Are the Detroit Lions Really the Worst Team in the NFC?

Chris Madden@@christomaddenAnalyst IIOctober 4, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 16:  Head coach Jim Schwartz of Detroit Lions stands on the field during the final minute of their loss to the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on September 16, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

As reported in the Detroit Free Press,'s NFL guru Pete Prisco recently suggested that the Detroit Lions might be the worst team in the NFC. With a record of 1-3 it's easy to make that argument based on that fact alone.

Prisco says:

"Defensively, they can't stop anybody, and they're having special teams meltdowns. That's a bad combination. So are they the worst team in the NFC? You can make a case for it. I don't think they are, but you can definitely make a case for it." 

He's right of course. One could make an argument for it. The Lions haven't looked good in any of their first four games. If not for a tremendous final two minutes by Matthew Stafford in Game 1, the Lions might be 0-4.

They wouldn't be alone though. The New Orleans Saints are 0-4, and they can't be given a pass simply because of Bountygate. Like the Lions, they haven't looked like the same team that was so dominant in 2011.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Carolina Panthers are also bottom feeders at 1-3 and should be included in any discussions about the worst team in the NFC.

The truth is the Lions have disappointed, but they are far from the worst team in the conference. One look at the numbers, and that's easy to see.

The Lions offense is ranked sixth in the NFL with 412.3 yards per game. They're ranked first overall in passing yards and 21st in rushing yards.

That puts them ahead of "better" teams like the New York Giants, Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons and Chicago Bears, to name just a few.

It also puts them ahead of the Saints, Panthers and Bucs.

So, despite all the hand wringing about the Lions' offense, the numbers show that they've actually had great success. The problem is the numbers haven't resulted in enough touchdowns or enough wins.

Football is a team game though; defense is just as important as offense.

This season the Lions defense is among the upper echelon in the NFL too. They're 10th in total defense, giving up an average of 315.8 yards per game. Against the pass, they're ranked ninth giving up only 213 yards per game and against the run they're 16th allowing 102.8 yards per game.

Again, that puts them ahead of "better" teams like the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens and, again, the Bears.

Like the offense, the Lions' defense has gotten blasted for their play. Yet when compared to the rest of the league, they're very respectable.

Looking at the numbers above, a 1-3 record seems ludicrous. It also provides more than enough evidence that the Lions are clearly not the worst team in the NFC.

What they are is a team whose special teams have given up 28 points in two games. Those points were the difference in both of those losses.

The Lions are also a team that doesn't generate turnovers on defense. Unfortunately, winning the turnover battle is a key factor in winning games. The Lions have three fumble recoveries and zero interceptions, while opposing defenses have taken the ball away from them six times.

The Lions have also lost their edge. They've allowed defenses to dictate to them how to play. As a result, they've played it safe, and their scoring has gone down.

These problems are just a few of those facing the Lions during the bye week. If they hope to improve this year, they'll have to address each of them.

It remains to be seen whether they will. In the end, we might have to look at this argument again.

For now—despite the Lions' issues and their subpar record—they are definitively not the worst team in the NFC.

All stats courtesy of