’m willing to keep Fant as left tackle as I believe he will become one of the best in the game.  I also will concede the center spot to Britt.  Anyone who can improve to Pro-Bowl caliber is just fine in my book.  But that leaves the 2 guard spots and the right tackle.  Starter left guard Mark Glowinski, starter right guard German Ifedie with back up at both spots of Rees Odhiambo don’t give me a feeling of security, especially when playing against huge defensive lines such as the Cardinals.  Right tackle starter Bradley Sowell and back-up Garry Gilliam are at best a couple of back-ups on other teams.

Release or trade guards Glowinski and Ifedie as well as right tackle Sowell and keep Odhiambo and Gilliam for back-up spots on the line.

Then I would go after these players in the draft:

For right tackle:  Julie’n Davenport, Bucknell.  Another player with a background in basketball, Davenport is 6-7 and 315 lbs.  He has the tools to be a solid left tackle and would be able to develop his skills on the right side.  Good versatility as both he and Fant could play either tackle spot.

Left guard:  Kareem Are, Florida State.  This is a big man.  Listed at 6-6 and 334 pounds, Are would be just the road grader needed to jump start the Hawks running game.  He is an excellent power blocker at the point of attack and with Cable coaching, he will only improve on his pass blocking.

Right guard:  Taylor Moton, Central Michigan.  Another big presence inside.  Coming in at 6-5 and 326 pounds, he would help solidify the inside running game the Hawks so desperately need.  He is versatile enough to be able to play right tackle as well.

Remember the three things needed to be a successful NFL team:  O-Line, O-Line, O-Line!

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!

Seahawks – Critical Games for 2016 Season

Cool Seahawk Logo

With the NFL pre-season underway, I thought I would take a peek at the regular season schedule and check for 6 critical games for the Seahawks.

Week 2 – at LA Rams

No matter what record the Rams have, they always seem to give the Seahawks fits.  This will be the home opener for the Rams at the Memorial Coliseum.  Rams last played in LA in 1994 so you know they are going to be hyped up.  Jeff Fisher always has a trick or two up his sleeve so Hawks need to be prepared for that.  I think a heavy does of Christian Michael and Thomas Rawls will be on the menu as well as some play-action fakes to keep the Ram defense honest.  As always, the game will be close and a win here is critical for both teams.

Week 3 – San Francisco 49’rs

I do believe the rivalry will be re-ignited with the presence of Chip Kelly, the new head coach for San Francisco.  And I really hope the Seahawks just pound the living snot out of the 49’rs to wipe that condescending and  smarmy expression off Kelly’s face.  San Fran isn’t much of a threat to the Hawks but they still need to remain wary.  Pretty sure (about 90% sure) this will be a win for the home team.

Week 7 – at Arizona Cardinals

A lot of mutual respect between the Hawks and the Cards.  Good, hard-nosed football between 2 innovative coaches who put faith in the players to perform rather than a system.  Toss up as to who will win but it won’t be by more than a field goal.  Depending on the standings, this could decide the NFC West despite having eight games left in the season.

Week 10 – at New England

Seahawks need to control their emotions because if they use revenge as a motive to try and beat New England, that’s just what Bill Belichick wants them to do.  Master of mind games, he will use that motivation to force the Hawks into mistakes.  Hawks defensive line needs to pressure Brady as much as they can and the secondary must have an exceptional game covering those pesky receivers that Brady throws too underneath.  They need to make Brady throw before he wants to.  They may get one or two sacks but if they can pressure him, they can force him to make bad throws.  I, as much as any Seahawk fan, would love if the Hawks can steal a victory here but they have to play smart and not get caught up in getting revenge for them stealing a Super Bowl from us.

Week 13 – Carolina Panthers

You don’t think the Seahawks watched Super Bowl 50 and took notice what the Broncos did to make Newton pout like a baby?  Look for Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril to pressure and contain Newton as well as Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel to come up the gut and get in his face.  I also see Frank Clark being a difference maker as he has the speed and strength to deal with Newton if he tries to take off and run.  It will come down to defense vs. defense and a last second field goal.

