Season total: 41-23
The Detroit Lions are now one of the elite teams in the NFL. Matthew Stafford is leading his team’s offence to victory with his outstanding play at QB. Meanwhile, Ndamukong Suh, the best Detroit Lions draft pick ever, has single-handedly changed the culture of losing in Detroit (which is something that Barry Sanders never did).
You don’t believe it? Then, you need to get with the times, sports fan. The Lions are 4-0. ESPN has them ranked 4th in the league in its latest power rankings, behind only Green Bay, New England, and New Orleans. CNNSI has them in the exact same position, and the site’s esteemed columnist Peter King has them ranked ahead of even the Saints in his “Fine Fifteen.” ProFootballTalk has Detroit at number 3, behind only the Packers and Saints. Jemele Hill of ESPN wrote this week that Suh has already had more of an impact on the Detroit Lions than Barry Sanders did in his whole career. The writing’s on the wall, folks (or at least on the web): The Detroit Lions have arrived. Good luck getting a spot on the bandwagon, because it’s pretty packed.
You won’t have to compete with me, though. I’m not getting on.
The NFL hype machine is in full effect, and why not? It’s a great story, how a once-proud franchise, which has endured an unbearably long stretch of mediocrity, has risen to the top of the league. I’m not buying it. I mean, really, better than the Saints? The Ravens? The Patriots? Not to mention the Texans, Titans, Bills, and Giants? I’m afraid I’m going to have to see a whole lot more before I’m convinced.
The Lions have been extremely lucky thus far, from what I can gather. They barely beat an average team, the Bucs, in week 1, then they destroyed the awful Chiefs in week 2. In the past two weeks, they have fallen behind by 20 and 24 points, only to come back and win in games that, I believe, were handed to them by the inept play and play-calling of the Vikings and Cowboys. Look at Detroit’s game against Minnesota. Leading 20-0 in the third quarter, the Vikings had the ball three times and Adrian Peterson had only 2 carries and was not targeted with a single pass. The Lions scored 10 points in the quarter, and scored on the first play of the 4th quarter to cut the Vikings’ lead to 3. And as for the Cowboys last week, they led 27-3 in the 3rd quarter before Tony Romo had two interceptions returned for touchdowns (it’s not fair to blame Romo entirely; why Dallas was calling high-risk pass plays on first down with that big a lead is beyond me).
Matthew Stafford has looked OK to me, but far from great. In the highlights from the games that I’ve seen, I consistently see bad throws being turned into catches by great receiver play, particularly by Calvin Johnson. Last week against Dallas, Stafford threw two touchdowns to Johnson, one into triple coverage, and the other a jump-ball on a goal-to-go play. This is typical of what I have seen of Stafford’s play thus far. He’s been lucky.
Detroit leads the league in takeaways versus giveaways with a +8. This is great, and shows a team that is adept at forcing turnovers. However, the Lions’ offence has fumbled 6 times and lost none of those. None. Compare that to the Steelers, who have also fumbled 6 times on offence and lost every single one of them. There’s no guarantee that this lucky streak will last for the Lions. Other statistics show a Detroit team that has been extremely fortunate to be undefeated as well. The Lions are only 20th in the league in average yards gained per drive, and are just 11th overall in drive success rate, despite having the league’s 4th best average starting field position.
Hey, the Lions are off to a great start. In the NFL, wins are what really count. Being one of only two teams that are undefeated has put them in great position to snag a playoff spot. I’m just not quite ready to anoint them as one of elite teams. Not yet. Let them play against some better competition, and then I’ll be able to better make up my mind. This week, they are playing against the Chicago Bears. This should be a good test for them. I’ll be very interested to see how they do.
Now, on to my picks. I’m going to do these quickly. My wife’s brother is getting married tomorrow, and I’m supposed to be at a party very soon. Enjoy your Sunday.
Raiders at Texans
Houston is very good. Better than the Oakland (RIP, Al Davis). Winner: Texans
Bengals at Jaguars
Cincinnati’s defence has been excellent. That should be enough. Winner: Bengals
Eagles at Bills
I keep waiting for the Eagles’ defence to start playing well. It will be a high-scoring affair. Winner: Eagles
Seahawks at Giants
The Giants’ pass-rush is getting healthier. Poor Tavaris Jackson. Squash. Winner: Giants
Cardinals at Vikings
This is the week that Arizona starts putting it together on offence. Winner: Cardinals
Titans at Steelers
Hasselbeck still looks good, even without Kenny Britt, and Tennessee’s defence has been outstanding. Pittsburgh’s banged-up. Winner: Titans
Chiefs at Colts
Colts’ pass-rush has been keeping them in games. This week it will win it for them. Winner: Colts
Saints at Panthers
This should be a shootout. The Saints have more bullets. Winner: Saints
Buccaneers at 49ers
San Francisco’s defence has been solid. It’ll be low-scoring and close. Winner: 49ers
Jets at Patriots
The Jets are going to try and take Welker out of the game. Expect a big game from Gronkowski. Winner: Patriots
Chargers at Broncos
The Chargers have been doing enough to win. Against Denver, they won’t have to do much. Winner: Chargers
Packers at Falcons
Repeat of their playoff match up from last season. Same result. Winner: Packers
Bears at Lions
Here’s another stat for you: Detroit is giving up an average of well over 100 rushing yards per game. Last week, Chicago discovered this play where you hand the ball to a player called a running back, and he runs with it. It worked pretty well. Winner: Bears
(Note: I compiled my statistics from some very reliable sources: NFL.com, the CNNSI website, and a site called FOOTBALL OUTSIDERS)