2016 Record: 9-7 – 2nd in NFC North
Passing: Matthew Stafford – 4,327 yards, 24 TD, 10 INT
Rushing: Theo Riddick – 357 yards, 1 TD
Receiving: Golden Tate – 1,077 yards, 4 TD
Tackles: Tahir Whitehead – 132
Sacks: Kerry Hyder – 8.0
Interceptions: Rafael Bush/Glover Quin/Darius Slay/Tavon Wilson – 2
RB Matt Asiata
LB Jarrad Davis
CB Teez Tabor
WR Anquan Boldin
DE Devin Taylor
DT Tyrunn Walker
LB DeAndre Levy
S Rafael Bush
– Matt Stafford continues to be one of the most effective quarterbacks in football. He’s only gotten better since Calvin Johnson’s retirement and has found two great targets in Golden Tate and Marvin Jones.
– The Lions’ defense was in the top half of the league in yards and points allowed last year and they kept most of the core unit together for 2017. Tahir Whitehead is one of the most undervalued players in the league; and Darius Slay, Nevin Lawson, Tavon Wilson, and Glover Quin make up one of the league’s top veteran defensive backfields.
– Taylor Decker was impressive as a rookie last season, but a shoulder injury will have him out for most, if not all of 2017. There isn’t a sane person who believes Greg Robinson, the bust of the 2014 draft, is going to fill that role. That’s a big problem for a team who heavily relies on the pass game.
– Will the real Lions’ running back please stand up? That isn’t a typo up above. Detroit’s leading rusher in 2016 was Theo Riddick, who ran for less than 400 yards on the season. The Lions have the worst luck when it comes to finding healthy running backs. Maybe Matt Asiata emerges as the go to guy when Ameer Abdullah inevitably gets hurt in September?
– I really like Jarrad Davis as a player, but there is a slight concern with a rookie starting at middle linebacker in a 4-3 scheme. That’s a big time role with a load of responsibility, but who am I to say he can’t step up to the task?
Projection: 9-7, 2nd in NFC North.
Detroit is dangerous as ever, but unless they find the run game I can’t see them unseating the Packers atop the NFC North. The Lions don’t have the consistency, nor are they dynamic enough on offense to outscore teams like Green Bay and Atlanta, and that’s what will slow them down in 2017.
I believe 9-7 is right where the Lions should be. 10-6 is achievable, and I don’t expect them to regress, but all it takes is an injury to Stafford for this team to fall to 3-13.