Week 17 – at San Francisco

One can only hope the Seahawks have secured their playoff spot by the time they get to San Francisco because you know darn well that Chip Kelly will want to end the season with a win over a division rival.  Regardless of where the Hawks are at by the end of the season, a sweep over the 49’rs is always sweet (it was sweetest when Harbaugh was there, right?) and would put a nice finish to the regular season.

Looking forward to hearing a lot of fireworks going off after every game.  The 12’s are some of the greatest fans in the NFL.

Go Hawks!

Detroit Lions Bob Quinn’s First NFL Draft as GM – Make Us Proud!

Show Us What Ya Got Bobby!
Show Us What Ya Got Bobby!

On April 28th, we Lions fans are going to see what new GM Bob Quinn is going to. Is he going to start this team on the road to consistent winning seasons and perhaps a trip to the Super Bowl within the next 3 years? Or will he flame out like so many other GM’s the Lions have had over the years.

I will say that last year, while disappointing, was perhaps one of the most interesting seasons that I could recall in a while. Not so much regarding the play on the field which started like crap but ended up with the Lions being in contention until late in the season. Not a place anyone expected them to be after a horrendous 1-8 start.

Martha Firestone Ford does not show the loyalty that her late husband, Bill Ford, Sr., did when it came to GM’s and coaches. She is loyal to them as long as they are winning…but she has a quick hook if results aren’t achieved as the firings of Mayhew and Lewand prove. I also believe that she was instrumental in part of the removal of Joe Lombardi as the offensive coordinator last year which gave Jim Bob Cooter a chance which he took great advantage of.

When Cooter took over the job on October 26th, Cooter had very little time to get his offense ready for the trip to London. I think the only thing he could do was try to survive the game. It had to be tough on the players to get used to a new offensive coordinator with only 4 days to prepare and make that long trip across the pond. And it showed in the game, a 45-10 loss to the Kansas City Chief in jolly old England.

The loss came on November 1st. Four days later, General Manager Martin Mayhew and President Tom Lewand were thanked for their services and show the door.

Both were left-overs from the scorched-earth tenure of THE most inexperienced GM that ever walked the face of the earth, otherwise known as the smarmy Matt Millen. But they made some significant contributions and after the epic 2008 0 – 16 record, Millen was fired (two years too late in my estimation), Mayhew engineered some decent trades and drafts to get the Lions into the playoffs four years later in 2011. Granted, they were overmatched in the Wild Card game against the Saints but they did improve each season since 2008. Yeah, I know, how can you not after losing every single game in 2008…and after achieving a 10-6 record in 2011, they reverted back to their losing ways in 2012 and flopped to a 4-12 season.

Enter Bob Quinn, then the New England Patriots director of pro scouting, hired by Ernie Accorsi, an excellent GM during his time with the New York Giants. The search was quick and the face-to-face interview that Accorsi had with Quinn gave light to the reasons why the Patriots just don’t win, they dominate year after year.

Accorsi spoke with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (a former Detroit Lion receivers coach in 1977) and while the conversation they had hasn’t been made public, Accorsi respected Belichick’s opinion enough that he convinced the Lions to pull the trigger and hire Quinn.

And in yet another smart move, the Detroit Lions retained Accorsi as a special advisor which gives Quinn a very experienced person to speak with as this is Quinn’s first time as a General Manager.

In typical fashion, Quinn isn’t giving any hints on what his plans are for the upcoming draft April 28th – 30th. And so far in free agency, Quinn has made some significant moves, getting WR Marvin Jones from the Bengals after the retirement of Calvin Johnson.

He also shored up the secondary bringing in four defensive backs, CB Johnson Bademosi and Crezdon Butler as well as safeties Tavon Wilson and Rafael Bush. And perhaps the most intriguing signing was getting Buffalo Bills DT Stefan Charles on a one year contract.

