Detroit's 1-3 start is going to mean a long road for the rest of the season
The Detroit Lions are not done yet, but their slow 1-3 start makes the road to the playoffs very bumpy. And the troubling part is, the road is looking more dangerous by the week.
Last season, the Lions made the playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons. It looked like all the years of high draft picks finally paid off, but maybe Detroit is still Detroit after all.
Paula Pasche of The News-Herald (via PressAndGuide.com) wrote about coach Jim Schwartz's thoughts on the start. “We’re 1-3, not the start we envisioned,’’ Lions coach Jim Schwartz said on Monday. “We can certainly work our way out of that.’’
Now, a 1-3 start does not usually mean the team should start making plans for what to do once the regular season is over. Detroit has actually recovered from a similar start before.
Back in 1995, the Lions started 0-3, yet they were able to fight and make the playoffs.
Unfortunately, coach Schwartz and the Lions probably will not be able to "work their way out of it."
The Vikings are one of many surprise teams in the 2012-13 season
In case the Lions haven't noticed, the NFC North is not what it was last season. Minnesota and Chicago now lead the division, with Green Bay and Detroit struggling at the bottom.
The Vikings are one of the many surprise teams in the NFL this season. RB Adrian Peterson is back and he's running with authority. He has 420 yards on the ground, and he is averaging 4.4 yards per carry.
Peterson is joined by an improved Christian Ponder at quarterback, and an offensive line that ranks No. 8 in sacks allowed with only 9 sacks.
Then there's the defense, of course. The league's No. 7 defense is allowing just 15.8 points per game, and is No. 9 in sacks with 14. The Lions know all too well about the Vikings defense as they held Detroit to just 13 points and WR Calvin Johnson was limited to 54 yards.
Minnesota is 4-1 along with the Bears.
But the success of Chicago has been due to one of the best defenses in the NFL. Allowing just a touch over 14 points per game, the Bears defense is as nasty as ever. It also has the added benefit of being a scoring machine as the Chicago defense has returned five of its 13 interceptions for touchdowns.
Finally, there are the Packers. While only 2-3, this is a team that was on the wrong end of the replacement referees, and on the wrong end of an Andrew Luck comeback.
This team could easily be 4-1. Once QB Aaron Rodgers returns to his MVP form, Green Bay will make their run for the playoffs.
So, to say Detroit has a rough division to overcome is an understatement. The NFC North is continuing to pull away, leaving the Lions way in the back.
Does Detroit have what it takes to overcome a powerhouse division?
Calvin Johnson and the Lions could be another victim to the infamous video game's curse
For all of you who think the Madden Curse isn't real, how sure are you?
WR Calvin Johnson, last season's Madden Cover winner, is not seriously injured and he is not having a horrible season. In fact, he's averaging over 100 yards per game for 423 yards in his first four games.
This is nothing new for Johnson and his success will probably continue. But what if the curse has affected his greatness?
Something similar happened to New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees after he was on the cover of Madden 2011. The Saints lost to the Seattle Seahawks, the only 7-9 division winner in NFL history. New Orleans definitely could have reached the Super Bowl that season.
For a receiver to be great, the quarterback needs to be at least considered good. QB Matthew Stafford has been decent, but not good.
Stafford has 1,182 yards through the air and a career-high 65.9 completion percentage. He also is mostly responsible for the poor 36 percent conversion on third downs, and he has only thrown three touchdowns with four interceptions.
This is an offense that relies heavily on the passing game, and the quarterback has three touchdowns and four interceptions? He has not even thrown a touchdown to Johnson yet.
The lack of touchdowns and conversion percentage are crucial to Detroit because the defense is horrible.
The secondary was going to be an issue anyways, but now the defensive line isn't getting pressure. The line only has nine sacks and no one is getting pressure on the quarterback.
This has led to the secondary having to cover longer, which is probably why it has zero interceptions so far.
Add a lack of pressure, no interceptions, little scoring and poor play on third downs, and it is no wonder the defense is allowing 29 points per game.
Johnson's Madden Cover "victory" has not led to much success on the field, and it could be affecting his greatness. After all, if the quarterback is struggling and the team is not winning, what kind of greatness can a receiver achieve?
Arian Foster and the Texans could be in position to end the Lions season, officially
So say the curse isn't real and the Lions can weather the treacherous NFC North. The rest of the schedule should be a breeze, right?
Matthew Stafford said earlier this week, "“We started 5-0 last year, we had to battle our way to 10-6 to get into the playoffs...It’s a humbling business” (via Larry Lage of BattleCreekEnquirer.com).
If they could only go 5-6 after a 5-0 start last season, the Lions will be lucky to get three more wins this season. Looking at Detroit's remaining schedule, the Lions will probably be watching the playoffs from home like the rest of us.
Detroit plays four of their next five games on the road. The next two games are against the Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) and the Chicago Bears (4-1).
The Eagles are unpredictable. Michael Vick could very easily fumble away the game like he did against Pittsburgh. Chicago, though, is going to be more than ready to put the Lions down for another loss.
Then, Detroit gets Seattle (3-2) at home, Jacksonville (1-4) on the road and they travel to the Minnesota Vikings (4-1).
Seattle has wins over Green Bay and New England. The Seahawks offense is lacking outside RB Marshawn Lynch, but the Lions' defense is so bad that the offense will likely join the defense as a dominant force.
The Jaguars are one of the few teams Detroit has a chance to beat. Jacksonville has the worst offense in the NFL, scoring only 13 points per game.
The game at Minnesota, though, could be the game that decides the Lions season. The Vikings defeated Detroit 20-13 back in Week 4, and a second loss would be devastating.
Detroit could realistically be 2-7 after the Minnesota game.
The next two games are against the Packers (2-3) and the currently undefeated Houston Texans, both at Detroit.
Green Bay could be in the same boat by this point, but this is a team that won the Super Bowl just two seasons ago. And the Texans are solid in every aspect of the game, and as long as they stay healthy, Houston is a Super Bowl contender.
The best chance for Detroit to win a game, then, will be against the Indianapolis Colts. They are not particularly strong in any one area, but rookie quarterback Andrew Luck did just earn a comeback victory against Green Bay.
If the Lions do not become the aggressive—and a touch uncontrollable—team they were last season, they'll return to their losing history. This would be a shame after watching the historic franchise finally feel what success is like.