The definition of the term “expectation” is defined as “a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.” After the Detroit Lions finished the 2022 season on a strong note after starting the season 1-6, many believe that the team was trending in the right direction. Considering how poorly the team looked, it was a surprise to see Detroit in the NFC playoff picture late in the season.
Offensively, the unit was top ten with quarterback Jared Goff having an efficient and productive season in his second season with Detroit after being traded from the Los Angeles Rams. Defensively, the team struggled as a unit but there were bright spots as defensive end Aidan Hutchinson put together a solid rookie campaign. Rookie safety Kerby Joseph stepped up when the team lost starting safety Tracy Walker III for the season due to injury. Going into the offseason, no team had a ton of hype surrounding them like Detroit. However, the hype that the team is receiving will end up being their downfall.
If there is one team that has the potential to be a major disappointment this year, it is the Detroit Lions. Last season, Detroit was one of the youngest teams in the NFL. The NFC is currently the weakest it’s ever been in quite some time. When you evaluate the conference, the top three teams in the NFC in no particular order are the Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, and the Dallas Cowboys. The rest of the conference is well, a toss-up.
If I were to round out the top five in the NFC, the three teams I would put in no particular order would be the Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks and the Minnesota Vikings. I didn’t put Detroit in the top five for numerous reasons. When you evaluate the top tier teams in the NFC, you look to see which teams have “high-end” talent. Philadelphia & San Francisco are in that tier. Dallas & Seattle have a case and you could maybe put Minnesota in there or New Orleans.
Detroit doesn’t have “high-end” talent on their team. Detroit lacks established stars on their team. It’s a group that’s filled with good but not great players. The difference between making a Super Bowl and winning it is do you have superstar level players on your team? If you were to ask me what grade I would give Detroit’s offseason, it would be a B- or C. In a previous article I wrote, I said that Detroit’s draft was disappointing for numerous reasons.
To sum it up, drafting a running back and a linebacker with your first two first round picks were “reaches” if you take positional value into account and outside of the Brian Branch pick Detroit made some questionable moves. Free agency, Detroit revamped their secondary with the additions of cornerbacks Cameron Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley, and safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson. On paper, this secondary should be better than last season’s but not elite. Despite their strong finish at the end of the season, Detroit was a bottom tier defense and the numbers back it up.
- 31st in Defensive EPA/per play
- 27th in Rush Defense EPA/per play
- 28th in Defensive DVOA (23rd in Pass Defense DVOA, 26th in Rush Defense DVOA)
- 32nd in total defense
The unit should be much improved this year but I don’t see it being an elite unit. Offensively, this is a well rounded unit with quarterback Jared Goff under center. However, we have seen in the past that Goff doesn’t elevate the talent around him, it’s more of the talent that elevates him. It’s why the Los Angeles Rams chose to move off him despite paying him that huge contract extension prior.
The running back duo of David Montgomery, who the team signed in free agency from the Chicago Bears and Jahmyr Gibbs, their first round pick out of Alabama will be a solid duo and their offensive line will be a top 15 unit in the league. However, their wide receiver group is decent but not great. Wide receiver Amon-Ra St.Brown leads the group but the group will miss Jameson Williams, their first round pick from last year as he sits out for six games due to gambling. You can expect some form of regression but the unit will be top ten Retaining offensive coordinator Ben Johnson was crucial for Detroit.
Detroit gets two early tests to start the season with playing at the Kansas City Chiefs on opening night and they follow it up with a home opener against the Seattle Seahawks. Both Kansas City and Seattle will be tough opponents and they are arguably better than Detroit right now. If Detroit were to lose those two games, and lose in a fashion that would be “embarrassing” the season could spiral out of control.
Detroit receiving four primetime games over the Seattle Seahawks, Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, is also confusing considering Miami, Jacksonville and Seattle were playoff teams last season and are also better than Detroit. Detroit is a mid tier team in the NFC that will be fortunate to be a wild-card team or a team that misses the playoffs completely.
Any hype of this team being either a Super Bowl contender or a threat to make it to the NFC championship game is more of a pipe dream at this point. If there is one team you shouldn’t buy the hype for this upcoming season, it is the Detroit Lions.