Which brings us to the draft. What will Quinn do? Not sure but I suspect that it won’t be a typical, desperate Detroit Lion draft where they pin the hopes of success on one player. Quinn and the advice of Ernie Accorsi is going to be geared into building a team. A team that will have sustainability and if it just happens to follow how the New England Patriots do business, well cripes, I think all of us die-hard Lions fans can accept a 15 year run with an average of 11 wins a season, 13 trips to the playoffs, 6 Super Bowl appearances and 4 Super Bowl wins.

Granted, there is a lot of work to do…and to be honest, I don’t suspect we’ll see the Lions in the playoffs in 2016. However, the success the Lions had in the second half of 2015 is a decent foundation to build on. Jim Caldwell may not have the football acumen of a Bill Belichick but he does have 2 Super Bowl appearances, winning one of them.

I predict the draft will be a good one for the Lions. Bob Quinn and company are going to give the Ford Family and the City of Detroit something to be proud of for a long time.

Seahawks Season Ends With Loss to Panthers 31-24

We didn’t lose the game, we just ran out of time….Vince Lombardi.

I use the quote by the great Vince Lombardi because it is the perfect metaphor for the game they played against the Carolina Panthers…they just ran out of time.

This game was an example of how the season went.  Giving up 31 points in the first half seemed like a very deep hole to dig out of but the resiliency of this team showed they just don’t give up.

But there is a reason why the Carolina Panthers are a 15-1 team.  They took care of business early on with Washington native Jonathon Stewart ripping off a 75 yard run on the first play of the game to set up the first Carolina touchdown.

The defense came up big on the very next series when Luke Kuechly picked off an ill-advised Russell Wilson pass and ran it in for a pick six to go up 14-0 barley four minutes played.

And the Panthers continued to pour it on, scoring 17 more points in the second quarter.

But the Seahawks regrouped in the second half.  The defense came up huge by shutting out the Panthers in the second half and allowing the offense to crawl it’s way out of the deep hole they dug for themselves.

Some great individual efforts and the one effort I want to point out is the one by Jermaine Kearse.  His play in the second half was stellar, catching two clutch touchdowns and making great catch after great catch to finish with 11 catches for 110 yards to go along with the 2 scores.

Another is rookie Tyler Lockett.  His TD catch was clutch and his receiving technique on a crucial third down situation was nothing short of amazing.  Seahawks have found a treasure in this kid.  He had only 3 catches for 75 yards but his 50 yard return to open the second half was a spark the Hawks desperately needed.

Marshawn Lynch was a non-factor in this game and I don’t feel he will be back in a Seahawk uniform next season.  I admire his running style and they way he fights for every yard he can get.  But he is at point in his career where he is starting to break down.

About the only way he comes back to the Hawks is a re-structured contract and a reduced role with the offense.  It appears to me that Thomas Rawls has the inside track to be the featured running back.

While I admire Pete Carroll’s mantra to run first, I also have to admire his adaptability to open up the passing game and put the team on the shoulders of Russell Wilson who showed the rest of the NFL that he is capable of carrying the team when needed.

Wilson showed remarkable leadership skills this game as well as the second-half of the season.  His decision making became sublime in his historic second half run.  At one point, over a 5-game stretch, he had 19 touchdowns with zero interceptions, something that no quarterback in the history of the game ever accomplished.  And there have been some great quarterbacks over the past 96 years the NFL has been in existence.

As always at the end of a season, there will be some hard choices to make.  With the Seahawks it will be with the following players:

Marshawn Lynch – No one can dispute when the Seahawks made the trade for the mercurial running back in 2010 that it was going to be Lynch to be the face of the Seahawks.  Lynch came through time after time, putting the Hawks on the playoff map with his seismic Beast Quake run against the New Orleans Saints later that same year.  But next year will be Lynch’s 10th year in the NFL and will be 30 years old.  Just coming off his first ever surgery and is one of the highest paid players in the NFL.  It may come down to a business decision to release Lynch to free up salary cap for younger players.  If Lynch decides to retire, Seattle should throw him the biggest freaking party it can…but it would be a coin toss if he showed up for it.

