Lions poised for… playoffs?
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One of the hardest things about being a reporter is not showing bias, especially when is comes to talking about your favorite team.
For as long as I can remember, the Detroit Lions have been my favorite football team. With all of the turmoil the Lions have faced over the past 20 years, some would say I have lived a lifetime as a fan.
So, last year when I wrote my Detroit Lions prediction column, I took as much bias as I could out of the equation. This year I hope to do the same, but it won’t be easy with all of the national buzz surrounding this year’s Lions.
Last year I picked the Lions to win six games, and they did. Now the pressure is really on.
The 2011 Detroit Lions look different than any team the Lions have put on the field in recent memory, that is if they can avoid injuries.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford is entering his third season as an NFL player and to this point, his career has been a rollercoaster ride filled with unbelievable moments and courage (see Lions vs Browns in 2009 on YouTube), and injuries that left the team to be led by Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton.
If Stafford can stay healthy, I believe the Lions will find themselves on the cusp of the playoffs.
But, as we all know, winning starts on defense, and that is where the Lions will show the most promise in 2011.
Led by a front line that featuring the 2010 Defensive Rookie of the Year Nadamukong Suh and the veteran leadership of Kyle Vanden Bosch, the front line of the Lions’ defense will be the most feared in the NFL.
First round draft pick defensive tackle Nick Fairley is expected to miss some time with an injury, but when he rejoins the team it will only increase the overall effectiveness of the Lion defense.
There are still some holes to fill at cornerback and linebacker, but I expect the Lions defense to be solid against the run and the pass, pressuring opposing quarterbacks all season long.
Stafford is definitely the key to the Lions’ offense, but he will need his offensive weapons to be peaking for the team to have success.
Wide receiver Calvin Johnson continued to develop last year and has become one of the top receivers in the league. Expect him to have better overall production this year, especially if Stafford is healthy.
To help give Stafford more options and to free up Johnson, the Lions brought back veteran receiver Nate Burleson and added Boise State standout Titus Young.
At running back, the loss of rookie Mikel Leshoure will have an impact on the Lions’ running game, but Detroit has capable backups to help Jahvid Best carry the load.
Looking at the Lions’ schedule, it is not an easy one. But one advantage that is sometimes overlooked is the bye week. The Lions’ bye week comes during week 9, which gives the team a good half-season break.
Detroit opens at Tampa Bay on Sept. 11, which will not be an easy task. The Buccaneers nearly made the playoffs last season and are returning with the majority of players they had last year.
In the NFC North the Lions will have to face the division champion Chicago Bears and the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers two times each. Again, no easy task.
Other key games include the Lions at Dallas on Oct. 2, a visit from Atlanta on Oct. 23, a visit from San Diego on Dec. 24 and the end of regular season, finally, at Green Bay on Jan 1.
Just by looking at the schedule I see 10 wins and six losses for the Lions, but that is not my prediction.
For the 2011-12 Lions, I am predicting the team to take that step and reach the playoffs at a record of 11-5.
I think Green Bay will still capture the NFC North title, and I know my prediction seems to be extremely optimistic, but I don’t care.
Like I said, it is hard not to show bias when it comes to your favorite team. It just feels like there is something special going on in Detroit with this team right now. I can’t put my finger on it, and maybe it is just the hype getting in my head, but I believe in this team. I believe in these players and I believe that the Lions are going to shock a lot of people this year. And if I am wrong, I will love this team just the same.
So, there is one question left to be answered; are you ready for some Detroit Lions football? I know I am.