It might be hard to remember, but at this time last year fans of the Detroit Lions openly questioned whether Matthew Stafford was a franchise quarterback. Who could blame them? He'd only played in 13 games his first two years.
In those two years he didn't exactly set the world on fire, either. He showed flashes of greatness, but he was terribly inconsistent. He totaled 19 touchdowns and 21 interceptions to go along with a 55 percent completion percentage.
Needless to say, fans were not expecting greatness last offseason; they were simply hoping he could make it through an entire regular season.
No one could have predicted what actually happened. Stafford not only started every game, he played through a hand injury and led the Lions to the playoffs—a place they hadn't been in more than a decade.
Better yet, he became the undeniable leader in the huddle and had himself the best season of any Lions quarterback in history.
He certainly turned heads in Motown, but everyone across the NFL landscape took notice as well. Then again, passing for more than 5,000 yards will do that. Stafford's now universally recognized as a legitimate franchise quarterback and a young NFL superstar.
His performance was truly great, but with it comes great expectations for 2012. Should fans expect another 5,000-yard gem? After a season like he had it's easy to get carried away—but I wouldn't recommend it.
Lions fans are all too familiar with getting their hopes crushed by pie-in-the-sky predictions (remember Joey?) so I'll try and stay grounded.
Here are five realistic predictions for Stafford's 2012 season.