Russell Okung – Okung is considered one of the top left tackles in the game.  Issue I have with him is that we’ve never gotten a full season from him.  He was the Hawks first pick in the 2010 draft and landed a six year contract worth $48 million dollars with more than $29 million of it guaranteed.  Now that he’s up for free agency, he is going to command an even higher salary.  My opinion, while Okung is a good left tackle and I would hate to disrupt that line, Hawks need to part ways with Okung and find another left tackle in the draft, perhaps Jack Conklin out of Michigan State or Jerald Hawkins of LSU.  Okung is going to be way to expensive for the Hawks to keep.

J.R. Sweezy – This is a guy I think we need to keep.  He brings solidity to the right guard spot and is an good run blocker.  He is at the end of a 4-year, $2.1 million dollar contract.  If the Hawks can keep him with a 3-year at about a $5 million dollar contract, it will be less disruption on the offensive line which took a while to come around in 2015.

Jermaine Kearse – Over the last two years, Kearse has come up with some very clutch catches.  All of us can remember the acrobatic catch he made in the 2014 Super Bowl against the Patriots.  And this game, coming up huge with his performance against the Panthers.  Hawks need to keep him so the receiving corps of Kearse, Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, Luke Wilson and yes, Jimmy Graham are kept intact for the 2016 season.

Brandon Mebane – An absolute monster in the middle but may have to be a causality  of the business.  Gotta love the effort he puts out every game and how effective he is bottling up the middle against the run.  As much as I’d love to keep him, it wouldn’t be cost-effective to do so.

So here is to yet another great season the Hawks gave us and here is to hoping they continue to finds ways to keep finding players to maintain the level of excellence all Seahawk fans come to expect.

And while I applaud the Carolina Panthers season and their ability to survive the game against the Hawks, I will be rooting for the Arizona Cardinals next week…and if the Cards can get past them, I will be rooting for them against the AFC team they face in the Super Bowl.  Love to see one of the classiest players in the game, Larry Fitzgerald, get a Super Bowl ring.

GO HAWKS!

Seattle Seahawks Win By A Hawk feather – Panthers up Next

What just happenend

I’m pretty sure that 95% of Seattle Seahawks fans was asking the same thing Archer was kicker Blair Walsh lined up for a 27 yard field goal, shorter than an extra point, and missed. It was a pretty sure thing seeing how Walsh had made 3 previous field goals of 22, 43 & 47 yards.

The snap was good, the hold was good and Blair Walsh, who had made 87.2% of his kicks this year, pulled it left. About the only thing that was “bad” about the kick was the laces of the football were facing Walsh when the attempt was made. This can cause some kicks to be erratic and might have played a part in it but Walsh wasn’t having any part of it.

He placed the blame solely on his shoulders. Teammates consoled him as he broke down. You can’t tell me that NFL is all business. This loss hurt the Vikings deep. Hopefully, they can take a page from the Seahawks and grow stronger from it.

Ah yes, the Seahawks, surviving the 3rd-coldest playoff game in playoff history. While I will give the defense their due, they played a fantastic game, the offense survived on individual efforts.

That’s not to say the Seahawk offense had totally fallen apart, that’s not the case at all. The offensive line run blocked well enough to allow Christine Michael to rush for 70 yards. But for the most part, it was individual efforts by Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett.

The first I point to is in the 3rd quarter. Hawks were at their own 20 yard line with a 3rd and ten. Wilson, out of the shotgun, drifted back in the pocket and threw high. Doug Baldwin, with a Viking on his back, came up with perhaps the best catch I have seen since the days of Steve Largent.

Baldwin went up, with his right hand extended and somewhat behind his head and brought the ball in. First down Seahawks!

