We continue our previews of all 32 NFL teams over the course of 32 days (or so) leading up to the start of the 2018 season in the NFC North with the Detroit Lions, who are coming off a second-place finish in the division last season.
The Lions are coming off of two straight 9-7 seasons and the team remains largely intact at the skill positions, other than releasing oft-injured TE Eric Ebron, who is being replaced by TE Luke Willson. They added some running-back depth, inking free-agent RB LeGarrette Blount to a contract and selecting RB Kerryon Johnson in the second round of the draft. They need all the offense they can get because they could be involved in some shootouts in a division with teams like the Vikings and Packers, who can point points on the scoreboard. They have first-year head coach joining the team in longtime Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia.
The Lions were in the top half of the NFL last season with 5,404 yards and their 410 points was the seventh most in the league. Those positive results on offense are largely because of QB Matthew Stafford, who had his best season since 2013 and one of the best of his career. He threw for 4,446 yards and 29 touchdowns witht 10 interceptions. WR Golden Tate led the team with 92 receptions, accumulating 1,003 yards and five touchdowns. But WR Marvin Jones had team highs with 1,101 yards and nine scores on 61 catches. Rookie WR Kenny Golladay had 28 catches for 477 yards and three touchdowns in five games. RB Ameer Abdullah was the team’s leading rusher, carrying the ball 165 times for 552 yards and four touchdowns and RB Theo Riddick had 286 yards and three touchdowns on 84 rushes. In the passing game, he caught 53 balls for 444 yards and two touchdowns. The defense ranked sixth in yards allowed and 12th in points allowed.
In Week 1, the Lions host the Jets on Monday night, then head out to San Francisco to play the 49ers. They host the Patriots in Week 3, the visit the Cowboys in Week 4. The Lions’ first divisional game comes in Week 5 when they host the Packers. Their bye follows, with a road game against the Dolphins in Week 7. They have back-to-back divisional road games in Weeks 9 and 10, taking on the Vikings and Bears, respectively. Following that, the Lions have home games against the Panthers, Bears and Rams. They face a tough last two weeks of the season, hosting the Vikings in Week 16 and heading to Lambeau Field in Week 17 to take on the Packers.
The Lions have a pretty complete team with a good offense led by Stafford and a stout defense. The running game wasn’t great last year, but the team is hoping to turn that around after drafting Johnson. Golladay should be a bigger part of the passing game in his second season in the league after missing five games with a hamstring injury last season. They’re probably around a nine- or 10-win team again this year, but that may only be good enough for third place in the division — unlike last year when the Packers had a worse-than-expected record because of QB Aaron Rodgers missing several games with an injury.