2011 Hammer Time for Detroit: Can't Touch This Team in the NFC North

Pancho SmithCorrespondent IIMay 7, 2011

MC Hammer
MC HammerDoug Pensinger/Getty Images

With the Detroit Lions' first three picks in 2011, the team “drafted to its strengths” and selected some of the finest players available at defensive tackle, wide receiver and running back.

The result?

Detroit will now field one of the league's most complete and explosive set of offensive skill players and the best defensive line front-four rotation in the NFL.

Just imagine what will happen once the Lions are able to sign free agents, make trades and hit the waiver wire.

Opposing defensive coordinators will have nightmares trying to figure out how to stop Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Titus Young, Nate Burleson, Jahvid Best, Mikel Leshoure, Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler from rolling down the field and scoring.

Have fun with that.

It isn’t a pretty picture for opposing offensive coordinators, either.

The only real hope for keeping their quarterbacks mostly in the upright position against the Lions is to attempt a lot of quick, short and intermediate passes to wideouts, or screen passes and dump-offs to running backs and tight ends.

And even that strategy may not save them.

Of course, they could try to avoid sacks and move the ball by handing it to their running backs, sending them directly into the arms of defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Corey Williams Sammie Hill and defensive ends Kyle Vanden Bosch, Cliff Avril, Turk McBride, Willie Young and Lawrence Jackson.

The Lions D-Line would certainly appreciate the opportunity to increase their tackle-for-loss statistics.

As Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com wrote about the Lions selecting Nick Fairley with the 13th overall pick: “This is a steal. He was the top player on my board. Now he plays next to Suh. Good luck handling that tandem for years to come.”

Scary stuff for teams that will face the Detroit hammer this year.


The Race for the NFC North Division Championship

Last season the Detroit Lions lost their first game against Green Bay 28-26 with the Lions' second string quarterback, Shaun Hill, going up against Super Bowl XLV MVP Aaron Rodgers.

Detroit won the second matchup against the Packers 7-3 with third string quarterback Drew Stanton going up against both Aaron Rogers and Matt Flynn. Also, Jahvid Best was hobbled with turf toe injuries on both feet.

Detroit and Green Bay both had good drafts this year. If anyone in the division can give the Packers a run for their money this year, it will be the Lions.

In fact, one of the shrewdest NFL prognosticators in the business, Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News (who predicted that the Lions would draft Nick Fairley with their first pick) agreed, saying in a recent interview with Mlive.com that Detroit will challenge the Packers for the division title this year.

So unless you believe in Minnesota miracles or that Chicago wasn’t the luckiest team in the NFL last season, this year the NFC North crown will belong to either Green Bay or Detroit, with the Bears ending up falling from first place to third and the Vikings ending up in the basement again.

The oddsmakers will favor the Packers, but remember how well the Lions played them last season. In their two matchups against Green Bay in 2010, the Lions nailed Aaron Rogers for four sacks and three interceptions (and slammed his backup Matt Flynn for two sacks and one interception).

The key questions in the Lions-Packers contests this year are:

 -Will the addition of the Packers’ 32nd overall pick, offensive tackle Derek Sherrod, and the 179th overall pick, guard Caleb Schauderaff, provide enough help to stop the Lions’ Nick Fairley and 2010 Pro Bowl Defensive Rookie of the Year Ndamukong Suh?

-Will a healthy Matthew Stafford and the additions of speedy wideout Titus Young and powerback Mikel Leshoure cause the Packers to spread their defensive coverages, making Green Bay more vulnerable to both the run and pass than last season?

The answers to those questions will determine who will win the NFC North this year.

My guess is that the Packers and the rest of the NFC North can’t touch this Lions team.