The next play came from Wilson and rookie Tyler Lockett (who has not played like a rookie at all) in the fourth quarter. Seahawks had put together a decent drive and had 1st and ten at the Viking 40 yard line. Wilson, in the shotgun, was not prepared for the snap and it sailed over his left shoulder. Wilson chased it back in Seattle territory, picking it up at around the 47 yard line. He secured the ball, saw that no one was around him, scrambled to his right and found Lockett at the Viking 29-yard line.

It would have been a great play right there to pick up the first down but Lockett, with some veteran savvy, turned and ran to the left side of the field and turned up until he was driven out at around the 6 yard line. First and goal, Seahawks!

On second and goal, Wilson found Baldwin on the right of the end zone to put 7 on the board for the Hawks. Later, Steven Hauschka with 8:09 left in the game connected on a 46-yard field goal which turned out to be the game winner.

The Minnesota Vikings have nothing to be ashamed of on this game. They did all the right things to limit the Seahawk offense being on the field. They put pressure on Wilson and the cold, frigid air did the rest on his passes having them seemingly float in the air.

The Viking offense did its part as well, holding the ball for long stretches and building a 9-0 lead that in the game conditions seemed insurmountable to the Seahawks.

But then there are special players that seemingly find just the right time to create magic. Cue Baldwin, Wilson and Lockett.

There are some questions I have on some of the decisions that Pete Carroll made early in the game. For instance in the first quarter, the Hawks have the ball on the Viking 30 yard line with a 4th and 13. Instead of electing to attempt a 40-yard field goal, well within Hauschka’s range, they elected to go for it and completed a 7-yard pass to Fred Jackson.

Then, in the second quarter, Seahawks had gotten the ball to the Vikings 34 yard line and elected to punt instead of having Hauschka attempt a 44-yard field goal.

Hawks again had the ball on the Vikings 38 yard line and went with a punt instead of a 48 yard field goal with 1:15 left in the first half.

I know the conditions were brutal but I feel they left points on the field. Blair Walsh proved that a ball could be kicked from as far out as 47 yards and I think Hauschka as a better leg than Walsh.

As for heading to Carolina, the Seahawks are going to need a much better played game than what they showed against the Vikings. There is a reason that the Panthers went 14-1 during the season. However, Seahawk fans can take solace that the Hawks played them very tough in Week 6 and had the lead in the 4th quarter playing them at home.

Seahawks match up well with the Panthers and I suspect this will be a slugfest. Which it should be since this is for the NFC Division and the right to move on to the NFC Championship game.

Historically, the Seahawks have played well at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC. Since 2000, they are 3-2 there and the Hawks have an overall record of 7-3 against the Panthers. Over the last 4 games played in Charlotte, Seahawks are 3-1 and the score differential is only 4 points between these two teams.

I don’t see a low scoring game here however. Panthers led the NFL during the regular season scoring 31.2 points per game and the Hawks were in the Top 5, averaging 26.4. Defenses were close as well. Hawks allowed a league leading 17.3 points per game while the Panthers held opponents to 19.2 points per game.

It will be decided on who has the ball last I think. Perhaps 27-24 Seahawks on a Hauschka 50-yard field goal?

We’re just gonna have to wait and see, won’t we?

I’ll be writing a prediction of the Hawks/Panthers game later this week.

Stay tuned!

GO HAWKS!

Seahawks vs. Vikings – No Lynch? No Problem, Hawks Win 24-13

Hawks Vikings

I woke up this morning and grabbed the Seattle Times off the front porch, made coffee and amid the headlines about the Seattle Mariners retiring Ken Griffey Jr.’s number, my eyes drifted toward a small blurb about Marshawn Lynch not playing in tomorrow’s playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings.

To be honest, I don’t think this will be a determent to the Seahawks.  Yes, it would have been nice to have Beast Mode behind Russell Wilson, with all of his playoff experience and his ability to rise to the occasion when needed.

