Why Detroit Lions Will Finish First in the NFC North

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Why Detroit Lions Will Finish First in the NFC North
Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE
Lions wil come together for NFC North crown

Hello all...been a while since I've written anything, but rest assured I have kept a wary eye on the many fine articles written about the Detroit Lions.

I have found it fascinating just how certain everyone seems to be in predicting our Detroit Lions will do no better than third in the upcoming season.

I know of all the offseason incidents, all of which I would rate as stupid.  The players should be held accountable for them and suffer what ever consequences may come. 

I applaud the release of cornerback Aaron Berry, who was to compete for a starting job in the questionable secondary.  Despite the fact he could have been an impact player, the Lions deemed that his head wasn't on straight and that he was going to be detrimental to team morale.

But despite the offseason antics, I still predict a first place finish.  I mean why not?  I have just as much cognitive ability as others who predict they will finish third. 

However, since there is a need to back up that statement, I'll do what I can.

 

Fact One:  Matthew Stafford

He may not show it, but I'm betting he's pretty ticked off at Ron Jaworski at being ranked the 14th best QB in the NFL after having such a great season last year.  5,038 yards, 41 TD against 16 INT's and a passer rating of 97.2.  How that doesn't at least get him into the top 10 is beyond me.

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So Mr. Stafford will be having some serious motivational factors thanks to Jaworski.  Granted, Jaws did admit Stafford is an elite top-10 QB and the main reason for ranking him 14th was due to injury and durability.  So an equal or better season by Stafford is in the cards for 2012.

 

Fact Two:  Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Titus Young, Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler & Ryan Broyles.

So many weapons...which is what you want to give your top-10 elite QB, right? 

Granted, Calvin Johnson is the undisputed star of this squad and the only receiver to break the 1,000 yard barrier (1,690).  But lets look at the yards per catch for each of these players:

Johnson (17.5), Scheffler (13.3), Young (12.6), Burleson (10.4), Pettigrew (9.4) and Ryan Broyles averaged 13.1 yards per catch. 

Average that out for the the players listed, that's a collective 12.7 yards per catch...an impressive stat don't you think?

 

Fact three:  Defense

No one can argue against the fact that the Lions defensive line is one of the best in the NFL.  In the last two years, they have made significant strides in overall improvement.  Pair that with a year of experience and maturity, and I suspect the D-line will rise above all the negativity from last year and the offseason and put together a season for the ages.

Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE
Suh has to play better this year and avoid stupid penalties

The line backing corp and the secondary are still issues, though. 

Detroit's linebackers did improve last year with the addition of Stephen Tulloch.  But the playoff loss against the Saints exposed how poorly the linebackers played against the pass.  

The Lions drafted three linebackers:  Ronnell Lewis, Tahir Whitehead & Travis Lewis.  Of these three, Travis Lewis is perhaps the best pass defender, but unless he has a lights-out preseason, I see him slated for special teams. 

So it looks like the Lions didn't do much to address those intermediate range passes.  But I don't look for high interception ratios from linebackers, I want them to knock the ball down first.  If they get the INT, that's just a bonus.

The biggest question mark, as it has been for the last three years, is going to be the secondary.  Many, including myself, wanted the Lions to draft a shutdown corner as we often got burned with the long passes.

Gone are Eric Wright and Aaron Berry.  And outside of Louis Delmas and Chris Houston, most of the secondary are second- and third-tier players.  But then again, if they can find a way to play as a unit and forget about trying to play for stats, perhaps they can surprise a lot of teams.

I'm not worried about the Packers and the Bears, as far as what they did to improve themselves.  We have our team and they have theirs.  All teams look to improve each year so we can't complain about what they do...we can only complain and support what our Lions do.

So, I say the Lions will finish first in the NFC North because I believe they have made solid improvements.  I also think that all the negativity that surrounds this team will pull them together, and if head coach Jim Schwartz is any kind of coach, he'll get them in an "us against the world" mentality.

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