Detroit Lions: Are They 2011 Playoff Contenders?

Joye Pruitt@hoopselectSenior Analyst IJanuary 31, 2011

Detroit Lions: Are They 2011 Playoff Contenders?

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    DETROIT - DECEMBER 05: Calvin Johnson #81 and Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions watch the clock run down during the game against the Chicago Bears at Ford Field on December 5, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan. The Bears defeated the Lions 24-20.  (Photo b
    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    With a frighteningly good end to a shaky season, the Detroit Lions are in a position to continue their successful stride into the 2011 start. With competition at its peak, there are lots of reasons why they could be knocked right back down into oblivion. With the good always comes the bad, Detroit just has to find a way to sort it all out. 2011 Play off Contenders??

    Why and why not??

Why: Calvin Johnson's Presence Offensively

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 17: Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions catches the ball on an 87-yard touchdown run in the third quarter against the New York Giants at New Meadowlands Stadium on October 17, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Gian
    Andrew Burton/Getty Images

    Calvin Johnson has somewhat of a renewed spirit. After playing in his first Pro Bowl, has a new sense of humility and drive. Of course selections like these are a minority contributor to the men he played besides with four or more appearances, but he walked away from the game with a fresh set of eyes not to mention a stellar late regular season run by the Lions.

    Not to mention that he had the best game of the season against a 10-6 Tampa team with 10 catches and a 152 yards. The Buccaneers are 7th in the league against the passing game and Johnson managed to expose them.

Why Not: Roy Williams Syndrome

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    OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 9:  Wide receivers Calvin Johnson #81 and Roy Williams #11 of the Detroit Lions laugh at the Oakland Raiders after their game at McAfee Coliseum on September 9, 2007 in Oakland, California.  The Lions defeated the Raiders 36-21 (Ph
    Kevin Terrell/Getty Images

    He is the first Lion since Roy Williams’ alternate position selection to be in the Pro Bowl. Sadly, that is not the only similarity between the two. Williams, who now plays for the Dallas Cowboys, was quoted to being ecstatic that he could get back to Dallas, back home. He was an immediate impact for the Lions’ offense. But as quick as he took off, his career in Detroit sputtered and died. He was only in the city for 4 years when he just got tired of losing.

    Johnson is also the best player in the wide receiver position the Lions’ have to offer, by far. He has not had the enjoyment of experiencing any postseason games alongside his Detroit comrades or any winning seasons for that matter. And just like with Williams, the #1 and #2 spots in the WR position is turning out fine. But the #3 and #4 is almost counterproductive. Johnson can just as easily gauge his productivity elsewhere and head out.

Why: 2011 NFL Draft Class

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    TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 15:  J.C. Brignone #70 and Derek Sherrod #79of the Mississippi State Bulldogs get ready on the line of scrimmage during the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 15, 2008 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The 2011 NFL Draft class could prove to be a big win for the Detroit Lions. In an effort to keep their quarterback as healthy as possible, Detroit needs to continue loading up on offensive skills positions. Derek Sherrod, a top OT prospect for this year’s draft could add great movement and a run blocking dimension that the Lions have been lacking for a while now. With Gabe Carimi possibly a little lower in the rankings, Sherrod may be the team’s biggest chance at a offensive line game changer.

Why Not: Detroit's Defensive Worries

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    TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 19:  Defensive end Cliff Avril #92 of the Detroit Lions sacks quarterback Josh Freeman #5 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the game at Raymond James Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    The Lions could go in the opposite direction and attempt to stock up on their defensive line. This is all well and good seeing as how they are in dire need of defensive help. But, in order to compete with Saints and Patriots offenses, who are 1st and 2nd in the league, the protection must be there. And right now, it’s just not.

Why: Shaun Hill at The Starting Quarterback Position

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    DETROIT - NOVEMBER 25:  Shaun Hill #14 of the Detroit Lions runs for a first down as Rob Ninkovich #50 of the New England Patriots gives chase during the game at Ford Field on November 25, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    Shaun Hill has had a really good season with the Lions. After starting behind an injured Matthew Stafford, he held up his end of the bargain and competed to the best of his ability. When he is hot, he gets the entire offense going and is able to rally his troops across the finish line, with victories, or close losses.

Why Not: Unstable Quarterback Position

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    DETROIT - DECEMBER 05: Matthew Stafford #9 and Shaun Hill #14 of the Detroit Lions watch the pregame warm-up prior to the start of the game against the Chicago Bears at Ford Field on December 5, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Image
    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    The Lions have one of the most unstable quarterback situations in the league. At least they have one, unlike the Tennessee Titans, but Stafford’s injuries make him as useful as a porcelain doll on the field and Hill is not getting any younger. Not to say that his age will be the ultimate determinant, but with no true back up in Stanton, the Lions may be looking towards another uncertain and tumultuous season.