But consider just how well the Seahawks have played (except for the Rams game) over the second half of the season without him and Jimmy Graham.  All they did was set franchise records for most yards in a season (6,058) and for the fourth time in team history, finished among the top four in total offense in the NFL.

The Seahawks have ridden Lynch to two Super Bowl appearances, winning one of them.   And while I appreciate the talent and drive that Lynch has on the field, I think the true identity of this team has come out in Russell Wilson.

Wilson went nuts in the second half of 2015.  Much of that came after the bye when the team made adjustments to the passing game in getting the ball out quicker from Wilson.  The result of that, Wilson was sacked only 15 times in the second half after getting dropped 33 times in the first.

Benefitting from Wilson’s excellent second half has been Doug Baldwin who has really come into his own, setting team record for most receiving TD’s in a season (14) and achieving 1,000 yards receiving for the first time in his career.

Let’s not forget about Tyler Lockett who was drafted to upgrade the return game.  Not only has he done that but he also finished with 51 catches for 664 yards and six TD’s.  The Seahawks may have found the deep threat they have been seeking in this kid.  He has the talent to become one of the best receivers in the game.

Jermaine Kearse also has had a solid season with 49 catches for 685 yards and 5 TD’s.  But he also does the little things that allows other players to shine.  On crossing routes, he often frees up the other receiver in ways that he doesn’t get flagged for picking the defender.  He blocks well and has made some of the most clutch catches to keep drives alive.

The combined stats for the trio of Baldwin, Locket and Kearse is 178 catches for 2,418 yards and 25 TD’s.  I’m pretty sure that any team in the NFL would love that production from their wide receiving corps.

And it’s not like the rushing game was tossed out the window after Lynch went down and later when Thomas Rawls got injured.  In stepped cast-off Christine Michael and Bryce Brown along with Fred Jackson who has been good as a third down back.  And let’s not forget fullbacks Derrick Coleman and Will Tukuafu who get the calls to either block on short yardage situations or leak out pass the defensive line to gain critical yardage in screen pass situations.

No Jimmy Graham or Luke Willson?  In steps Cooper Helfet and Chase Hoffman, both of whom had some clutch catches in the Arizona game.

So we don’t have Lynch…that’s OK, we have everyone else that will keep it going until Lynch is ready to play.

Let’s not forget that defense which for the fourth year in a row finished in the top five in the NFL.  They were second in total defense, giving up 291.8 yards a game, second in passing defense, allowing 210.2 yards per game and first in the NFL against the run, allowing a mere 81.5 yards per game.

The key to this game will be the same as it was when the Hawks beat the Vikings 38-7 in week 13.  Mitigate yards gained by Adrian Peterson and dare QB Teddy Bridgewater to beat them with his arm.

And all Bridgewater has to do is throw into the teeth of the Legion of Boom of Richard Sherman, Deshawn Shead, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas.  That is if he has enough time avoiding the rush of Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Brandon Mebane and Bruce Irvin.

The weather isn’t going to factor into this game.  It will affect both teams the same.  What it will boil down to is overall talent between the two teams.  And while the Vikings defense is ranked 13th overall, the way the Seahawks offense has been clicking, they will wear them down with the run game and the short passing game.

I’m not afraid of the Vikings offense which finished 29th overall in 2015.  While they are ranked 4th in rushing (I mean come on, it is Adrian Peterson) they are ranked 31st in passing and 31st in receiving.

So what’s the focus going to be?  On Peterson, put at least two spies on him and try to create turnovers.  Peterson has fumbled 7 times this year, losing 3 of them.

I’d put Bobby Wagner on him first and second down and have Bruce Irvin cover him on third down if he comes out of the backfield.  Wagner is a sure tackler and Irvin has the speed to stay with Peterson and isn’t bad in coverage.

That is if Peterson can get past the road block of Brandon Mebane or Aythyba Rubin up the middle or if he can get around the corner and avoid Bennett and Avril.

Looking forward to this game as the Seahawks will beat the Vikings 23-13.

GO HAWKS!

12th man flag

 

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!