5 Reasons Matthew Stafford and Detroit Lions Will Regress in 2012

Cole DolanCorrespondent IIIApril 9, 2012

5 Reasons Matthew Stafford and Detroit Lions Will Regress in 2012

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    Matthew Stafford, Megatron and Ndamukong Suh have turned the Detroit Lions organization around.  From becoming the first  team to lose all 16 games (since the NFL began the 16-game schedule) in 2008 to making the playoffs for the first time in 12 years in 2011, it has been a complete 180 degree turn.

    The Lions finished 10-6 last year, earning them a trip to the playoffs as the sixth seed in the NFC.  The celebration wouldn't last long, as they were quickly sent home by the Saints in the first round, 45-28.

    This year, Lions fans are hoping for another trip to the playoffs, and perhaps a little more results once they arrive there. However, the road to a second consecutive playoff appearance will be much rockier than 2010. 

    Rocky enough to start another streak Lion's fans are more used to seeing, missing the playoffs.

The Schedule

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    Besides the ever daunting Green Bay Packers and the challenging Chicago Bears, the Lions will also have to play the Eagles, Texans, 49ers and the Falcons outside of their division.  

    2011 is largely viewed as a success for the Lions' organization when compared to other recent years. However, they did not beat a single team that finished with a winning record last year. They were also blown out in their first playoff game in 12 years, 45-28, by the Saints. 

    While 10-6 looks great on paper, there is much more to the story—much of which appears to point towards a less successful 2012.

The Suspensions

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    Since Ndamukong Suh has arrived in Detroit, the reputation of the organization has certainly taken a hit. From stomping to sideline rages, Suh has been the ring leader in this reputation shift.

    It appears as though the 2011 draft picks are starting to cause trouble, too.  Nick Fairley, Mikel Leshoure and Johnny Culbreath were all recently cited for marijuana possession. That already makes two drug convictions for Mikel Leshoure this offseason.

    Under the NFL's drug policy there is a maximum of a six-game suspension for second time offenders and a four-game suspension for first time offenders. Multiple game suspensions are looking likely for all three players.

    The Lions organization is also looking at drafting Jenoris Jenkins, a defensive back that was kicked off of the Florida Gators because of repeated drug offenses. 

    If the organization does not get their hands on the reigns fast, the personnel issues could be devastating in 2012. 

The Division

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    The Lions reside in one of the NFL's toughest divisions. 

    Atop of the NFC North lies the Green Bay Packers, a team that will certainly not be giving up the division title next year.  They were the best regular season team last season and look to be in great shape heading into 2012.

    The Chicago Bears are also members. 

    If the Bears had a healthy Jay Cutler and Matt Forte for the entirety of 2011, the Detroit Lions may still be on their streak of missing the playoffs. Heading into 2012, the Bears can finish contract negotiations with Matt Forte and keep Jay Cutler healthy, which could make competing for a Wild Card spot pretty difficult for Detroit.

Matthew Stafford

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    Matthew Stafford, with the help of Megatron, has proven to be one of the best young quarterbacks in the league.

    When he is healthy, at least.

    The former Georgia Bulldog struggled through injuries early in his NFL career and still encounters some problems from time to time. The lack of solid protection from the offensive line doesn't help. The Lions will need to use draft picks to beef up the protection in order to keep Stafford off the ground at all costs.

    It doesn't seem to be his toughness that is an issue, but rather simply being unlucky. 

    One unlucky shot to the already tender shoulder could easily end the Lions playoff hopes, and without improvement along the offensive line the possibility doesn't seem too far-fetched.

Underachieving Defense

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    After the Detroit Lions added Nick Fairly to their defensive line with a 2011 NFL draft pick, analysts were singing about the potential of this defense.

    "Defense wins Championships," as the old adage goes.

    Well, the Lion's defense has not lived up to the hype.  In 2011, they finished 22nd against the pass and 23rd against the rush. The unit also allowed the New Orleans Saints to set a postseason record of 626 total yards in their playoff game.

    That's not exactly championship defense.

    Much of the poor performance has been attributed to the Suh suspensions and the injuries endured by Nick Fairly. With Suh's temper already being well documented, and Nick Fairly already being convicted of drug possession, which he will likely serve a suspension for, the personnel issues don't look like they are going to change anytime soon.